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Big data analytics examines large amounts of data to uncover hidden patterns, correlations and other insights. With today’s technology, it’s possible to analyse your data and get answers from it almost immediately – an effort that’s slower and less efficient with more traditional business intelligence solutions.
History and evolution of big data analytics
The concept of big data has been around for years; most organisations now understand that if they capture all the data that streams into their businesses (potentially in real time), they can apply analytics and get significant value from it. This is particularly true when using sophisticated techniques like artificial intelligence. But even in the 1950s, decades before anyone uttered the term “big data,” businesses were using basic analytics (essentially, numbers in a spreadsheet that were manually examined) to uncover insights and trends.
Some of the best benefits of big data analytics are speed and efficiency. Just a few years ago, businesses gathered information, ran analytics and unearthed information that could be used for future decisions. Today, businesses can collect data in real time and analyse big data to make immediate, better-informed decisions. The ability to work faster – and stay agile – gives organisations a competitive edge they didn’t have before.
Why is big data analytics important?
Big data analytics helps organisations harness their data and use it to identify new opportunities. That, in turn, leads to smarter business moves, more efficient operations, higher profits and happier customers. Businesses that use big data with advanced analytics gain value in many ways, such as:
- Reducing cost. Big data technologies like cloud-based analytics can significantly reduce costs when it comes to storing large amounts of data (for example, a data lake). Plus, big data analytics helps organisations find more efficient ways of doing business.
- Making faster, better decisions. The speed of in-memory analytics – combined with the ability to analyse new sources of data, such as streaming data from IoT – helps businesses analyse information immediately and make fast, informed decisions.
- Developing and marketing new products and services. Being able to gauge customer needs and customer satisfaction through analytics empowers businesses to give customers what they want, when they want it. With big data analytics, more companies have an opportunity to develop innovative new products to meet customers’ changing needs.
Big data analytics in today’s world
Most organisations have big data. And many understand the need to harness that data and extract value from it. But how? These resources cover the latest thinking on the intersection of big data and analytics.
How machines learn human language
Big data increases constantly – including social media, emails, texts, sensor data and more. With natural language processing, machines can sift through volumes of big data to uncover trends, analyse sentiment and identify correlations.
Big data analytics builds a better world
SAS is passionate about using advanced analytics to improve our future – whether addressing problems related to poverty, disease, hunger, illiteracy, climate change or education. See how we do it.
Alternative data: Risky or essential?
Alternative data is often unstructured big data of limited use in raw form. Learn why it’s so important to analyse this data to get a comprehensive and current picture of the changing business world.
Who’s using big data analytics?
Think of a business that relies on quick, agile decisions to stay competitive, and most likely big data analytics is involved in making that business tick. Here’s how different types of organisations might use the technology:
Clinical research is a slow and expensive process, with trials failing for a variety of reasons. Advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) unlocks the potential of improving speed and efficiency at every stage of clinical research by delivering more intelligent, automated solutions.
Financial institutions gather and access analytical insight from large volumes of unstructured data in order to make sound financial decisions. Big data analytics allows them to access the information they need when they need it, by eliminating overlapping, redundant tools and systems.
For manufacturers, solving problems is nothing new. They wrestle with difficult problems on a daily basis - from complex supply chains to IoT, to labor constraints and equipment breakdowns. That's why big data analytics is essential in the manufacturing industry, as it has allowed competitive organizations to discover new cost saving opportunities and revenue opportunities.
Big data is a given in the health care industry. Patient records, health plans, insurance information and other types of information can be difficult to manage – but are full of key insights once analytics are applied. That’s why big data analytics technology is so important to heath care. By analyzing large amounts of information – both structured and unstructured – quickly, health care providers can provide lifesaving diagnoses or treatment options almost immediately.
Certain government agencies face a big challenge: tighten the budget without compromising quality or productivity. This is particularly troublesome with law enforcement agencies, which are struggling to keep crime rates down with relatively scarce resources. And that’s why many agencies use big data analytics; the technology streamlines operations while giving the agency a more holistic view of criminal activity.
Customer service has evolved in the past several years, as savvier shoppers expect retailers to understand exactly what they need, when they need it. Big data analytics technology helps retailers meet those demands. Armed with endless amounts of data from customer loyalty programs, buying habits and other sources, retailers not only have an in-depth understanding of their customers, they can also predict trends, recommend new products – and boost profitability.
SAS is the only vendor analysts consider a leader across fraud, case management, decisioning, data management and data science.
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How it works and key technologies
There’s no single technology that encompasses big data analytics. Of course, there’s advanced analytics that can be applied to big data, but in reality several types of technology work together to help you get the most value from your information. Here are the biggest players:
Cloud computing. A subscription-based delivery model, cloud computing provides the scalability, fast delivery and IT efficiencies required for effective big data analytics. Because it removes many physical and financial barriers to aligning IT needs with evolving business goals, it is appealing to organisations of all sizes.
Data management. Data needs to be high quality and well-governed before it can be reliably analysed. With data constantly flowing in and out of an organisation, it's important to establish repeatable processes to build and maintain standards for data quality. Once data is reliable, organisations should establish a master data management programme that gets the entire enterprise on the same page.
Data mining. Data mining technology helps you examine large amounts of data to discover patterns in the data – and this information can be used for further analysis to help answer complex business questions. With data mining software, you can sift through all the chaotic and repetitive noise in data, pinpoint what's relevant, use that information to assess likely outcomes, and then accelerate the pace of making informed decisions.
Data storage, including the data lake and data warehouse. It's vital to be able to store vast amounts of structured and unstructured data – so business users and data scientists can access and use the data as needed. A data lake rapidly ingests large amounts of raw data in its native format. It’s ideal for storing unstructured big data like social media content, images, voice and streaming data. A data warehouse stores large amounts of structured data in a central database. The two storage methods are complementary; many organisations use both.
Hadoop. This open-source software framework facilitates storing large amounts of data and allows running parallel applications on commodity hardware clusters. It has become a key technology for doing business due to the constant increase of data volumes and varieties, and its distributed computing model processes big data fast. An additional benefit is that Hadoop's open-source framework is free and uses commodity hardware to store and process large quantities of data.
In-memory analytics. By analysing data from system memory (instead of from your hard disk drive), you can derive immediate insights from your data and act on them quickly. This technology is able to remove data prep and analytical processing latencies to test new scenarios and create models; it's not only an easy way for organisations to stay agile and make better business decisions, it also enables them to run iterative and interactive analytics scenarios.
Machine learning. Machine learning, a specific subset of AI that trains a machine how to learn, makes it possible to quickly and automatically produce models that can analyse bigger, more complex data and deliver faster, more accurate results – even on a very large scale. And by building precise models, an organisation has a better chance of identifying profitable opportunities – or avoiding unknown risks.
Predictive analytics. Predictive analytics technology uses data, statistical algorithms and machine-learning techniques to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data. It's all about providing the best assessment of what will happen in the future, so organisations can feel more confident that they're making the best possible business decision. Some of the most common applications of predictive analytics include fraud detection, risk, operations and marketing.
Text mining. With text mining technology, you can analyse text data from the web, comment fields, books and other text-based sources to uncover insights you hadn't noticed before. Text mining uses machine learning or natural language processing technology to comb through documents – emails, blogs, Twitter feeds, surveys, competitive intelligence and more – to help you analyse large amounts of information and discover new topics and term relationships.
Visual text analytics
With SAS Visual Text Analytics, you can detect emerging trends and hidden opportunities, as it allows you to automatically convert unstructured data into meaningful insights that feed machine learning and predictive models.
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