Big data, the data sets that are too large even for standard data processing software, is set to become even more prevalent over the coming years, with forecasts that the market will more than double within a decade.
And with that growth will naturally come challenges. Securing and interpreting such large amounts of information is no easy task, which is why many see that blockchain technology is poised to grow in lockstep with the advent of big data.
Businesses are rushing to embrace big data due to its power in helping them make smarter decisions. According to EY , data analytics "has become the key to corporate competitive advantage" because of its role in identifying emerging market trends. In turn, companies can use this information to make quicker and better decisions that help them drive profitability.
Big data also comes with its own set of challenges. Firstly, storage and processing at high volumes consumes significant computing resources. That is why, until recently, big data was firmly in the grip of tech giants like Google and Facebook, who were the only ones with the budget to handle the data infrastructure.
No Silver Bullet
Blockchain developers are building decentralized data marketplaces that are now starting to emerge. These marketplaces are platforms that use the peer-to-peer connectivity possible through blockchain technology to link data sellers with data buyers. Here are a select few that are making use of some sophisticated developments in blockchain technology to address the challenges of decentralizing big data.
Big data marketplace Streamr collects data from both individual users and IoT devices. In an increasingly connected world, IoT devices hold mind-bogglingly vast quantities of data about how we use our home electronics. It leverages "sharding," a process by which a blockchain ledger is broken up into smaller pieces so that each node on the network doesn't need to bear the weight of the entire database, to create a fast network that includes all of this data.
ReBloc is a data marketplace for the real estate sector, which currently suffers from a lack of transparency and trust in its data. Real estate transactions usually depend on many different parties, including insurers, land registries, surveyors, mortgage companies, etc. Therefore, trusted data is critical to a real estate sale.
ReBloc uses a validation protocol to ensure the accuracy and trustworthiness of the data on its platform. Each data transaction is done through a smart contract, and before data is released to the interested user, it's run through a validation protocol that compares it across other data sets to judge its accuracy. Once the protocol confirms the data is valid, it's automatically released to the buyer and payment is sent to the vendor.
Using a validation protocol can open up markets for data to many more sources. In the current real estate data market, a few big players dominate based on the trust they've established over time. With a blockchain-based validation protocol, a smaller provider can submit its data. Once it successfully passes the validation protocol, the buyer can trust that the data is valid, regardless of who provided it.
While the real estate market generally depends on fixed data sets for sales, other businesses using big data don't use it with specific goals in mind, which creates a further challenge - how can companies ensure that they are using the right data to ask the right questions? Predictive analytics aims to solve the age-old problem of manipulating numbers to tell a story.
It's about taking data from human-based sources and using artificial intelligence to generate crowd-based wisdom. This is the premise of the Endor Protocol , a blockchain-based AI toolset developed by a group of MIT alumni. It uses data pulled from online sources and applies a discipline called "social physics" to generate answers to future-based questions.
Predictive analytics has huge potential where companies are developing and launching new products. For example, a marketing officer could use Endor to find out which kind of consumers are most likely to buy a product. Knowing this information could help optimize spending on advertising campaigns, as ads could be targeted to the consumers who are most likely to buy the new product.
Over the next few years, big data analytics will become increasingly important for companies to keep a competitive edge. From the examples above, it's clear that developments in blockchain technology are proving its ability to handle the challenges of decentralizing big data. In the end, decentralization is fundamental to ensuring big data is accessible to all and not controlled by a chosen few. Therefore, it's likely that we will see progress in the partnership of big data analytics and blockchains as developments in this space continue.