Tuesday, May 1, 2012 | 7:20 AM
“Big Data” looks set to become one of this year’s big business trends, and to our delight, Europe is taking a new, positive view on this long overlooked resource. European Commission officials recently have outlined ambitious EU plans to benefit from the increasingly large and complex datasets that permeate the information economy.”
We’re excited about the promise of Big Data. This week, we hosted at a policy colloquium in Mountain View, titled “Empowering Data-driven Innovation." Our RSVP list included the United Nations, White House, and Census Bureau; scholars like UC Berkeley’s Marti Hearst; and representatives from companies such as Salesforce and General Electric.
A decade ago, researchers estimated that around five exabytes of data was produced each year. Today, more than five exabytes of data were stored online every day. We recently announced that 60 hours of video is uploaded each minute on YouTube and Facebook users generated an average of 3.2 billion Likes and Comments per day during the first quarter of 2012. From Fusion Tables and Public Data Explorer to Flu Trends and Translate, Google’s data innovations and initiatives have produced robust tools for making sense of data.
Recent research from MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson suggests that data-guided management provides private companies with a crucial competitive edge and that companies making good use of data can have five to six percent higher productivity. Professor Brynjolfsson is coming to Brussels and speaking at the Bruegel Think Tank on May 7. Retailers such as Zara analyze data of sales and inventory to speed up the fashion cycle; instead of launching new collections each six months, Zara has new ideas on the shelves within weeks. By sharing data and using controlled experimentation, Fiat and Nissan have cut new model development time by 30 to 50 percent.
Data provides the raw material to uncover patterns. Digital technologies also facilitate experimentation. These insights can be used to create new products and services and keep improving them. At Google, we use data to test new services and algorithms. At any one time, we are running 100-200 experiments, analyzing patterns in the results and seeing which versions produce the best feedback. Our own chief economist Hal Varian has predicted that the skills needed to make sense of this data will turn the job of a statistician into something sexy.
Public administration, not just the private sector, can gain from data innovation. During his recent visit to Brussels, our executive chairman Eric Schmidt recounted how the Germany’s federal labour agency managed to save about EUR10 billion - all while speeding up placing people in jobs. Data based innovation similarly can help address societal problems, reducing, for example, traffic congestion and emissions through providing real-time traffic information.
Like all good things, data can be misused so we need sensible approaches to deal with privacy issues. Yet the gains from data-driven innovation far outweigh any risks. One particular area of interest here in Brussels is opening access to the reams of data collected by governments. We’ll discuss this topic tomorrow.