As new technologies are developed, they come along with their own set of buzzwords that lose their meaning from overuse. One of those is big data. We hear about it in the news and in articles, all the time. But what does it really mean? And what does it mean for surveying?
What is big data?
Big data is what it says on the tin – a large, complex amount of data that make it a struggle to process in a traditional way. The value of big data comes from how each data point relates to another and the patterns and information that can be extracted from the set as a whole. That’s not to say individual points in the set aren’t valuable. They are but they serve their own purpose for the individual projects they have been used for.
How can it be used?
While the data collected for surveying tends to be used for the individual projects they are scoped for, there is a growing demand for being able to use big data from surveying particularly as it relates to urban life. Especially when surveys are gathered and compiled over a period of time, patterns in regards to land usage, road development and environmental sustainability.
This type of surveying information will be crucial to growth of industries, especially ones like agriculture and construction that rely on data about land use. It could also lead to the better use of physical assets by government and private sector companies as big data gives the opportunity to look at the bigger picture. In addition to the data about land usage, it also gives insight into risk management and possibilities. This is particularly helpful on a large scale for events like flooding, which can have a knock on effect on future floods based on patterns of erosion and forest clearing.
What does the future hold for big data?
As it is a difficult tool to harness, the full potential of big data hasn’t been reached yet. But it is an exciting time as we are able to watch the possibilities of big data grow. While we can’t predict the future, we can make an educated guess on what the future of big data might look like.
There is likely to be more public input and contribution to data, a form of citizens action where professionals may be limited in their ability to gather data. This could also lead to cross-industry cooperation and benefit – particularly where industries overlap or work together. Governments also need geospatial big data to make decisions about the future of geography and climate change. It may also be possible for big data to be used as a search engine to find specifics about geospatial data.
For now we will have to wait and see how big data will be used for surveying and related industries, but it is exciting.
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