Big data in the energy sector

Douglas Adams envisaged the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as a single volume that held an abundance of data for the planet-hopping traveller, in a more useful and friendly format than the Encyclopaedia Galactica.

In an age where Wikipedia now deals with terabytes of edits to its content, we can now start to appreciate the challenge that managing such a galactic data set would create. It is not just encyclopaedias that face this challenge. As more and more businesses gather more and more data, ‘big data’ has become the latest buzz phrase to describe a whole collection of related issues. There is no one accepted definition of big data — it does not simply refer to larger volumes of data, but the fact that data is being gathered from more varied sources, in more complex formats (such as video, social media feeds and other sources that don’t easily fit into a spreadsheet cell) and at a higher rate of accumulation than ever before.

This presents problems in terms of structuring the gathered data, storing massive volumes, processing new data forms and dealing with streams of data ‘in motion’ in order to use the data to guide decision making and realise value. As a result, some commentators have started describing big data based on four Vs…

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