Spending big on big data

Big data. There's no agreement on exactly what it is, yet companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on it and claiming good returns. And when it comes to spend, a handful of Australian companies are up there with the leaders.

Big data. There's no agreement on exactly what it is, yet companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on it and claiming good returns. And when it comes to spend, a handful of Australian companies are up there with the leaders.

Those are some of the conclusions from a study into big data by Tata Consulting Services for which it surveyed 1217 companies in eight countries in four regions of the world. Big data loosely defines the collection and analysis of myriad unrelated data sources with the aim of drawing meaningful business insights.

TCS vice-president and chief technology officer K. Ananth Krishnan told IT Pro: "Australia turns out to be the highest in terms of median spending per company, $50 million." The median spending in the US was $9 million a company.

However, Mr Krishnan said that, overall, Australia had one of the lowest rates of big data usage. "The way I would interpret this is that those companies that have started have really dived in with both feet to the extent that they are way ahead of everybody else in the world."

According to the report, only 32 per cent of Australian respondents said they had undertaken big data initiatives in 2012. The overall figure for the 1217 companies surveyed globally was 53 per cent. India led with 70 per cent, followed by Mexico and the US with 68 per cent. One US company alone, General Electric, has pledged $US1 billion to big data over the next four years.

Frost & Sullivan research analyst Vu Anh Tien agreed that a number of large companies in Australia were making substantial use of big data analytics but the relatively low uptake was the result of scepticism and uncertainty. "There are some merits to the buzz ... However, others still think that there has been little innovation around big data, [that] the concept is not new and it will not promise much more business outcomes than the technology visions about data processing before."

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