Duc Chau is the Chief Technology Officer of Yieldmo, a leader in digital advertising and attention analytics.
There’s no denying that data is the backbone on which modern companies operate. Organizations, big and small, use it to make critical decisions and drive business forward. Whether it’s self-driving cars, social networking, entertainment, music, health care or something else, every industry today is data-enabled, contributing to the generation of diverse data sets. Real-time and batch updates from sensors, software and hardware contribute to the speed at which data is generated.
Every day 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated worldwide thanks to an always-on culture with billions of connected consumers and IoT devices. But data alone is just that: data. Without structure and analysis, the data has no real value. It’s what we do with it, and how accurate the data is, that makes all the difference.
When good data is collected, stored and used ethically, it can make the impossible happen. We recently watched in awe as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory executed the entry, descent and landing phase of NASA’s mission to Mars. At more than 140 million miles away, the landing sequence happened faster than radio signals could reach Earth from Mars, which means the spacecraft was on its own once it entered the Martian atmosphere. Those “seven minutes of terror” were only successful based on years of data collection, accurate analysis and application.
Bad data, on the other hand, leads to bad decisions. Bad data can lead to loss of revenue, poor results, invalid reports, missed opportunities and, in the worst case, loss of human life. Former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg reported that erroneous data contributed to two Boeing 737 Max plane crashes in 2018 and 2019, which led to the death of 346 people. Bad data also cost NASA $193 million in losses when the Mars Climate Orbiter crashed in outer space in 1999.
IBM Big Data & Analytics Research estimates poor data quality costs the U.S. economy $3.1 trillion a year. According to Experian’s 2019 Global Data Research, 95% of organizations surveyed reported bad data impacted their business.
Accurate data is critical to the survival of organizations and necessary for a competitive advantage. Today, big data is classified using the 4 Vs:
• Volume: How much data is generated.
• Velocity: The speed of data.
• Variety: The type and source of data that is generated.
• Veracity: The accuracy of data.
The first 3 Vs (volume, velocity and variety) have been solved with nearly infinite storage capacity in the cloud, cheap hard drives and open-source technologies.
Data veracity, however, has mainly been solved with fragile solutions, which include human analysis, dashboards or some level of custom development. These solutions are not scalable and lead to bad analysis, which leads to bad decisions.
Bad data occurs when invalid or corrupt source data enters a system — or the transformation process is defective. But it can also happen when it is collected without consent. In my business, the digital advertising world, data consent and consumer privacy are some of the industry’s most scrutinized aspects.
We use performance data to derive useful insights for us and our advertisers for future optimization purposes. These insights form the foundation for analytics on how consumers interact with particular ad placements and the level of engagement and attention that placements receive. The acquisition, storage and protection of data is our business’s lifeblood and our largest liability. If invalid or corrupt data occurs, either through incorrect data entry, inaccurate information or incorrect formatting, data transformation will also be defective.
As the big data industry continues to see opportunities to grow and infiltrate more aspects of our daily lives, it’s important to be judicious about the partners and companies we work with and entrust with our data. Companies with integrity understand the importance of data accuracy in today’s world of information. When these companies evaluate how to use data, they put monitoring, privacy and security at the heart of their business.
Never forget that behind your company data are real people: your consumers, partners, employees and families. Data drives innovation, growth and success, but without trust and integrity in the data industry, we’ll never realize the innovations that it can help us discover. As you reflect on how your company’s big data is collected, stored and used, I’d like to encourage you to look to double down on the veracity of your data.