Blockchain is the Future of Big Data

Author: John Souza

Companies and investors alike already know that Big Data is big money. And if that’s the case, it stands to reason that the more data an institution can amass, the better. But that’s not necessarily true. “It’s not the amount of data that’s important. It’s what organizations do with the data that matters. Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves,” explains data analytics company SAS.

The Problems with Big Data

To effectively leverage the data a company collects or pays to access, there are a few conditions that must be met:

  1. The data must be clean. “With the advent of big data, data quality management is both more important and more challenging than ever,” says cloud and big data integration software firm Talend. “Data quality is important for any data initiative,” echoes John Ladley of business advisory and enterprise information management consultancy First San Francisco Partners. “Untangling the mess — e.g., figuring out what data elements you need for analysis, including where they came from originally — is part and parcel with validating the quality of data. And it’s particularly important with Big Data.”

If your data is compromised with duplications, missing or inaccurate information, etc., your analyses will be only as good as the data. In other words, a lot of dirty data isn’t going to do anybody any good.

2. The data must be accessible. If there’s no way to access the data once it’s collected, having amassed a ton of it is a waste. “We know that better insights from big data will improve just about every aspect of our company. For most, however, the data silos are still a major issue and a full digital transformation is more concept that reality,” writes Jordan French for CIO.

Richard Joyce, Senior Analyst at Forrester, told French, “Just a 10% increase in data accessibility will result in more than $65 million additional net income for a typical Fortune 1000 company.”

3. The data must be secure. We’ve all heard about massive security breaches at governmental agencies and companies. But without security, the quality of the data is compromised, as is the willingness of private individuals to agree to allow access.

“As Big Data increases in size and the web of connected devices explodes it exposes more of our data to potential security breaches. Many organizations already struggled with data security even before the complexities added by Big Data, so many of them are drowning to keep up,” says Forbes contributor Bernard Marr.

Fortunately, there’s an ideal solution to address all three of these issues. It’s called the blockchain.

Blockchain: Big Data’s New Best Friend

Blockchain is a distributed database or ledger system. Each entry in the ledger — each “block” — includes the entire transaction history for that entry, making it theoretically impossible for anyone to change information about the records. The distributed network system also means the same transaction is shared network-wide, making it secure by design. As such, once a transaction has been recorded, it can never be changed. It’s immutable, and it is the perfect companion to Big Data.

“Blockchain will give you greater confidence in the integrity of the data you see. Immutable entries, consensus-driven timestamping, audit trails, and certainty about the origin of data (e.g., a sensor or a kiosk) are all areas where you will see improvement as blockchain technology becomes more mainstream,” explains Jeremy Epstein in Venturebeat.

Blockchain will make data even more valuable because it ensures data quality, accessibility, and security.

Take healthcare: a big concern is that two different practitioners don’t have access to the same, updated information for a single patient, and as a result could prescribe conflicting treatment or, more seriously, drugs that could cause a lethal interaction.

Imagine if all a patient’s information resided in a single database, accessible by all, and continuously updated? Patient A’s cardiologist would immediately know that she had seen her primary care physician, complaining of migraines, which could indicate a problem with her medication. Patient B’s oral surgeon sees that he has recently received a refill for an opioid painkiller, and therefore refrains from writing a second prescription. Patient C is in a car accident and is unable to tell the emergency room physician the names of all his blood pressure meds and allergies.

That information could also be shared — privately and securely — with any other stakeholders who could benefit from access. “A blockchain-based healthcare system would also allow providers to share records with justice departments, insurers, employers and any other sector with an interest in people’s health without the exponential increase in risk factors that comes with stretching a network thin; after all, a multi-department system is only as secure as the defenses at its weakest point,” writes Daniel Smyth for Big Data Made Simple.

The possible benefits and applications are endless — and that’s just for one use case.

Now imagine having that same access and trust in financial data… land ownership data… educational data… retail data… governmental data… transaction data of all types, across all industries. And not only having access, but having immediate access. “Since the blockchain has a database record for every single transaction, it provides a way for institutions to mine for patterns in real-time,” explains Abhinav Venkat of Noah Data.

Wanted: Data Intelligence

But while blockchain may enable these benefits, it doesn’t create them.

True value comes when blockchain technology is married with the data itself. “In the first epoch of big data, power resided with those who owned the data,” writes Epstein. “In the blockchain epoch of big data, power will reside with those who can access the most data (where public blockchains will ultimately defeat private blockchains) and who can gain the most insights most rapidly.”

A whole new field is emerging around this idea of accessing huge amounts of data and gleaning insights from it, in near real-time. Look for AI, new data analytics, and specialized forms of data intelligence to meet these needs in the future. “Data intelligence services are emerging to help financial institutions, governments, and all kinds of organizations delve into who they might be interacting with on the blockchain and uncover ‘hidden’ patterns,” Chris Neimeth writes in Infoworld.

More Data, More Trust, More Money

When the data captured by big business is more secure, more trusted, and more accessible, it will become easier for companies to make decisions based on their insights.

“The data within the blockchain is predicted to be worth trillions of dollars as it continues to make its way into banking, micropayments, remittances, and other financial services. In fact, the blockchain ledger could be worth up to 20% of the total big data market by 2030, producing up to $100 billion in annual revenue,” says Neimeth.

While we’ve already explained with the data equation isn’t as simple as “more data means more money,” the real equation isn’t much more complex to explain. More quality data with more insights means more value. And blockchain enables all three.

John Souza is founder and CEO of Kingsland University — School of Blockchain, the world’s first accredited blockchain training program. To find out more about how the Kingsland University — School of Blockchain is working to address the developer shortfall and educate executives about how blockchain can impact their business, please download a copy of the whitepaper, “Developing the Future of Blockchain.”