Businesses are rushing to embrace big data due
to its power in helping them make smarter decisions. According to EY, data analytics “has become the key to corporate competitive
advantage” because of its role in identifying emerging market trends. In turn,
companies can use this information to make quicker and better decisions that
help them drive profitability.
Big data also comes with its own set of
challenges. Firstly, storage and processing at high volumes consumes
significant computing resources. That is why, until recently, big data was
firmly in the grip of tech giants like Google and Facebook, who were the only
ones with the budget to handle the data infrastructure.
No Silver Bullet
Blockchain developers are building decentralized
data marketplaces that are now starting to emerge. These marketplaces are
platforms that use the peer-to-peer connectivity possible through blockchain
technology to link data sellers with data buyers. Here are a select few that
are making use of some sophisticated developments in blockchain technology to
address the challenges of decentralizing big data.
Big data marketplace Streamr collects data from both individual users and
IoT devices. In an increasingly connected world, IoT devices hold mind-bogglingly
vast quantities of data about how we use our home electronics. It leverages
“sharding,” a process by which a blockchain ledger is broken up into smaller
pieces so that each node on the network doesn’t need to bear the weight of the
entire database, to create a fast network that includes all of this data.
ReBloc is a data marketplace for the real estate sector, which currently
suffers from a lack of transparency and trust in its data. Real estate
transactions usually depend on many different parties, including insurers, land
registries, surveyors, mortgage companies, etc. Therefore, trusted data is
critical to a real estate sale.
ReBloc uses a validation protocol to ensure the
accuracy and trustworthiness of the data on its platform. Each data transaction
is done through a smart contract, and before data is released to the interested
user, it’s run through a validation protocol that compares it across other data
sets to judge its accuracy. Once the protocol confirms the data is valid, it's
automatically released to the buyer and payment is sent to the vendor.
Using a validation protocol can open up markets
for data to many more sources. In the current real estate data market, a few
big players dominate based on the trust they’ve established over time. With a
blockchain-based validation protocol, a smaller provider can submit its data.
Once it successfully passes the validation protocol, the buyer can trust that
the data is valid, regardless of who provided it.
While the real estate market generally depends
on fixed data sets for sales, other businesses using big data don’t use it with
specific goals in mind, which creates a further challenge — how can companies
ensure that they are using the right data to ask the right questions?
Predictive analytics aims to solve the age-old problem of manipulating numbers
to tell a story.
It’s about taking data from human-based sources
and using artificial intelligence to generate crowd-based wisdom. This is the
premise of the Endor Protocol, a blockchain-based
AI toolset developed by a group of MIT alumni. It uses data pulled from online
sources and applies a discipline called “social physics” to generate answers to
Predictive analytics has huge potential where
companies are developing and launching new products. For example, a marketing
officer could use Endor to find out which kind of consumers are most likely to
buy a product. Knowing this information could help optimize spending on
advertising campaigns, as ads could be targeted to the consumers who are most
likely to buy the new product.
Over the next few years, big data analytics will
become increasingly important for companies to keep a competitive edge. From
the examples above, it’s clear that developments in blockchain technology are
proving its ability to handle the challenges of decentralizing big data. In the
end, decentralization is fundamental to ensuring big data is accessible to all
and not controlled by a chosen few. Therefore, it’s likely that we will see
progress in the partnership of big data analytics and blockchains as
developments in this space continue.