Big data — a set of technologies that apply complex algorithms to large sets of data in an attempt to extract meaningful results — is currently all about targeted marketing. For years, companies have been trying to figure out how to use the customer data they collect to create more targeted advertising. The retail world has a whole lotta data on you just sitting there waiting to be used to get you to buy more stuff.

In most instances, we all benefit from targeted ads. Retail marketing knows people will click on ads that are relevant to them. And frankly, if you’re not interested in golf, you shouldn’t be shown ads for new golf clubs. It’s as simple as that. In our ad-fueled economy, we are all aware that we have to deal with ads. Why not have ones presented to us that actually interest us?

The trouble that retail is having is how to take all the data and analyze it so that it can then be targeted appropriately. This requires a fundamental shift in how networks are designed and accessed. And on top of that, the transition to mobile is also a wrinkle for big data… how to find more sophisticated ways to parse the data. It used to take over eight weeks for a typical retail operation to analyze data feeds and extract meaningful results — now with advanced data analytics tools this type of processing can happen in one day. This may be bad news for impulse shoppers — but it’s great news for retail.

That’s one reason Silicon Valley is lit up with so many big data startups. All these startups are vying for a new marketplace that promises seriously big returns: the data explosion we’re all experiencing is estimated to be a $100 billion market. The prize goes to the one(s) that can figure out how to take all the fragmented consumer data and package it in a way that provides compelling narratives at very granular consumer levels. There’s so much data available it’s like taking thousands of shredded documents and re-assembling them by hand. But once the solution is realized it will be an enormous payday.

This means networking companies are gonna score big as well. Infrastructures will need to be redesigned to gather and crunch the data and spit out meaningful results. This opens new marketplaces for older, traditional companies as well: switches, networking gear, cable, servers, etc. When you consider the transformation “big data” brings, it will make the social media revolution seem like small potatoes. Just watch and see. And keep buying stuff on your smartphone. You’re creating massive amounts of data that thousands of people are feverishly working around the clock to harness and synthesize… all in the name of selling you stuff you didn’t know you needed.

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