You’re probably familiar with the term “data”, which refers to information or statistics gathered in the form of numbers or other measures...but what is Big Data? Some describe it using the Four V model: volume, velocity, variety, and veracity. Some add a fifth V for value. 

Volume refers to the scale of the data or the sheer amount of information that is being collected. For example, Statista states that there were 722 million wearable devices worldwide in 2019. Each of these devices is transmitting data each day to its servers. It’s estimated that approximately 6 billion people worldwide have cell phones. Again, each of these devices is transmitting its own data every single day. This gives you an idea of the volume aspect of Big Data - it is massive. 

Velocity refers to the speed of data transmission. Of course, you expect your data to be processed quickly. Do you ever get frustrated when the debit machine is too slow? Or when a web page won’t load? Or when your favorite Netflix show freezes at the best part? Big Data requires rapid processing speeds to deal with the massive volume of its data.

Variety refers to the different forms of data that require processing. Videos, SMS text messages, music files, PDFs, photos… all of these pieces of data are unique in their processing. Big Data involves a variety of types of data that come in high volumes and require the same velocity of processing as one another.

Veracity is arguably the most important of the four (or five) Vs. Veracity refers to the accuracy of the data. Of course, you want to trust that the data that is being collected and processed is accurate and representative of what it is supposed to be. Leaders making decisions need to trust that the data is accurate. Healthcare professionals making treatment decisions need to trust that the data is accurate. 

The potential fifth V stands for value. Not all data is valuable and Big Data processing must be able to distinguish and discard useless data. Big Data should provide valuable insight. Some data is very valuable. Whether it’s because it is private information such as health data or because it is financially valuable, this final V requires that the data processing be safe, reliable, and not render valuable data susceptible to attack.

When it comes to healthcare, Big Data can be very useful. The 722 million wearable devices are providing companies with valuable sets of health data that could be used by healthcare professionals to tailor their treatment plans specific to their patients. These devices are providing ample Sensory Data that can help inform healthcare as a whole.

Sensory Data includes measurements such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose monitors for diabetics, etc. This data, while highly personal, could be used by healthcare providers in both prevention and treatment of disease. 

How is Big Data the future of healthcare? If Big Data were more accessible by healthcare providers rather than private companies like FitBit, health analytics could provide researchers and clinicians with information needed to personalize healthcare. Big Data and health tracking provide the most comprehensive analysis of a person's health in a way that would never be possible in healthcare. So, by using Big Data, the future of healthcare can be uniquely tailored healthcare using the real-time analytics provided by apps and wearable devices.