Myth Busted!! Small Data is motivating the Internet of Things (IoT) rather than Big Data

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Now days, When people talk about the Internet of Things (IoT) they incline to think about big data technologies like Cloudera, Hadoop where petabyte size datasets are analyzed and stored for both unknown and known patterns. What many people don’t understand is that many IoT use cases only require small datasets. Now the question arise, What is small data, you ask? Small data is a dataset that contains very specific attributes. Small data is used to determine current states and conditions or may be generated by analyzing larger data sets. When we talk about smart devices being deployed on valves, on wind turbines, small packages and pipes, or attached to drones, we are talking about collecting small datasets. Small data tell us about temperature, location, wetness, pressure, vibration, or even whether an item has been opened or not. Sensors give us small datasets in real time that we ingest into big data sets which provide a historical view.

So why is small data significant? Small data can trigger events based on what is happening now. Those events can be merged with behavioral or trending information derived from machine learning algorithms run against big data datasets. Here are some examples:

Examples of Small and Big Data
A wind turbine has a variety of sensors mounted on it to govern vibration, velocity, wind direction, temperature and other applicable attributes. The turbine’s blades can be programmed to inevitably adjust to varying wind conditions based on the information rapidly provided by small data. These small data sets are also gulped into a large data creek where machine-learning algorithms begin to comprehend patterns. These configurations can reveal performance of certain mechanisms based on their historical maintenance record, like how wind and weather conditions effect wear and tear on various components, and what the life expectancy is of a particular part.

Another example is the use of smart labels on medicine bottles. Small data can be used to determine where the medicine is located, its remaining shelf life, if the seal of the bottle has been broken, and the current temperature conditions in an effort to prevent spoilage. Big data can be used to look at this information over time to examine root cause analysis of why drugs are expiring or spoiling. Is it due to a certain shipping company or a certain retailer? Are there reoccurring patterns that can point to problems in the supply chain that can help determine how to minimize these events?

Big-Data: Do You Need Big or Small Data?
Despite what people say, big data is not a prerequisite for all IoT use cases. In many instances, knowing the current state of a handful of attributes is all that is required to trigger a desired event. Are the containers in the refrigerated truck at the optimal temperature? Are the patient’s blood sugar levels too high? Is the valve leaking?

Does the soil have the right mixture of nutrients? Optimizing these business procedures can save companies millions of dollars through the analysis of comparatively small datasets. Small data knows what a tracked object is doing. If you want to understand why the object is doing that, then big data is what you seek. So, the next time someone tells you they are embarking on an IoT initiative, don’t assume that they are also embarking on a big data project.


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