We are living through the Industrial Revolution of Data; an era where an estimated 2.5 exabytes (or 2.5 billion gigabytes) of data are created on a daily basis. On any given day, we are collectively creating over 140 billion emails, 340 million tweets and 72 hours of YouTube video footage. If that isn’t enough to wrap your head around, this vast expanse of information—dubbed “big data”—is projected to quadruple by 2015.
While superior advancements have been made in the creation and storage of data, there still exists a gap in being able to extract meaningful insight from all of this information. After all, what good are big data sets if they are simply locked up on endless storage devices? As Google’s chief economist Hal Varian so eloquently put it:
“Data are widely available; what is scarce is the ability to extract from them.”
Until the recent resurgence of data visualizations, that is.
Data visualization is not a new concept. In fact, it has been used since as early as the Stone Age. But modern-day software applications have made data illustrations much more advanced and, in some cases, even interactive. Moreover, being able to draw insights from large data sets is no longer a task left to highly specialized analysts. Infographics, data maps, network graphs and tag clouds are among some of the many techniques in use today to uncover the true meaning behind a data set.
To better understand the rise of the data visualization space, which Gartner Inc. predicts will become a $1 billion industry by 2013, we turned to eight Ontario-based startups. Each company has developed unique tools and platforms to aid in the analysis of complex data. We’ve documented their insights in a report titled “Data visualizers: Using data visualizations to uncover the true meaning behind a dataset.”
The companies profiled include:
As technology continues to advance, it will be interesting to see what new visualization techniques are developed to help spot trends and patterns amid large amounts of information, where otherwise hard-to-understand rows and columns of numbers are brought to life.
It is true what they say after all: a picture really is worth a thousand words.