Big Data, Artificial Intelligence & Blockchain – What The...?!

Lee Allen
Writer | Data³
12th April 2019

An ABC guide to the latest tech trends and what they mean for your business

What is big data?

Let’s get this big one out the way with first. Big data is the term used for extremely large data sets that can be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions. The data is so vast that it’s not stored in one database, but across hundreds, thousands even. Because of the size of the data, and also the velocity and variety of it, it’s often difficult to process using traditional database and software techniques. To meet the challenge, new forms of processing are popping up more and more, to exploit the riches of bringing huge datasets together and drawing insights from them.

Big data is really a sign of the changing times, where data is generated faster and more frequently every day:

  • Most data collected now is unstructured and requires different storage and processing than that found in traditional relational databases.
  • Available computational power is sky-rocketing, meaning there are more opportunities to process big data.
  • The Internet has democratized data, steadily increasing the data available while also producing more and more raw data.

An example of ‘big data’ (and there’s many) would be medical data. Imagine for a minute the hordes of data a single hospital department could hold on its patients and staff members. When you start to look beyond that single department, to the entire hospital, or the entire trust, maybe even the entire NHS — you can begin to see both the challenges and opportunities available. Big data and it’s processing and analysis is something that you’ll hear more and more of. As a world that’s increasingly flooded with information, creating new ways to process, analyse and measure it will be inevitable.

How could it benefit my business?

Big data projects are typically run by large corporations that have huge volumes of transactions and commercial traffic, the likes of FANG (Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google), for example.  But the benefits of consolidating and analysing huge sets of data are not just for the corporate elites. Any business that would benefit from mass trends on data, like the best times to advertise to certain demographics on social media (for example), can benefit from buying big data analysis externally. The simple reality is the larger the data set, the more accurate trends and predictions you can model. 

What is AI?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) sounds super fancy, and encompasses a range of complex technologies like machines learning, deep learning, predictive analytics and NLP. At its most basic, AI is the ability for a machine or computer program to think and learn, based on the idea of building machines capable of thinking, acting and learning like humans. AI can speed up analytical tasks, problem solving and pattern recognition, so its use in business is growing each year. To some, its use is integral to its running, with Amazon stating that “Without ML, couldn’t grow its business, improve its customer experience and selection, and optimize its logistic speed and quality.”

How could it benefit my business?

Adopting AI programs may seem reserved only for the big tech giants, but the truth is many smaller businesses have begun to integrate AI, becoming more data driven in the process. Here are some of the ways you can do it:

  • Intelligent CRMs - these days, small businesses can benefit from AI functionality embedded into popular CRM platforms like SalesForce. Taking data on consumers from various sources (like email, phone, social media), AI can help small businesses analyse consumer sentiments in recorded phone conversations, emails, social media posts and customer reviews. It can evaluate the customer feedback, and adjust marketing and lead generation activities accordingly.  
  • Intelligent customer service solutions - customer service is integral to customer satisfaction and retention, but some support agent tasks are fundamentally menial and repetitive. AI software can help with these tasks, suggesting and automating answers and routing support issues quickly to the right team. By freeing up agents’ time, AI can radically reduce handling time and automate repetitive tasks to improve both customer and employee satisfaction. 
  • AI for marketing - analysing customer engagement with marketing campaigns is getting easier thanks to AI. Across multiple channels like website, Facebook and Google, certain AI programs can analyse advertising performance and make informed suggests about audience targeting, copy and budgeting. What would have taken expert teams can now be done by single programs that aggregate and analyse data from various sources. 
  • AI for competitor analysis - AI-powered competitor analysis tools are out that can track your competitors across different channels like social media, mobile apps and website. In pair with natural language processing and metric analysis, the tools can identify price changes and subtle modifications in messaging and PR to give you a better idea of your competitors’ business strategy. By having a clearer idea of their direction, AI tools make it quick and easy for you to identify competitors’ strengths, weaknesses and product gaps - helping inform your own business strategy. 

What is blockchain?

Blockchain - a technology still in its infancy - has recently exploded in popularity. In simple terms, a blockchain is a database that stores and records digital transactions between different parties. What sets it apart from a normal database is that it’s decentralised, so records aren’t stored in a single place. Instead, records are shared with every party in that blockchain (or database). This is important because digital assets and transactions can be manipulated and/or duplicated. Blockchain technology solves this problem without using a trusted intermediary.

Without the intermediaries, parties have a simpler, more transparent relationship with one another. Each transaction is recorded on the blockchain and seen by everybody, so everything is totally auditable. And because the data is secured by sophisticated tamper-proof cryptography, no single party can tamper with the records. 

Blockchains can be public or private. A public blockchain like Bitcoin can be joined by anyone - anyone can participate in the network. The drawback of a public blockchain is that a substantial amount of computational power is needed to maintain a distributed ledger at a large scale. More specifically, to achieve consensus, each node in a network must solve a complex, resource-intensive cryptographic problem called a proof of work to ensure all are in sync.

Businesses who set up a private blockchain, will generally set up a permissioned network. This places restrictions on who is allowed to participate in the network, and only in certain transactions. Only the entities participating in a particular transaction will have knowledge and access to it — other entities will have no access to it.

How could it benefit my business?

If you have multiple parties involved in your market (e.g. distributors, intermediaries), beyond a buyer and a seller, you could benefit from blockchain to remove duplication & errors from everyone using different databases.

If there is mistrust or fraud in your market, you could also benefit from blockchain to add more transparency and trust between parties. For example, with pricing agreements or holding up service levels. 

We’ve been lucky to work with various blockchain businesses creating fantastic, disruptive services in their markets. Here are some of them:

  • Evershare - helps artists to sell a share of their songs to the public allowing fans, followers, friends and family to support the artist and invest in and share in the success of the song. 
  • AdsDax - a blockchain marketplace to create, buy and sell advertising at low fees. The platform supports advertisers, publishers and consumers with a unique token called oYou which ensures all parties are rewarded fairly. 
  • - A database of charities listed on blockchain for people who want to research and donate to charities 
  • Own - a platform that lets you buy and sell shares on a blockchain. The technology converts assets into digital tokens that can be managed and traded online, levelling the industry playing field and putting the power back into the hands of enterprises.  

If you’d like to find out any more about these technologies, and what they could mean for your business - get in touch with us. If you’re looking to do smarter stuff with your data, and become a more data-driven business, we can help. 

About the Author

Lee is a writer and strategic thinker, helping Data³ with all things marketing. Lee is a firm believer of using data analytics in the world of marketing, specialising in customer segmentation and bespoke copywriting. 


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