Calling for a ride using Uber, leasing your apartment or booking one using AirBnb, streaming songs through Spotify or ordering a meal using Foodpanda or Deliveroo are services we have come to rely on.

Demand for customised and seamless online services is met through the accurate and effective use of big data.

“Big data plays a role, right from the beginning of the day to the end of the day. It makes your life easier by helping you make better decisions,” says Swararajul Desai, data science lead in machine learning at Grab, a leading ride-hailing platform in Southeast Asia.

Big data is an umbrella term that encompasses all data, from financial transactions to DNA. It is a collection of structured and unstructured information. Big data is useless on its own, but when effectively mined it can lead to powerful outcomes.

London-based market research company Novonous predicts the global big data market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 36.7 per cent until 2020 because of the increasing penetration of big data in various sectors, the increased use of analytics services and the availability of affordable big data solutions and services for end users. The growth prospects are huge. According to some estimates only 0.5 per cent of big data available is ever analysed.

“Big data… enables for better customisation and allows better predictions. I actually call big data a framework of everything we do,” says Egidio Zarrella, head of banking and capital markets for KPMG Asia-Pacific. Zarrella’s practice is focused on technology. “Take Spotify, when you create a playlist or make something they collect the playlist and pump it back to consumers by recommending new songs.”

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