Why ‘Big Data’ Is a Big Deal: IBM Executive

Saturday, 7 Jul 2012 | 12:34 PM ET

Companies are sitting on ever-expanding mountains of data that could potentially help them run their businesses better, David McQueeney, IBM’shead of software research, told CNBC.

Ian McKinnell | Getty Images

Like oil or any other natural resource, companies need to exploit what has come to be called “Big Data,” he said.

“In most big enterprises, whether it’s a private enterprise or a government agency, there is typically a mountain of data, typically unstructured data, that contains potential insights about how to serve their clients better, how to engage with citizens better and make the processes run more efficiently,” McQueeney said.

Because it takes a certain amount of computing power to analyze the data and pull out and use those insights, the IBM executive thinks of it “as a natural resource that can be extracted and refined and turned into something powerful.”

Driving Innovation at IBM
An inside look at what "Big Blue" has coming down the pipeline, with David McQueeney, IBM head of software research.

Indeed, the results can be powerful. McQueeney highlighted a hospital project where, instead of taking readings every few hours, they continuously recorded data from all the medical instruments in a ward that took care of premature infants.

“By capturing that [data] and analyzing it and looking at it from maybe five or six different points of view, we were able to help the physicians spot an infection 12 to 24 hours earlier than they may have spotted it,” McQueeney said.

That allowed doctors start a course of treatment that let them save the lives of a lot of infants, he said.

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