What is Big Data?
Every single day, we find ourselves overwhelmed by an avalanche of information from all sides, and of every subject matter: from news, to cookery recipes, to gossip… If we were to attempt to sort through the data that comes our way during just one day, we could begin to gain an overall concept of contemporary life around us and of the world we live in.
Now the same reasoning is being applied on a global scale, which is bringing us into the era of Big Data, a phenomenon so vast that it can overcome the limits set by traditional database tools. The gargantuan quantity of digital information is growing daily, and at an exponential rate, and Big Data means the potential to use it to our benefit. With Big Data, the universe of data can be extracted, evaluated, and transformed into a fount of valuable, factual knowledge that can be utilised to further enhance scientific research.
Health and Big Data
In the medical field, evaluating Big Data can mean establishing better treatment protocols and cures, by providing physicians with methodologies for more precise diagnoses. For example, DNA-based predictive analysis models can be devised, aiming at the prevention of diseases that might manifest at some future stage. Having access to Big Data would mean the provision of information for predicting crises that could strike an organism, and for pinpointing an endemic disease before it develops. Data from millions of clinical records could also be amassed and analysed at macro-levels, in order to identify the optimal therapeutic procedures – and at the same time such data could be stored in a digital format, easily accessible and useable for other purposes.
Business Investment in Big Data
Companies are now investing in this field, in the realisation that the future is already upon us. In Italy, there is Cineca (www.cineca.it), founded in 1969, with the aim of promoting the use of the most advanced information processing systems dealing with scientific and technological research. Outside of Italy, the IT giant IBM has created Watson, a super computer designed for cognitive computing, which allows for health-related imaging by extrapolating and then analysing Big Data. Meanwhile, Google has created Google Genomics, a platform for Cloud compilation of biological research.
Progress in Genetics
Big Data management is evolving to the point of influencing the study of genetics and genomics (a branch of biology that studies genetic heritage, evolution, and genetic ability to control vital functions). Simulations are becoming ever more precise, to the point of being able to understand what will result from the mutation of a single variant in the DNA. The goal is to move towards the creation of specific genetic care for each and every Patient.
Thus, it would appear that far better individual healthcare is just around the corner, when each of us will have at our disposal our very own Personal Big Data.
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