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Digital Technology - Big data, rule engines and algorithms


Big data generates knowledge and insight and it’s often said big data is the future.

For a variety of reasons, what can be done with big data has only begun to be explored. Most data is stored on the servers of individual companies, not accessible outside those organisations. This poses an initial barrier to the full exploitation of the data – in time, many companies will become large enough to have enough big data, and the capacity to analyse it, such that it generates significant competitive advantages. Big data can help understand how the built environment operates, how users interact with space and how space and infrastructure respond to use.


 What is big data? Big data refers to the volume, variety and velocity of large amounts of data. This may account for all the data an individual thing creates or a group or an entire population. For perspective, over 90% of the world’s digital data was created in the last four years. Every minute of the day, 204 million emails are sent, 72 hours of video is posted on YouTube, 2.4 million pieces of content is posted on Facebook and 216,000 new photos are shared on Instagram. In 2015 this added up to 5.6 zettabytes (or 5.6 trillion gigabytes) of data created in the year.

One of the uses of data is the design and application of algorithms and rule engines. Essentially mathematical equations – some simple, some more complicated all of which are becoming pervasive. Website retargeting and remarketing online is an increasingly common use of these algorithms - (IF THEN; GO TO). Websites use these to make gentle suggestions and recommendations of other products, Netflix predicts watching behaviour and makes suggestions on past viewing whilst dating websites use these tools to suggest potential partners, in the same way LinkedIn suggests career moves.

Algorithms and rule engines are enabling constant and predictable on-sell, cross-sell, and upsell – the perfect salesperson, and one that operates 24 hours a day.

To learn what’s next in the rapid world of digital technology, contact Tony Crabb, National Director, Research.

Read more of Cushman & Wakefield’s Futurology series, click here.