• Big Data and Your Ordinary Photos

    Big Data does not refer to the size of individual snippets of data or necessarily to the overall volume of data in your purview. Rather it refers to the size of the problem involved in trying to make any sense out of a large volume of unstructured data.

    Structured stuff is easy. If I gave you a 3,000 page phone directory and asked you to find Leonardo da Vinci, you could do it in seconds. But if I pointed you to Facebook and asked you to tell me what would be the best city to start my new dead people’s cryogenics business you would have a tougher time of it.

    Back to photos. We store millions of them and to the computer they are just a bunch of pixels. Most digital cameras or scanners will allocate a unique numerical code to each picture which means you could find Auntie Em if you knew the number.

    They also usually assign a time and date stamp so now you can search for photos taken on her birthday or on the day Kennedy was shot or whatever. Some people take the time to tag photos as they put them into an archive like Shutterfly. Do you add ‘sister,’ ‘zoo’ or ‘lemur’ to your shots? I didn’t think so.

    The good ones that you shared on MySpace might be accompanied by some text such as, “This is Auntie Em trying to revive Dorothy after the tornado returned her to Kansas.” Now we have some useful terms to search.

    You may have noticed that Facebook now finds faces in photos and actually asks you to tag them and later, if it sees a similar face in another photo it will suggest the same name. Scary hey? Soon it might automatically tag every person and every recognisable object in your photos.

    Now if I’m looking for Uncle Bob at the Eiffel Tower I will be in luck. On the global scale this all takes a lot of storage and a lot of processing power. No wonder EMC loves the stuff. I think they even invented the term “Big Data.” I suspect it derives from the term “Big Brother”.

    Mike Sparkes is author of the blog Obscure Aussie and an IT storage expert based in Brisbane, Australia.

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