If you're an investor, there's a term you need to know: Big Data.
Data - just the word itself - is the most boring abstraction in the world. The meaning of the word "data" itself is, well, meaninglessness. That's the point.
Data is incoherent stuff with no relation to anything.
So, what is "Big Data"?
"In the technology world, the term 'Big Data' refers to large arrays of data, raw and unstructured, whose sheer size and type make them practically impossible to process and analyze with existing database technology," explains Money Morning's Defense & Tech Specialist Michael Robinson.
And Big Data is about to make a lot of people extremely wealthy...
How Big is Big?
A mind-blowing 2.7 zettabytes of data existed in our digital universe in 2012. A zettabyte of data is the total found in 62.5 billion iPhones - a stack that would go from the Earth past the moon.
This data comes from billions of sources, like the 5 billion people calling, texting, tweeting, and browsing on mobile phones worldwide in 2012, the 571 new websites created every minute of the day, and more...
The amount of data in 2012 grew 48% from 2011, and will jump even more in 2013.
Harnessing all this data can result in some pretty amazing things.
"The answers to our grand challenges lie in the patterns that big data discovers and the answers it provides," said Robinson.
Analysts say the big data sector will dwarf the $160 billion cloud computing industry. It will also be put to use in nearly every aspect of our lives.
"I break it up into seven main markets big data will impact in a huge way: governments, defense and security, business, cloud, health care, surveillance, and science," Robinson said.
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Here are just a few ways it's already transforming these industries...
Big Data in Action
In January, Earth Networks SM, operator of the largest weather, lightning, and climate observation networks, announced new storm warning technology at the 2013 American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting.
The tech uses big data to transform how and when people receive warnings about impending storms. Analysts say it will speed up storm warnings by 50%.
Also in January, we heard about how a new big data-based technology called ShotSpotter has been impacting crime-fighting. ShotSpotter can locate the source of gunshots with pinpoint accuracy and details.
"This is the most valuable tool we've gotten in a real long time," Police Sgt. Kevin Medeiros said of ShotSpotter in an interview with The Herald News. "This is up there with laptops (computers) in the cruiser, guns and pepper spray."
The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA) is also using big data to design and improve its aircraft.
The company used a big-data computer to model airflow over the wings of its 787. The simulation ended up validating and improving several of Boeing's aerodynamics codes, saving the company time and money, and possibly influencing the process by which next-gen Boeing aircraft are going to be designed and manufactured.
Even smartphone users have felt the ripple of big data.
Shazam is a mobile phone application that combines music-recognition software algorithms and a database of millions of songs to help you identify and organize digital music.
You turn on Shazam when you hear a song playing, and it will identify the song name, artist, album, lyrics, discography, and more, in the span of about 15 seconds.
Shazam and ShotSpotter highlight how important wireless tech is to realizing the full potential of big data.
That's why Robinson describes big data wireless tech as "a giant global network of networks."
"As the developing world embraces wireless technology, every human on the planet will create oceans of data," Robinson explains. "We are walking, talking data machines with trillions of lines of code - from our DNA to our music, photos, games, and everything else that's digital."
And these trillions of lines of code will turn into trillions in profits...