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Analytics for Human Information: Big Data, Oil and the Romans

DavidHumphrey ‎06-10-2014 10:02 AM - edited ‎02-19-2015 02:01 PM

There's an interesting similarity I made late the other night between big data, oil fracking and the Roman lead mines of Weardale, near where I grew up.


Around 2000 years ago, the Romans mined and smelted ore called Galena to produce lead. The waste product was just dumped across the landscape in huge piles called slag heaps. Over the next few centuries the mines got deeper and longer, piling up more slag until eventually the mines ran out.


A few hundred years later, the smelting technique improved significantly and the old slag heaps were then seen as rich sources of valuable lead ore.  Every slag heap was "re-mined" to extract the extra value it contained.


A century or so later, some of the waste products in the slag, such as pitch blende (a source of uranium) and fluorspar (used in the production of aluminum), became valuable. Once again the slag heaps were "re-mined".


Now take fracking. Fracking is the process of extracting value from once commercially unviable oil reserves with new technology.  Instead of relying solely on large, easy-to-extract reservoirs, companies can reach a massive volume of oil scattered across in tiny pockets within the rock structure with fracking.  This brings value back to the once forgotten field.


You may be wondering how these examples are related to big data. It’s simple. Today, most big data use cases involve leveraging new technology to access massive amounts of data that was produced for another purpose. New and valuable insights are extracted from the data in order to make faster, better analytics-driven decisions.


Perhaps we should coin a new term, “data re-mining”!


How is your organization managing and analyzing all of its data?  Feel free to share your thoughts on big data in the comment field below.





Read more relevant blog articles here:

Analytics for Human Information: Winning Fans’ Hearts, Minds, and Dollars, Lap After Lap by Chris Surdak
Analytics for Human Information: The New Top Ten Myths of Big Data - Myth #10 by Chris Surdak
Analytics for Human Information: Every Day Big Data by Wendy Lee

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About the Author


David Humphrey, CTO of Video Surveillance for HP Autonomy oversees operations for Video, pioneering intelligent video-analytic technologies for international installations. Mr Humphrey has over twenty years experience in advanced video-analytics, with seventeeen years on security applications, as a leading provider of security and surveillance solutions to defense agencies, governments and major corporations around the globe.

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