Kudos to Mark Banks of AIR Worldwide, who added a fourth “V” to a trio of definitional attributes pertaining to big data. Contributing to a lively panel at ITC 2012, he added Validity to Volume, Variety and Velocity.
This is an important addition, because we need to make a distinction between having-lots-of-stuff and having-lots-of-useful-stuff. I sometimes get flashbacks to the heyday of data warehousing when I hear some people talk about big data. There's this magical thinking that creeps in and encourages us to believe quantity alone is somehow going to deliver quality.
Yes, big data enables us to discover new patterns. It enables us to react quicker and smarter. But only when the data is valid. It's only if we're certain what data items mean, and how they relate to each other, that we can do any useful work with them.
Banks also remarked that big data has always been ingrained in risk modeling. I'd take this a step further and say the kind of analysis people in other industries are now undertaking with big data is learned from insurance industry practices. Mainstream business is catching up with the core competencies of insurance as they gain the tools to better understand behavior.