Data set to grow tenfold by 2020 but can the digital universe cope?

| 30 April 2014

aki blog header_v2The explosion of data is not to be underestimated. In fact every time a new study is done the numbers are continually being revised upwards. Technology is moving at such a blistering pace and the consumerisation of hardware is making it impossible to predict how much data we will actually be creating this decade.

The latest research comes from EMC Corporation’s seventh annual Digital Universe report. This year’s study entitled ‘The Digital Universe of Opportunities: Rich Data and the Increasing Value of the Internet of Things’, with research and analysis by IDC, reveals how the emergence of wireless technologies, smart products and software-defined businesses are playing a central role in catapulting the volume of the world’s data.


When one looks at the forecasts heading towards 2020, it looks like a massive asteroid racing through space gathering momentum with no predicted end result.

The study has revealed that in 2013 we created 4.4 trillion gigabytes or 4.4 zettabytes of data.  We are currently doubling the amount of data we create every two years and this is expected to grow to 44 trillion gigabytes or 44 zettabytes by 2020.

More than two thirds of the digital universe is made of data created by consumers. Enterprise is responsible for 85% of this data.

To put this into perspective, today the average household creates enough data to fill 65 32GB iPhones per year. By 2020 this number will grow to 318 iPhones. If we had to quality this number with iPads, we would be able to stack enough iPads to reach 2/3 of the distance from earth to the moon. By 2020 we will be generating enough data to created 6.6 stacks of iPads.

The Internet of Things is driving this incredible surge in data numbers. Sensors and the miniaturisation of technology are enabling many more objects to be connected and share data.

The current research from the IDC shows that we currently have around 200 billion devices that can be connected to the Internet. Of those devices, 7% or around 14 billion are currently connected and sharing data over the internet. Apart from the obvious hardware like computers and smartphones for example, sensors in shoes, fridges and even motor vehicles are creating huge amounts of data over our networks. These connected devices are expected to grow to 32 billion by 2020 which will represent 10% of the world’s data.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the latest research from EMC and the IDC is the breakdown of who is generating the data. Currently 60% of the data generated comes from mature markets like Germany, Japan and the United states. But it is the emerging markets that are producing more data and by 2020 countries that include China, India, Mexico, Brazil and Russia will account for the majority of the data.

The challenge over the next decade will not only be to quantify the data accurately but how we are going to process it and where we will store it. Security is also big issue. The IDC estimates that 40% of the data in the digital universe requires some level of protection, yet just 20% of this data is actually protected.

At this rate the data being generated is growing faster than the time we have to process and store it, and this will ultimately be one of the biggest challenges we face.


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