Data Fracking® The First Company in Scotland Authorised To Carry Out fracking! – Brainnwave

OK so that is a bit of a tabloid heading and like most tabloid headings it is somewhat misleading and designed deliberately to grab your attention.  I am not talking about the somewhat controversial practice of fracking for oil and gas but I do like to use it as a metaphor to describe what I see happening in the field of data science and the application of that in business.

It’s become so common place over recent years, to talk of ‘data as the new oil’, that it’s easy to not hear it anymore. To not notice when it’s used, nor think of the implications such an analogy brings.

You only have to look at the top 6 companies (by market capitalisation) from 2006, with the top 5 for 2016. It’s telling to see 2 major oil companies drop out of that list and it now be dominated by 5 businesses that are data businesses as much (or more) than they are technology firms.

Bar graph chart showing market capitalization of the world's most valuable public companies


Last year there was a great article in the Economist magazine. Entitled Fuel of the Future it reviews how the new ‘data economy’ is shaping up. That review is structured by comparing how data will fuel the economy of the 21st century, when considering how oil fuelled the 20th century economy. I talk more about that article in my blog Drilling deeper into Data as the New Oil.

Much like the natural resources world we started off with mining for things like coal to bring us energy.  Data mining became a popular phrase in the 90’s and early 2000’s and is commonly used to describe the process of sorting through large data sets to identify patterns and establish relationships to solve problems through data analysis.

However the world is changing quickly and I have seen many different statistics to highlight that the world of data is exploding.  What these headline statistics often don’t portray is the variety and complexity of the types of data now available.  This is where I like to bring in the metaphor of data fracking®, and by that I mean the process of employing superior techniques to extract the most inaccessible – but most relevant – data on the web and in businesses.  Just as with any prospecting, the most valuable data deposits are increasingly hard to locate – and even harder to extract.


The science of data mining is rapidly changing.  To discover the most meaningful answers, professionals need to dig deeper to unlock remote, hard-to-reach places.  Once you have found those deposits you inject artificial intelligence to extract and identify patterns and bring those insights to the surface so they can be used in decision making or to change behaviours.

Welcome to the new age of data fracking®.

Words by Steve Coates, CEO & Co-Founder, Brainnwave

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