Big data is nothing without structure. A crucial element in the future will be finding consistent, structured data in a sea of formats.
‘Meta-data’ is data about data and it’s fundamental to the importance of the data itself. It describes the structure and it allows users of the information to understand what they are looking at and what to expect. Meta-data often acts like a contract or protocol – ensuring the data meets certain minimum specifications. If we take data regarding a restaurant we may require certain key facts are always present – for example an address, telephone number and perhaps a type of cuisine.
When a set of data conforms to a particular specification we often say that it represents an ‘entity’ – a sort of real world object – like a restaurant, a type of car, a person’s health record or anything you care to imagine, physical or conceptual.
Unfortunately although the Internet is full of data it’s mostly just text or unstructured data and it lacks the kind if meta-data we would like. While a human can often read a company website, understand the nature of the business and find the address details – its a different story for a computer. To a computer the page is simply text and finding the business’ core activity or location in the world would be a challenge.