Data miners find there’s gold in them thar files

There’s another mining boom you may have missed. It too involves paying young people six-figure salaries in their first jobs, and exploring deeper for resources that may have been previously overlooked. But it’s not about driving trucks or digging holes. It’s about building algorithms and crunching facts and numbers. It’s mining for data.

Big data is the new business black. It’s a catch-all phrase for the billions of transactions and other bits of information about their customers, suppliers and operations logged by businesses and governments the world over every day. Yesterday’s storage problem has become today’s strategic asset. Turns out there’s gold in them thar files.

This is the biggest industry that people are only now starting to talk about, says Anthony Goldbloom, a 28-year-old former Reserve Bank of Australia statistician who has moved his start-up data analytics business, Kaggle, to Silicon Valley where NASA is among its clients. The whole place is big data mad. Industries like banking, insurance, and increasingly pharmaceuticals are competing on the back of predictive models that get built [by mining data].

Enterprises are using data analysis not just to improve their everyday business processes, but also to build predictive models of consumer behaviour. Retailers, telcos, airlines, hotels, healthcare and credit card companies are among those with information-rich customer data. In Australia only really leading companies have realised this as an opportunity, Goldbloom says. To his knowledge, Telstra, Myer, the University of Melbourne and the New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority are among those known to have applied large-scale data analysis to their operations — via

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