We get asked all the time at CAN "what is data?" "Data" is a term to describe facts, processes, or events that are able to be recorded and measured. Whether descriptive or quantitative, nearly anything can be converted into data. Facebook profiles, sales numbers, interest rates, zip codes, twitter tweets, emails, DNA sequences, and flight tracking information are all examples of data - and we have a lot of it. Data is collected from many different places, and while humans can collect data, machines and technology can collect far more and do it quicker. Computing systems are designed to collect massive amounts of data on the processes they observe or facilitate, yet most of this is never used. Data sits idle because no one has figured how to use it. Technology on the processing side and collecting side have nearly caught up and this is starting to make all the difference.
Thanks to these advances in computer processing power and storage capacity, 90% of the data available to humankind were nonexistent 2 years ago. Think about that for a minute. In other words, data are this age's most abundant raw material.