If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

The era of big data

DAT‑2 (EU)
DAT‑2.C (LO)
DAT‑2.C.6 (EK)
The digital world is constantly collecting more and more data. Whenever you use an online service, you're contributing to a data set of user behavior. Even by simply using electricity and water in your house, you're contributing to a data set of utilities usage.
With the increasing number of people and cities connected to the Internet, data sets are increasingly larger in size. One report estimates that the total size of digital data will be 175 zettabytes in 2025.start superscript, 1, end superscript
Column chart showing increase in data size over time. The x axis displays years, from 2010 to 2025. The y axis displays zettabytes, from 0 to 180. The first column for 2010 is close to 0 and the final column for 2025 is 175 zettabytes.
How much data is 175 zettabytes, anyway? A single zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes. A modern smartphone stores about 32 gigabytes. To store 175 zettabytes, we would need 6 trillion smartphones (1000 smartphones for every living person!).
Whew, that's a lot! But how big are the individual data sets?
These stats can give us an idea...
  • A single MRI scan results in 20,000 images.start superscript, 1, end superscript
  • Google processes 3.5 billion search queries per day.squared
  • Instagram users post 54,000 photos each minute.cubed
  • An autonomous vehicle generates 11 terabytes of data each day.start superscript, 4, end superscript
  • Twitter users post 3,000 tweets every second.start superscript, 5, end superscript
Big data sets are so large that our traditional ways of storing and processing them are no longer adequate, presenting challenges to computer scientists and data engineers. On the plus side, they're also so large that they offer new opportunities for analysis that were impossible on a small data set.
In this lesson, we'll explore where big data comes from and the exciting ways that we can use it.

Want to join the conversation?

  • blobby green style avatar for user anurag.13upadhayay
    Do we expect to deal with something of the scale bigger than big data? Big data is here and we're only getting started, how long in a professional opinion??
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Martin
      At the moment we're collecting a lot of information. In fact it's so much that it's difficult to figure out what's useful and what's just noise.
      It's like when you try to listen to 10 youtube videos at once, very difficult to make sense of anything.

      I would assume that as time progresses the tools used to analyze big data will become better and it will be possible to gain more insights from it (make sense of all the noise).
      (6 votes)
  • leaf blue style avatar for user ParrotChannel
    Is there even such thing as a 'zetabyte'?
    I don't really think so, as the concept of 'zillion' is just a hyperbolic word for "an enormous number". Is a 'zetabyte' more than a petabyte or something? Additionally, when I type 'zetabyte' into the computer, there is a red squiggly line. (which means that it is spelled incorrectly or there is no such thing as that word).
    (0 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user