Companies should be very careful before they throw away any data, as there is potentially immense value even in the 'data exhaust'.
This is a view from Computing's inaugural Big Data Summit held in London today.
Professor Mark Whitehorn (pictured), chair of analytics at the University of Dundee, said that even seemingly insignificant information can prove incredibly useful, with the correct use case.
"Google decided to keep all the information from users' spelling mistakes in their search engine, data that most people would throw away. They looked at what people typed, even if they spelt Ferrari with eight 'r's. Then they looked at where they actually wanted to go," said Whitehorn.
"Now you can make typos in Google and still get to where you want to go. They've effectively developed the world's most powerful spellchecker."
He gave a further example of data gathered by banks, from their customers using their cashpoints. "When you put your PIN into an ATM, you put it in at a very specific pace. If someone steals your card, they may know your PIN, but they're unlikely to be able to put it in at exactly the same pace as you. Banks can use this as a further means of authentication."
He explained that these examples point to the hidden value in data that is available to many firms, but is rarely captured.
Computing's Big Data Summit features panel sessions, presentations and case studies from some of the UK's leading companies and institutions.
An in-depth analysis of the event will feature in the next issue of the magazine, and video highlights will be available on this website next week.