Big data

The emergence of “Big Data” is connected to the digitalisation of all areas of life (see datafication). Mobile internet use, social media, geo-tracking, cloud computing and even vital sign measurements all generate very large amounts of data at an ever faster rate. It has been estimated that the volume of data will double every two years. Not only is the data increasing in volume, it is also being generated at ever shorter intervals. This development can be captured by the ‘3 V’s‘: Variety, Volume and Velocity. Big data can be described as the resultant enormous, pluriform and quickly generated sets of data or, alternatively, as the strategies, discipline or ‘field‘ dealing with such sets.

The difference with traditional data processing, analysis and use is not just gradual, however – big data raises specific challenges. One challenge relates to the processing the volume and speed of the data in order to be able to provide data in real time. Moreover, the data now comes from many different devices and forms of use (e.g. image, text, video, voice messages from smartphones, wearables, PC´s). The large volume, the data speed and the great variety and diversity of information can no longer be handled by previous data infrastructure systems and software.

Collecting, storing and evaluating big data requires new systems and restructuring in companies in order to be able to collect the data in real time. If this succeeds, the use of big data holds a great opportunity for the health care sector:

  • By analysing mass data, physicians can find better and more individualised therapy solutions and plans for patients.
  • By analysing app data, apps can be continuously optimised to deliver greater health benefits.
  • Health care companies can get to know their customers better and tailor offers and products to their needs.

However, these benefits are conditional on the requirement that personal data is handled responsibly and data protection is respected.


  • See further: Hackenberg in Handbuch Multimedia-Recht, Teil 15 Big Data, Werkstand: 56 EL Mai 2021.
  • Fasel, D. Big Data – Eine Einführung. HMD 51, 386–400 (2014).
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