"Big Data" is a big trending term on the internet (especially on the web sites of big companies selling data management services). For example, I came across this article while reading the Irish Times in an airport. It contained this recent claim from IBM which has been frequently repeated elsewhere (my emphasis):

Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

Is this just marketing hype or is the claim credible?

NB it might also be worth asking whether the claim holds up with something other than a vague definition of "data".

  • This really hinges on how you define "data", but since it's from IBM they probably mean "retrievable, usable information recorded on a persistent medium".
    – Tacroy
    Aug 10, 2012 at 17:02
  • I’m unsure how evidence for this would look like but as a partial answer, this is more or less true in bioinformatics (note that the data is outdated, growth has accelerated since then) which is one of the bigger data producer recently. It’s almost certainly true in physics (think LHC), too. But I’m suspecting that the most data easily comes from other sources, namely people creating content. Aug 10, 2012 at 19:37
  • Grammar pedants might want to tell me whether the title should start "Have 90% of the world's data..."
    – matt_black
    Aug 10, 2012 at 21:51
  • @matt_black Per wiktionary, on 'data': 'This word is more often used as an uncountable noun with a singular verb than as a plural noun, with singular datum.' That being the case, and in the absence of anything indicating that the question refers specifically to a set of individual facts, 'has' seems correct to me. Aug 12, 2012 at 23:07
  • Video at 1080p60 are tremendous amount of data. 15-24Mbps is typical bitrate of most camcorders. Most smartphones can't do 1080p60 videos, but they usually do 1080p30 or 720p60. Producing videos at 100MB per minute of recording. For comparison, few years ago most smartphones could only record QVGA or VGA videos at 30fps or sometimes as low as 15fps. Or even not at all (eg. iPhone 3G).
    – vartec
    Aug 12, 2012 at 23:18

1 Answer 1


I have no rigorous research sources to cite, but based on reports like this I would judge the basic plausibility of this claim to be decent if the following hold up to scrutiny:

  1. Devices with cameras have proliferated significantly in the last 4-6 years with the advent of so-called 'Smartphones'.
  2. Those cameras have increasingly large megapixel counts in each generation.
  3. Video is also more and more frequently a feature of these devices.
  4. Cloud services and online social sites allow all this data to be retained (and counted) more reliably.
  5. HD video has also proliferated online on many popular video sites - movies and even HD streaming (which is recorded) of video games (eSports) and other events.

I would argue that 1-4 have a kind of multiplicative effect on each other... tens of millions more devices (2 years ago, Apple and Google activated 9 million phones a month) taking 8MPix pictures and HD videos would add up very quickly.

  • 2
    So film-based photography doesn't count as data?
    – matt_black
    Aug 10, 2012 at 20:18
  • @matt_black I think it's reasonable to assume for IBM's counting purposes, until it's in a digital form, it's not. Aug 11, 2012 at 0:13
  • @matt_black I heard the transformers movie was very heavy in this aspect :)
    – ajax333221
    Aug 11, 2012 at 21:56
  • btw. I'd say that 8Mpx photo is irrelevantly small comparing to full HD video.
    – vartec
    Aug 12, 2012 at 23:20
  • @Mathieu 2MP per frame. 60 frames a second. 3600 frames a minute. 216000 frames an hour.
    – vartec
    Feb 15, 2016 at 21:00

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