By Carl Holmquist, CEO and Founder Freespee.

While the concept of ‘big data’ is nothing new, the way in which businesses choose to make sense of the masses of data available to them is becoming increasingly important.

No longer intimidated by the volume and variety of information available to them, the focus is turning to real time data. As consumers we’re all becoming more and more eager to see fast results, it’s no surprise that businesses want to base their decisions on what’s happening now, not what happened six months ago. This is what is known as ‘fast data’.

The notion of big data is not an exclusive phenomenon for the computerised world. As human beings, we store our own banks of big data that sit in our long-term memory - like a big data warehouse - used for cognitive decision-making. Recalling information from this part of our brain is always immediate, it's our intuitive decision making’ that make decisions in milliseconds based on our cognitive learning. Everyday actions such as where we put our foot when we walk are part of our intuitive decision making process.

Whenever we are faced with a new question and we are unable to find an answer from our cognitive learning, our brain is not very fast. It takes time to process data. So, if we need to answer quickly, we have to base the answer on knowledge we’ve previously acquired.

The world of computerised data intelligence works in a similar fashion to the human brain. Although computers can currently store more information than humans, computers cannot reconcile all the data available and make a new logical decision in milliseconds. For this reason, the big data driven programmatic tools use pre-processed decision-making. This is clearly evident in the advertising landscape where ad impressions are being bought and sold in milliseconds, for every single impression. Much like the human brains’ intuitive decision making, programmatic tools exist to make decisions based on how big data perceived the world at the last point in time at which data was collected and processed. But the more often we acquire data and learn - updating our cognitive learning - the more accurate decisions we make.

Before Real Time Bidding was introduced into advertising, it was acceptable for businesses to process big data once a week or once a day on the understanding that it may no longer be accurate. Now times have changed. Businesses that only collect data and run it through on a daily basis are making intuitive decisions based on data that only takes into the account the past 24 hours, omitting the latest data learnings which could prove pivotal to the decision making process.

When we are talking about online customer behaviour, there needs to be a greater focus on real time or fast data rather than big data, if managers want to be seen to be making marketing decisions based on accurate findings. The more often businesses process their data, the more reliable their intelligence will become. The best opportunities going forward will come from data from the real time world.