The 'internet of things' (IoT) and 'big data' are two of the most-talked-about technology topics in recent years, which is why they occupy places at or near the peak of analyst firm Gartner's most recent Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies:

Gartner's 2014 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies

If you have somehow missed the hype, the IoT is a fast-growing constellation of internet-connected sensors attached to a wide variety of 'things'. Sensors can take a multitude of possible measurements, internet connections can be wired or wireless, while 'things' can literally be any object (living or inanimate) to which you can attach or embed a sensor. If you carry a smartphone, for example, you become a multi-sensor IoT 'thing', and many of your day-to-day activities can be tracked, analysed and acted upon.

Big data, meanwhile, is characterised by 'four Vs': volume, variety, velocity and veracity. That is, big data comes in large amounts (volume), is a mixture of structured and unstructured information (variety), arrives at (often real-time) speed (velocity) and can be of uncertain provenance (veracity). Such information is unsuitable for processing using traditional SQL-queried relational database management systems (RDBMSs), which is why a constellation of alternative tools -- notably Apache's open-source Hadoop distributed data processing system, plus various NoSQL databases and a range of business intelligence platforms -- has evolved to service this market.

The IoT and big data are clearly intimately connected: billions of internet-connected 'things' will, by definition, generate massive amounts of data. However, that in itself won't usher in another industrial revolution, transform day-to-day digital living, or deliver a planet-saving early warning system. As EMC and IDC point out in their latest Digital Universe report, organisations need to hone in on high-value, 'target-rich' data that is (1) easy to access; (2) available in real time; (3) has a large footprint (affecting major parts of the organisation or its customer base); and/or (4) can effect meaningful change, given the appropriate analysis and follow-up action.

As we shall see, there's a great deal less of this actionable data than you might think if you simply looked at the size of the 'digital universe' and the number of internet-connected 'things'.
Read more: The internet of things and big data: Unlocking the power | ZDNet