There is a quiet revolution going on in information technology. The world is become so digital and fast moving, that old technologies for storing and making sense of the data can't keep up. The IT revolution has the catchy name "Big Data". Here are some examples of BIG: every 60 seconds -

  • Twitter processes 98,000 tweets
  • There are 700,000 status updates on Facebook
  • There are 700,000 Google searches
  • Walmart processes 17,000 transactions

While sustainability isn't that BIG, it does share some similaries. Information technologists dimension BIG DATA in 4 ways - 4 Vs - and each has relevance for sustainability:

  • Volume - For sustainability, having 1,000 products made in 50 plants with 5,000 core materials supplied by 500 tier-1 suppliers each with their own supply chain ... constitutue much more data than traditional tools available to sustainability can handle. Would you want to build that spreadsheet?
  • Velocity - Sustainability is fast moving. Innovation is constant. New metrics come into play. New standards are developed. The sustainability landscape is evolving.
  • Variety (or Variability) - Sustainability data comes in all shapes and sizes - in structured form and unstructured - text and spreadsheets.
  • Veracity - In sustainability this is a case of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly". The quality and availability of data can be all over the map. And then there is the unknown factor - a product may use a material that is a commodity and bought through a distributor and its original might well be unknowable.

Data with theses characteristics doesn't fit well into a spreadsheet or traditional relational database. These tools were built to handle "bounded" data. Sustainability is proving to have few bounds!

Footprinter was founded on the principle that big data technologies can be applied to sustainability. We leverage several core approaches:

  • Footprinter can integrate data of all different types and from all different sources in the business, be it automated integration with other systems, organic data collection in the business or importing from a spreadsheet.
  • Footprinter is organic. Footprinter isn't one database and a client deployment isn't limited to one database. Most deployments are a network of multiple databases (in some cases, 100s) each of which grows organically depending on the application.
  • Footprinter indexes all sustainability inputs in its schemaless graph database technology. This means the full power of our pivot table-like functionality and tags are available across all data in a client deployment.
  • All information in Footprinter is full text indexed and searchable meaning you can cope with the amount of information and valuable data is never forgotten.
  • All Footprinter services are horizontally scalable. Analytic queries are split up and run in parallel on many servers. This means we can always cope with the amount of data our clients throw at us.

Note - IT analyst group Gartner wrote about Big Data and introduced the notion of 3Vs in mid-2011. Inforgraphic courtesty of IBM.

Greg Bier - CEO