raw data (source data or atomic data) definition

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Enterprise data analytics strategy: A guide for CIOs

Raw data (sometimes called source data or atomic data) is data that has not been processed for use. A distinction is sometimes made between data and information to the effect that information is the end product of data processing. Raw data that has undergone processing is sometimes referred to as cooked data.

Although raw data has the potential to become "information," it requires selective extraction, organization, and sometimes analysis and formatting for presentation. For example, a point-of-sale terminal (POS terminal) in a busy supermarket collects huge volumes of raw data each day, but that data doesn't yield much information until it is processed. Once processed, the data may indicate the particular items that each customer buys, when they buy them, and at what price. Such information can be further subjected to predictive technology analysis to help the owner plan future marketing campaigns.

As a result of processing, raw data sometimes ends up in a database, which enables the data to become accessible for further processing and analysis in a number of different ways.

This was first published in February 2009

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