“Big data”—the large data sets that can be managed and analyzed only by increasingly powerful and sophisticated tools—is an expansive and rapidly evolving field, Forbes reports.

For now, I’m not going to talk about internally generated information that companies use primarily to mine for operational and financial efficiency or the increasing amount of data that machines can generate to indicate that they need servicing, that they are out of an item, and so on. This is fascinating stuff, but beyond the scope of this blog.

Yet even “limiting” ourselves to customer-oriented data barely shrinks the field. So for my inaugural post, my...

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