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Technical Perspective: Big Data Needs Approximate Computing

The phenomenal growth of digital data produced by all kinds of systems and devices has been well documented. Studies indicate that until the year 2000, the amount of digital data in the world was dwarfed by the amount of analog data. Today, virtually all data being generated, transmitted, and consumed is in a digital form.

Commercial computers evolved when a large fraction of data in the digital universe was of the transactional kind. Transactional data continues to grow today, but it is a much smaller part of a digital universe dominated by consumer images, surveillance footage, entertainment feeds, social media, and sensor data. Yet, most systems today, including personal computers, use fundamentally the same type of processors, the same storage hierarchies, and the same computing paradigms pioneered by the transactional systems.


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