It goes without saying that today we live in an information-rich and interconnected world. Many of us own a smartphone, tablet, and computer— all of which are used daily to consume vast quantities of data. The fact that at any time the sum of human knowledge is available in the palm of our hands is often taken for granted.

The ability to communicate novel and disparate issues across the globe instantaneously, the growth of content available through the internet, and our daily interactions with this content—every digital inquiry, web search, and social media post—are illustrative of being in the age of “big data”. Data availability has been growing at an exponential pace, with estimates suggesting that over 90% of the data created in the history of humanity has been generated in the past two years.

Massive sets of data can provide a lot of value; they can be analyzed to reveal patterns and trends that provide new insights. However, too much of a good thing can also be problematic: the majority of the information in big data sets can be classified as irrelevant “noise”. With such huge amounts of information, analysts are increasingly finding it difficult to access the relevant data that matters. One solution to cutting through this noise and extracting meaningful signals lies with the new computational paradigm known as “cognitive computing”.

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Hendrik Bartel is the CEO and co-founder of TruValue Labs, Inc., a San Francisco-based technology startup leveraging advances in natural language processing, cognitive computing and machine learning to provide actionable sustainability insights.

Isaac Khurgel is Head of Marketing and Communications for TruValue Labs, Inc. He was previously based in London with the Principles for Responsible Investment.