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4.2: Examples of Data

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    Data can be anything. Some examples of data are weights, prices, costs, numbers of items sold, names, places. Almost all software programs require data to do something useful. It can be straightforward, as a name of a place, a person, or a number. An example would be editing a document in a word processor such as Microsoft Word, the document you are working on is the data. The word-processing software can manipulate the data: create a new document, duplicate a document, or modify a document. Today we have a new type of data called biometrics, which are physical or behavioral human characteristics that can digitally identify a person. Examples would be facial recognition used for passports. Fingerprint authentication is used to unlock smartphones. Iris recognition uses high-resolution images of the iris. This data is stored for future identification. Many governments and high-security companies use iris recognition because it is considered to be errorless when identifying individuals.


    Many information systems aim to transform data into information to generate knowledge that can be used for decision-making. To do this, the system must take or read the data, then put the data into context, and provide tools for aggregation and analysis. A database is designed for just such a purpose.

    A database is an organized, meaningful collection of related information. It is an organized collection because, in a database, all data is interrelated and associated with other data. All information in a database should be related; separate databases should be created to manage unrelated information. For example, a database that contains information about employees' payroll should not also hold information about the company’s stock prices. Digital databases include things created by MS Excel, such as tables to more complicated databases used every day by people, from checking your balance at the bank to accessing medical records and online shopping. Databases help us to eliminate redundant information. It ensures more effective ways to access searches. Back in the day, databases would be a filing cabinet. For this text, we will only consider digital databases.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Relational Database. Image by mcmurry julie from Pixabay is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

    Relational Databases

    Databases can be organized in many different ways and thus take many forms. DBMS (Database Management System) is software that facilitates the organization and manipulation of data. DBMS functions as an interface between the database and the end-user. The software is designed to store, define, retrieve and manage the data in the database. Other forms of databases today are relational databases. Examples of relational databases are Oracle (RDBMS), MySQL, SQL, and PostgreSQL. A relational database is one in which stores data in an organized fashion of rows and columns, which will create one or more tables of related information. Each table has a set of fields, which define the nature of the data stored in the table. A record is one instance of a set of fields in a table. To visualize this, think of an excel spreadsheet, the records as the rows of the table and the fields as the table columns. In the example below, we have a table of student information, with each row representing a student and each column representing one piece of information about the student. The relational database model does not scale well. The term scale here refers to a larger and larger database being distributed on a larger number of computers connected via a network. Some companies are looking to provide large-scale database solutions by moving away from the relational model to other, more flexible models. For example, Google now offers the App Engine Datastore, which is based on NoSQL. Developers can use the App Engine Datastore to develop applications that access data from anywhere in the world. offers several database services for enterprise use, including Amazon RDS, a relational database service, and Amazon DynamoDB, a NoSQL enterprise solution.

    Relational Database Example

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Relational database table adapted from David Bourgeois, Ph.D. is licensed under CC BY 4.0

    Fields (Columns)

    Records (Rows)

    First Name

    Last Name



    Ann Marie