Big Data, AI and Machine Learning are today's buzzwords. Data nerds, business executives and politicians alike are talking about data-related opportunities and potential risks. But since when has this been the case and how have data-related interests developed over time? We've looked into this question using Google Trends data.
Google search queries have become a powerful tool to capture the moving interests in our society. Across languages, the verb to google has become a commonly used term for finding information on a topic online. Google Trends offers insights into the 3.5 billion queries the search engine is processing each day.
In order to analyze the development of interest in data science, we looked at the search interest in five data-related keywords (Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Business Intelligence, Data Science, Machine Learning) and their trends since 2009. The first figure below shows quarterly data of the development in Switzerland over the past 8 years. Using quarters instead of months or weeks reduces the noise, and trends get easier to spot. Importantly, Google Trends states all its numbers relative to the search volume of the most popular search term, where 100 reflects the highest search volume in the observed time period. The data therefore allows us to analyze trends and compare volumes for different queries, but it does not offer any insights on the absolute search traffic.
The graph shows a large increase in search queries for the term “Big Data.” It took much longer for other common terms in the field of data science to take off. Interestingly, Machine Learning has become the top search query, overtaking even Big Data in 2017. Data Science and Artificial Intelligence seem to be on the rise but remain at a lower level.
How does the Swiss development compare to worldwide search queries? The figure below shows the results for the same keywords based on global search queries. Overall, the trends run very similarly. Big Data took off in 2012 and Machine Learning saw rapid growth in the past two years. An interesting difference can be observed for Artificial Intelligence: While the global trend over the last two years matches the Swiss trend, the global level of AI search queries had reached high levels in 2009 already.
The graphs confirm the general impression that data science has been and continues to be on the rise. Machine Learning especially is seeing strong growth and even managed to outpace the more generic search term Big Data.
Google Trends is easily accessible. If you'd like to import the data directly into R, the gtrendsR package will be helpful. For Python, PyTrends enables automated downloading.