What is Unstructured Data Extraction? How to Use it Effectively?

Don’t sleep on unstructured data, which can account for 80% of your data. Learn more about how to turn unstructured into actionab

 min. read
May 28, 2024
What is Unstructured Data Extraction? How to Use it Effectively?

Do you know 80% to 90% of an enterprise's data is unstructured, and it's growing three times faster than structured data? The unstructured data sources vary from emails and text messages to website content. Undoubtedly, in its sheer abundance, this unstructured data holds a wealth of potential for organizations, but only 18% of those organizations benefit from it. If you are among the remaining 82 percent of businesses who've not yet tapped the unstructured data, you’re certainly missing out on valuable information that can have significant impact on your business strategy.

Unstructured data extraction employs several technologies, including optical character recognition, machine learning, natural language processing and more, to transform raw data into structured formats. Extracting insights from this diverse data landscape can assist organizations in informed decision-making, enhancing customer experiences, identifying emerging trends, and more.

Let’s discuss the techniques behind unstructured data extraction and how these help businesses stay ahead of the competition. Let's dive in!

It refers to a diverse and vast category of information that lacks a predefined, organized structure or format. Unlike structured data, which neatly fits into rows and columns within databases, unstructured data doesn’t adhere to a specific schema, making it challenging to analyze with traditional methods. Unstructured data can be found in various forms, and its defining characteristic is its flexibility and variability. Some of the unstructured data extraction examples are:

  • Text Data: Documents, social media posts, emails, and more.
  • Images: Scanned documents, photographs, illustrations, and screenshots.
  • Video: Recorded videos, streaming content, and surveillance footage.
  • Sensor Data: Information collected from IoT devices, such as temperature sensors and GPS trackers.
  • Web Content: Data extracted from web pages through web scraping.
  • Social Media: Posts, comments, images, and videos from platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Audio: Voice recordings, podcasts, and phone call transcripts.

Unstructured data extraction has all the buzz in the business world nowadays. It's the process of converting and distilling valuable information from unorganized data sources into human- and machine-readable formats. As mentioned earlier, these include text documents, images, audio, and videos in a structured and analyzable format. This crucial data transformation involves employing advanced technologies like NLP, OCR, and ML.

Unstructured data extraction helps you understand the business world's insights, trends, and hidden patterns. By extracting meaningful data from such varied sources, you can make informed decisions, offer better customer experiences, and drive innovation within your organization.

The detailed benefits of unstructured data extraction and why it's considered a game-changer in the data analytics landscape are:

Deeper Insights

You gain deeper insights into your customer needs through unstructured data extraction. It's because this process opens up a world of information beyond structured data, encompassing sources like customer feedback, social media posts, and receipt images. These diverse sources provide a more comprehensive understanding of customer sentiments, market dynamics, and emerging trends.

Better Decision-Making

By harnessing unstructured data extraction, you empower your organization to make more informed decisions. Analyzing unstructured customer feedback helps you refine your products and optimize marketing strategies. You can also allocate resources more effectively, ultimately leading to better decision-making and strategic planning.

Competitive Advantage

Effective unstructured data extraction provides a significant competitive advantage. Organizations harnessing unstructured data's power can adapt quickly to changing market conditions. Using this technique, you can identify emerging competitors and innovate more efficiently, positioning themselves as industry leaders.

Risk Mitigation

Unstructured data analysis can be a valuable tool for risk mitigation. Organizations can proactively identify potential risks by monitoring unstructured data for sentiment and trends, such as negative publicity or cybersecurity threats. Armed with such information, you can take preventative measures to mitigate them.

Some of the common challenges you may face in unstructured data extraction are:

Data Variety and Complexity

Unstructured data extraction comes with the immense diversity and inherent complexity of data sources. The diverse formats include text documents, images, audio recordings, and videos. Each data type necessitates specialized techniques and tools for accurate analysis. This wide-ranging variety poses a challenge in terms of managing, processing, and interpreting the data efficiently.

Huge Volume

The sheer amount of data produced by different sources poses another significant challenge to unstructured data extraction. Unstructured data sources, like social media posts, multimedia content, and customer reviews, produce copious amounts of information that must be stored and processed. This volume can strain computing resources and emphasize the need for substantial storage capacity.

Quality and Noise

Unstructured data often arrives with noise, including errors, inconsistencies, and irrelevant information. For instance, it can be typographical errors in text, artifacts in images, or background noise in audio recordings. Addressing these quality issues is essential to derive accurate insights from unstructured data. However, the whole process may require context-specific knowledge or domain expertise, adding complexity to the task of data extraction.

Unstructured data analysis utilizes various technologies depending on the data format and quality. Here are some of the techniques of unstructured data extraction:

Web Scraping

Generally, web scraping is the process of automatically extracting data from websites - an unstructured data source. Web crawlers or bots to navigate web pages. It gathers information and stores it for further analysis.

Such scraping is also applicable in extracting data from sources such as news articles, financial data, product listings, and more. It plays a crucial role in aggregating data from the web for various purposes, including deep market research and extensive competitive analysis.

Natural Language Processing

It’s a field of artificial intelligence focusing on the interaction between computers and human language. It encompasses various techniques and tools to understand, analyze, and generate human language. In the context of unstructured data extraction, NLP plays a central role in making sense of textual information. Some critical components of NLP include:

  • Tokenization: Breaking text into individual words or tokens.
  • Part-of-Speech Tagging (POS): Assigning grammatical tags (e.g., noun, verb) to words.
  • Named Entity Recognition (NER): Identifying names of people, places, organizations, etc.
  • Sentiment Analysis: Determining the emotional tone of text (positive, negative, neutral).

OCR (Optical Character Recognition)

Optical Character Recognition is a pivotal technique for converting printed or handwritten text within images or scanned documents into machine-readable text. OCR software scans images or documents, identifies individual characters or words, and translates them into editable and searchable text. It’s indispensable for extracting information from unstructured sources like paper documents, receipts, and invoices, making it a foundation of digitization efforts.

It can be broadly classified into two main categories: human-generated and machine-generated data.

Automated systems and devices produce machine-generated data without direct human involvement. This data type includes sensor readings, logs, event data, machine vision outputs, and information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Then comes human-generated unstructured data having diverse information created by humans in various formats, such as unstructured texts, audio, images, and video content. This type includes emails, social media posts, handwritten notes, voice recordings, and freeform survey responses.

The use cases of unstructured data extraction span various industries:

Healthcare

Unstructured data extraction revolutionizes healthcare by converting handwritten medical records and scanned documents into structured data. This transformation enhances patient care and research capabilities, allowing for quicker and more accurate diagnoses. Physicians can access critical patient information seamlessly, ultimately improving treatment planning and outcomes.

Finance

In the financial sector, unstructured data extraction is instrumental in sentiment analysis. By analyzing social media and news sentiment, investors can make more informed decisions, adjusting their strategies according to market trends. Furthermore, unstructured financial documents, such as invoices, receipts, and contracts, can be automatically categorized. This streamlines accounting processes and enhances business efficiency.

Marketing

Unstructured data extraction plays a pivotal role in social media analytics and consumer behavior analysis. Marketers can analyze data extracted from social media posts and receipts to gauge brand sentiment, track trends, measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, and perform segmentation for more personalized recommendations and offers. This valuable data-driven approach allows marketers to adjust their real-time strategies, improving brand perception and customer engagement.

The future of unstructured data extraction promises profound transformations and innovations. Advanced AI, machine learning, and large language models will spearhead this evolution, ushering in an era of highly accurate and context-aware extraction capabilities. There'll be multimodal data, seamlessly handling text, images, audio, and video, enabling deeper insights and more comprehensive analytics.

Real-time unstructured data processing will become the standard, empowering organizations to make instantaneous, data-driven decisions and respond nimbly to dynamic market trends. You'll see an intensified focus on data privacy and security with stricter regulations that will prompt the emergence of solutions that harmonize data extraction with compliance requirements.

Furthermore, edge computing will bring unstructured data extraction closer to data sources, reducing latency and enabling real-time insights in IoT and remote environments. AI models will also gain traction, facilitating a deeper understanding and trust in the decisions made by unstructured data extraction systems.

FormX is a intelligent Document Processing solution that can turn unstructured data or documents into structured formats. It offers a set of pre-trained data extraction models, including receipt, invoice, bank statement, bill of lading, etc., and training a new one requires just a few minutes and as little as one to three sample images. Users can easily their extractors on the user-friendly web portal and integrate FormX with their existing workflow smoothly.

Contact us to or sign up for a free trial see how simple it is to automate unstructured data extraction with FormX.