I want to write something like:

In cases where the smallest unit of data is available (e.g. houses, persons, vehicles), we can use more detailed models.

So I am looking for something describing non-averaged and specific data. However, I'd like to use a less bulky / more professional expression. Things that sound kind of ok to me (as a non-native speaker), but are maybe misleading:

In cases atomic data is available (e.g. houses, persons, vehicles), we can use more detailed models.


In cases where bottom-up data is available (e.g. houses, persons, vehicles), we can use more detailed models.

As this is obviously a technical description of databases, the term can be "borrowed" from programming languages (as I did in my "atomic" example).

  • I didn't know Democritus was a programmer. – Hot Licks Aug 31 '18 at 0:43
  • @HotLicks :D Good point. So would you vote for atomic? – n1000 Aug 31 '18 at 0:45
  • It's unclear what you're trying to describe. Would "per-unit data" be a better fit? – Hot Licks Aug 31 '18 at 0:48
  • It might be a fit, but seems less "professional" maybe... The opposite would be "aggregated or averaged data" – n1000 Aug 31 '18 at 0:54
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    It depends on your target group. If you are addressing statisticians and people used to dealing with statistical information then 'atomic data' would be fine, if you are addressing the general public then you would be better off using the full explanation. There are many members of the public for whom the words 'atomic' and 'nuclear' only mean scary bombs and leaky power stations. – BoldBen Aug 31 '18 at 9:54

Your description is very ambiguous. In title, you are asking smallest possible unit of data. The smallest possible unit of data is called a bit.

In the blockquote example you are stating ...where the smallest unit of data is available (e.g. houses, persons, vehicles).... If you are pointing to a specific element of data, then it is called datum. A datum is a single unit of data or to say, singular form of the word data.

On the other hand, in the description you are asking something on the lines of (something) non-averaged and specific data. Well, in DBMS, non-averaged and specific data is called atomic data and there is no specific synonym for that term. If you want to use the word quantum, then go ahead, but remember, quantum of data means smallest data and need not necessary means non-averaged.

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    Thank you for the very exact answer. I wasn't sure if atomic would accessible enough, but your answer tells me that it is probably the best choice here. – n1000 Aug 31 '18 at 2:20
  • A bit is not the smallest unit of data. If you are uncertain about the state of a system, you can have a fraction of a bit of information about it. – The Photon Aug 31 '18 at 2:23
  • Suppose I have a system with two states, A and B. If I have no idea which state the system is in, I have no information (0 bits). If I know the system is in state A, I have 1 bit of information about the system. If I know the system is in state B, I have 1 bit of information about the system. But if I know the system is 90% likely to be in state A and only 10% likely to be in state B, I have somewhat less information, a fraction of a bit of information. – The Photon Aug 31 '18 at 2:28
  • Digital computers should never get into states where they store fractional bits, but quantum computers can. – The Photon Aug 31 '18 at 2:30

One term for this, related to atomic, is quantum. Wikipedia gives a summary of it as "a quantum ... is the minimum amount of any physical entity (physical property) involved in an interaction."

  • Seems like a good idea. Will it work as an adjective? – n1000 Aug 31 '18 at 1:08

I'm not sure exactly what you're trying to convey, since houses, persons, and vehicles are not kinds of data.

If you mean to say that they might have data on neighborhoods or counties, but it would be better if they have data on individual houses, I might call this

  • detailed data
  • specific data
  • fine-grained data

In any case, in context it's likely that the examples you give (houses, persons, vehicles) will make it clear to your readers what you mean.

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