We hear buzzwords and technical jargon every day, but very rarely do we stop to think about what it all means and how it affects our lives. Big Data is no exception. In fact, 2016 was a milestone year with more companies processing, extracting and storing data than ever before.
Big Data has been one of the key passions that has spurned my career and I think that Michael Palmer explained it best when he compared it to crude oil: “It’s valuable, but if unrefined it cannot really be used. It has to be changed into gas, plastic, chemicals, etc., to create a valuable entity that drives profitable activity; so must data be broken down and analyzed for it to have value.”
By harvesting content from an organization’s local, regional and global offices, data can be put through an analytics program, like EMC’s Isilon, to be stored and analyzed. From here it can be made accessible with up to the minute analytics and insights, providing a company with a unique competitive advantage. And this is where the magic (and innovation) begins.
1. Essential Apps and Wearables
Your smartphone or wearable device is brimming with apps that utilize Big Data. Maps are continually updated with traffic, construction and other minor route changes thanks to the built in GPS systems, while music streaming apps can suggest similar tracks that may appeal to your individual taste, depending on the time of day and where you are located (and skipping songs gives these companies equally as valuable data too).
2. Smarter Shopping
Have you ever noticed that the ads popping up on your browser often feature similar products to what you have just bought or considered buying? Well you have Big Data to thank for that. Algorithms track your online activity and send your “recently viewed” items back to big corporations. From here the data is analysed and refined into customized ads, that help target their products to potential customers.
But Big Data can also help you save money; loyalty schemes at your local supermarket, favorite restaurant or beauty salon use your data to create tailored promotions to offer you select products at discounted rates. They can even go as far as to predict when you are most likely to shop, how much you might spend and what you could be cooking for dinner.
3. Personalized Education
Teaching methods and student engagement have evolved dramatically over the last few years; students are invited to think more analytically and often steer the direction of the lesson. And with the help of technology, teachers are able to customize classes to an individual student’s learning capacity to bring about better outcomes. Additionally Big Data can help students select successful career paths more accurately.
4. Superior Public Services
Health, government, crime and safety all benefit from Big Data in helping to serve and protect you better. Digital medical records not only allow for easier access and faster response times, but also promotes the advancements of medicine through pooled data. While this may sound like an infringement of privacy, the benefits of improved care and a better prognosis far outweighs the negative.
Additionally police, fire and government departments use Big Data to provide better protection during times of high risk, and can more easily identify possible threats.
5. Intuitive Urban Planning
Through tracking of traffic patterns, population rates and general market trends, city planners can help alleviate congestion, provide more parking or develop new areas to accommodate demand. Additionally traffic light timings can be adjusted to rush hour periods, and an increased availability of service from the metro and buses can be scheduled to make your life easier and less stressful.
Big Data has seamlessly woven its way into our daily lives without us really noticing, but the potential for it is now too big to ignore. Transparency and responsibility in how this data is stored and used is what will truly determine the future of its use, but ultimately it is your data that helps fuel innovation and drives demand for new products and services.
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