The business of big data
Updated: Dec 4, 2019
As Thomas Friedman says “It was only a few years ago when Facebook did not exist, twitter was still a sound, the cloud was still in the sky, 4G was a parking place, linked in was a prison, application is what you sent to colleges, big data was a rap star, and skype was a typographical error”
As you can see, the world is growing at an incredibly fast pace as more and more things are getting inter-connected. Every activity, every device, every click is producing data. Have you stopped to consider what happens in an internet minute?
900,000 Facebook logins, 16 Million text messages, 3.5 million Google searches. You get the gist…it is HUGE! All this data is what we call big data.
Today, I’ll tell you what big data is and how you see it influence your daily life with the help of some examples.
Well, the textbook definition of big data is – any data that has volume, velocity, variety, and veracity. Without getting too technical, essentially big data is a big mountain of garbage with little gems buried within it. Gems SO precious, that can transform how companies do business. It is therefore not surprising that companies invest millions of dollars to identify these gems with the help of advanced analytics that help them process this giant pile of data into information and then insight. Insight to perform their next move!
Have you noticed, how big data influences how you and I make decisions in daily life – it influences how we shop, eat, work, drive, workout – we look for the best book to buy, best place to eat, next best movie to watch.
Let me give you a few examples…
Online shopping – have you noticed what happens when you do an innocent search for a particular item to buy, let’s say a shoe and then for some reason decide not to buy it or just add it to your wish list and casually log out of the browser. You’ll notice that every time you log in to look for anything, you are bombarded with ads or promotions of that shoe or items similar to that shoe. The ads almost follow you like a shadow till you buy that shoe or somehow manage to get rid of it with an ad blocker.
Well you can blame big data for this – every time you go to a website, spend time on a page, click something, like an item – all this click activity is recorded. Likewise, this is done for millions of users browsing the website. All of this data is then sold to retail companies who employ data scientists to process this data with the help of complex algorithms. The information that comes out of this is then used to understand the customer demographic (the age, location, ethnicity etc.) to target consumers like you and me.
The fitness industry uses big data to its advantage. The fitness bands that are so popular these days keeps tracks of your everyday activities (like the number of steps, your heartbeat, the calories you burn) and then tell you what you can improve on. It also lets users compare their habits and lifestyles with those of similar weight, age and activity. This data is used by the medical industry to trace health patterns, look for cure to common problems. This data is also used by insurance industries to decide the premium they want to offer their customers based on their health data.
Let’s move to entertainment – streaming services like Netlflix use big data to deliver entertainment that is tailored to your taste. Every time you like or rate a movie, that data is added to the pool of people who have liked that movie and helps the streaming services customize the right movies for you. In fact, Netflix even makes content based on what users have viewed the most, they know exactly where people drop out of a show, and the next time they make something they ensure they are not making the same mistake.
The examples are numerous, and there is tremendous value to be derived from data to help humanity and solve diseases. The key is to find balance in this data-driven world, as Steve Lohr said “Listening to data is important… but so is experience and intuition. After all, intuition is large amounts of data of filtered through a human brain rather than a math model?”
Thank you for reading.