The use of the internet has resulted inthe creation of gargantuan amounts of big data. Millions of consumers all over the world indulge in online shopping and voice their opinions of products on review pages, blogs and chatrooms. There are millions of messages that go through Facebook and Twitter each day. All this results in the spontaneous generation of large amounts of data called user generated data. This huge amount of data is all over the internet and can be accessed and downloaded to gather useful insights on consumers. Enterprises have now learnt how valuable this big data can be and take it into consideration when making important business decisions.
Big Data: What it is and why is it important?
In its classic definition, Big Data is large amounts of structured or unstructured data that when analysed reveals patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions. Big Data comes from all over—blogs, social media sites, digital pictures, audio and video, purchase transactions and much more. What’s so special about these 2.5 quintillion bytes of data that are created each day that organizations are clamouring for a piece of it? From gaining insights into customer preferences and using it to build better products to analysing and detecting fraud, Big Data with its volume, variety and velocity characteristics has found uses in every aspect of our lives.
1. Target consumer groups:
Retailers have been doing this for years; collecting information about their shoppers and targeting them with specific marketing strategies. But big data technology has taken this form of predictive analysis to a whole new level by offering solutions in real time. Big data derived from social media, browser logs, sensor data and other sources helps retailers predict right from the customers’ favourite ice-cream brand to when they will expect a baby. Car insurance companies are now able to access the driving records of their potential clients before offering them an insurance.
2. Creating intelligent business processes:
Big Data helps streamline processes. By identifying loop holes and problems, and finding solutions to these problems, big data essentially helps in growth. Big Data testing helps in filtering bad data from useful ones, it helps in data validation and data authentication and helps improve overall ROI.
3. Snooping frauds and scams:
High speed analysis of records in the tune of nanoseconds can help identify frauds. This is possible with the help of big data technologies that have the capacity to monitor up to 5 million trade events created each day and identify frauds.
4. To enable new products and services:
The biggest enterprises of our generation, Facebook, Google and Amazon have built and customized their business and launched new products based on big data analysis. Their users create tons and tons of data every day and data analysis of this helps these companies better cater to the needs of their users.
5. Healthcare just got better:
Healthcare improved by leaps and bounds with the advent of big data. It has been used to predict epidemics, cure diseases and improve the overall quality of life. The most striking example would be how by monitoring and tracing the heartbeats and breathing patterns of babies in paediatric units, data scientists were able to create algorithms that can predict infections 24 hours before the appearance of physical symptoms.
6. Safer lives, thanks to Big Data:
From foiling terrorist attacks to proactively mitigating risks in the cyber world, Big Data has made the fiction of ‘Minority Report’ a fact by helping law agencies catch criminals and predict criminal activities. Credit card companies, insurance companies and other sensitive sectors use big data to map out fraudulent transactions and even internal threats.
7. In science and research:
The human genome is a mystery that scientists have been trying to crack for years. But cracking the genome, which initially used to take a whole lot of effort and money can now be done with more accuracy, lesser time and at lesser cost using big data technologies. Advances with big data are expected to guide therapeutic intervention and help us lead better lives. Not just the medical sciences but big data is used in scientific discovery and environmental research. An example of this would be the prediction of air-pollution related deaths in China revealed by data collected from satellites, sensors and weather and air flow information.
We are at the cusp of something huge. Big data opportunities can change the way we live our lives for the better. But will manipulation of this data lead to a loss of privacy or discrimination? Only time will tell.