You all know this old joke, do not you? Big Data is like sex in High School:
- all think about it;
- all talk about it;
- all think their friends do it;
- almost nobody does it;
- those who do, do it the bad way;
- all think next time would be better;
- nobody cares about safety measures;
- one feels shame to recognize something remains unknown on the subject;
- if someone succeeds, there shall be much noise about it.
But let us be fair: any noise of this kind comes together with curiosity — what’s the buzz, tell me what’s happening? Is there something important? A brief answer would be «Yes, there is». Details are below. We made a selection of the most amazing and interesting Big Data technology applications for your reading pleasure. This is a small market survey to demonstrate clear examples that illustrate the very simple fact: future is not coming; there is no need to wait for some years for the magic to come true. Rather, the future is already here, being still unnoticed by amateur’s eye, and not flinging one into the labor market singularity point yet. So, here we start.
Where Big Data technologies are used and those were born
Big IT-companies is the place where the science about Big Data was born, it is their sandbox and it is there, where the most interesting things happen. Google, the motherland of the Map Reduce paradigm, created the department within, whose single task was to teach their programmers to use machine learning technologies. It is there, where their greatest competitive advantage grows from — new knowledge allows their workers introduce new methods in those Google projects, where they work on permanent basis. Just imagine, how huge the list is of those spheres, which the company could revolutionize. Just one example — neuron networks are used to optimize energy spending in data processing centers.
Apple is pursuing the search giant, implementing the machine learning in all their products. Their advantage is a vast ecosystem comprising all digital devices used daily. It gave Apple something nobody else has: so much data about users that nobody could even imagine. Still the policy of confidentiality is severe in Apple: the company always emphasizes that it does not use the information about its clients for advertisement. The user data is encrypted so severe, that even Apple’s lawyers or FBI with an order cannot read it. Here you may find out more about Apple’s work in the sphere of artificial intelligence.
Big Data on four wheels
A modern car is a data carrier. It accumulates all data about a driver, environment, connected devices and about itself, too. It would hardly take long before a vehicle connected to a network like the one, which links Tesla Model S cars to each other, would generate 25Gb of data per hour.
It has already been for some years, that car producers use the transport telematics, yet now a more complicated method for data collection is promoted to use the full potential of Big Data. This means technologies now can inform a driver about poor road conditions by automatically activating antilock brake system.
Other manufacturers, like BMW, use Big Data combined with the information from the prototypes tested, built-in «error memory» systems and clients' complaints, to find out weaknesses and drawbacks of a car model at the very early stage. Manual data processing taking months is now substituted with a modern algorithm, and errors with correction costs are getting decreased, accelerating operating processes and the information analysis in BMW.
Experts believe that by 2019 the market in connection with the online cars would reach $130 billion. That is not surprising, if we account for the speed of integrating the technologies that are now an integral part of a vehicle, by carmakers.
Using Big Data helps making a car safer and more functional. Toyota integrates information communication modules (DCM) into their cars to fill Toyota Big Data Center with data. This Big Data tool collects and analyzes the data gathered with DCM to benefit from it later.
Big Data in medicine
Big Data technologies implementation in medicine would allow studying diseases more thoroughly, and selecting treatment methods more efficiently, in every case. Analyzing information allows medical workers predict disease recurrence and take appropriate measures in advance. Diagnosing and treatment would be improved significantly.
New methodologies allowed seeing patients' problems from another point of view, discovering problem origins previously unknown. Some human races appeared to be genetically more vulnerable for heart disorders, than others. Now, when a patient complains about a specific disease, doctors refer to data about his race, which had similar problems. Collecting and analyzing data allows knowing far more about patients, from preferences in food and in lifestyle, and to DNA genetic structure and tissue, organ cell metabolism. For example, The Center for Pediatric Genomic Medicine at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City uses Big Data technologies for data analysis for DNA fast decryption to analyze genetic code mutations causing cancer. Individual approach to every patient, with his/her DNA taken into account improves treatment efficiency to new level.
Understanding how to use Big Data brings the first very essential change in the field of medicine. When a patient is treated, the hospital, or another healthcare institution, may have much valuable information about the person. The information may be taken into account, when predicting disease recurrence with some accuracy. For example, if patient had brain hemorrhage, the intermediate period between the previous recurrences should be analyzed (if there were such), paying special attention to stress situation and physical loads during the life of the patient. Based on such data, hospitals issue certain orders for patients to prevent future recurrences.
Portable devices play their role, too, helping with discovering health issues, even if a human does not show clear symptoms specific for particular disorders. Instead assessing the patient’s state of health by long examination, a doctor might make some conclusion based on information collected by a fitness device or by smart watches.
The situation in Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, in New Jersey, is among the latest examples on the subject. A patient was undergoing examination after spasm resulting by missing medical drug taking, when doctors discovered he had a far more severe health issue, auricular fibrillation. The issue was diagnosed because doctors were granted access to the patient’s phone, more specifically, to an application paired with his fitness registration device. The data played the key role in correct diagnosing, while the routine examination did not discover any problems with his heart.
This was just one example showing why using Big Data in medical sphere plays quite a role nowadays.
Data analysis already became the core of retail
Understanding user’s demands and targeting represent the Big Data usage area that general public is aware of. Big Data assist with analyzing client’s habits to understand the clients' requests better. Companies try to augment what they already know with the information from social networks and searching user’s browser to have the picture as full as real. Some large organizations go as far as creating their own behavioral models.For example, retail network Target used deep data analysis and its own predicting system to determine whether or not a woman is pregnant, with good accuracy. Each client is assigned an ID, which, in turn, is associated with a credit card, a name or an email address. The identifier acts as a market basket with all the information on what an individual ever purchased. Their professionals found out that pregnant women actively purchase non-aroma means during pregnancy, and also purchase calcium, zinc and magnesia additives. Based on the data obtained, the Target sends coupons for products for children to those who they think are now pregnant. To look not too salesy in their own eyes, they add proposals buy something else, too, aside kid bed, or diapers.
Even the government found the way to use Big Data technologies to optimize election campaigns. Some believe Obama’s victory in 2012 resulted from good work by his analysts, which interpreted Big Data array the correct way.
Big Data enforcing law
Law enforcement institutions also found how to use Big Data. National Security Agency is known to use Big Data tools to prevent terrorist attacks. Others, too, implement the promising methodology to prevent smaller scale crimes.
The LA police department uses its own analytical system, too. It is specialized in what is usually called proactive law enforcement. The algorithm uses criminal reports for a period of time to define areas with higher probability of crime. Such areas are marked red on a city map and police patrols are sent there immediately.Chicago police uses the Big Data technology in a slightly different manner. They have a dedicated algorithm, which outlines some risk circle comprising people, potentially vulnerable to criminal actions or capable of becoming criminals. According to The New York Times, the algorithm assigns each individual a vulnerability index, based on his criminal past (detentions, participation in shootings, criminal groups). The system developer assures it takes into account only the individual’s past, not secondary insignificant factors like race, gender, ethnical roots and residence place of the suspect.
How Big Data technologies facilitate city development
Data analysis is also used to improve a number of aspects of human life in cities and countries. For example, being aware when to use Big Data, one could optimize public transport flow. To this end, car traffic is monitored online, and social media are analyzed together with weather forecast. Today, many cities use data analysis to combine transport infrastructure and other types of community services into one. This represents a concept of the «smart» city, with busses waiting for a late train, and traffic lights capable of predicting traffic, thus minimizing jams.
Smart water meters in Long Beach work, based on Big Data, used to prevent illegal melioration. They were earlier used to cut water wasting by households (with the best result 80% cut). Saving fresh water is a hot issue all the time, especially during severe drought, the most severe ever recorded.
The list of those using Big Data now includes LA Transport Department. Based on the data from traffic cameras, authorities supervise traffic lights functioning, controlling the vehicle traffic. Computerized systems control 4500 traffic lights throughout the entire city. Officials say the new algorithm cut traffic jams by 16%.
Data analysis system integration has begun on Iberian Peninsula, in Portu. The startup Veniam tests a new method for creating mobile wi-fi hotspots in this second city of Portugal. More than 600 busses and taxi cars were equipped with wi-fi transmitters to run the largest free Internet access network. Municipal authorities purchase routers and the rights for implementation of the Veniam’s ideas from Veniam. The authorities, in turn, grant free access to the net for the city residents and tourists. In exchange for budget spending, the city obtains much data, allowing optimization of city services. For example, street cleaners are notified when trash bins are full. That’s just one example, illustrating how municipals save time, money, fuel and human resources. All this became possible only with Big Data.Using data analysis allows solving problems even in individual houses. There is the impressing example of power optimization on venting the air in large buildings. The system accounts for multiple parameters: sensor indications, individuals' wishes regarding temperature, power cost in particular hours of the day, temperature and pressure indoors, electricity consumed, weather forecast etc. As result, it allows companies save on cooling the buildings. It is just a service on SaaS platform.
Engine of progress in marketing and sales
Big Data marketing tools reveal ideas that are promising during each stage of sales cycle. Data analysis controls how investments improve relations with clients, and it helps to select the strategy that would improve the conversion factor and optimize life cycle of a client. In cloud businesses, Big Data algorithms are used to minimize client attraction cost and to improve the client’s life cycle.
Pricing strategies differentiation depending on intersystem level of client are probably the most important the Big Data is used in marketing for. McKinsey disclosed around 75% of an average firm income is basic products, including 30% of products priced incorrectly. Adding 1% to the price results in extra 8.7% of operational profit.
Forrester, a research group, managed to determine, that the data analysis allows professionals in marketing focus on building more successful relations with clients. Studying clients' development process, professionals may assess their loyalty level and prolong the life cycle in the context of a particular company.
Sales strategy optimization and stages of entering new markets using geo-analytics are reflected in bio-pharmacy industry, too. According to McKinsey, companies, specialized in medical drugs production, spend 20%-30% of profit for sales and administration. If businesses start using Big Data more actively, to determine the most profitable and fast-growing markets, spending is going to drop.
Data analysis is a tool for companies, which provides companies with understanding the key aspects of their businesses. Improving income, cutting losses and capital optimization are those three tasks, which businesses try to solve with analytical instruments.
Finally, 58% of marketing directors say that implementing Big Data technologies is seen in search optimization (SEO), e-mail and mobile marketing, where data analysis plays the most important role to form marketing programs. Only 4% less respondents are sure Big Data would play big role in all marketing strategies for long years.
Data analysis in planetary scale
Even more exciting is how those Big Data technologies are used to reduce human impact on Earth. Maybe, machine learning finally would become the only force capable of maintaining the tiny balance. Human influence on global warming is still a controversial issue, and only trustful models, based on Big Data analysis, may give the answer. Ultimately, reducing emissions would help all of us, as we are going to spend less on electricity.
Big Data now is not an abstract term that might become useful in a couple of years. It is a working set of technologies capable of being useful in virtually any sphere of human activity, from medicine to law enforcement and marketing with sales. The stage of Big Data active integration into our daily life has just begun, and who knows what the Big Data shall be in just a few years.