Big data is one of the most important business and government developments of the 21st century, but there are crucial security and privacy issues that prevent it from developing as quickly as it could. Big data solutions encompass aerospace and defense, automotive, consumer products, financial services, healthcare, high tech, life sciences, industrial machinery and components, manufacturing, public sector, sports and entertainment, utilities and more.
It seems like big data is in the news every day, as we read the latest examples of how powerful algorithms are teasing out the hidden connections between seemingly unrelated things. Whether it is used by the NSA to fight terrorism or by online retailers to predict customers’ buying patterns, big data is a revolution occurring around us, in the process of forever changing economics, science, culture and the very way we think. But it also poses new threats, from the end of privacy as we know it to the prospect of being penalized for things we haven’t even done yet, based on big data’s ability to predict our future behavior. What we have already seen is just the tip of the iceberg.
The technical and managerial challenges of using big data are very real. The successful companies of the next decade will be the ones whose leaders can do all that while changing the way their organizations make many decisions. Take a look at how:
- Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, employs data analytics to determine on which shelf its products should be placed so as to maximise revenue.
- Amazon, the world’s largest e-commerce firm, uses its customers’ online browsing habits to develop algorithms that offer tailor-made product recommendations on its website.
- Google applies accumulated data to develop models, with Google Trends as probably the most approachable method of utilizing big data. Google uses its treasure trove of accumulated data to develop models that learn from users and offer more relevant search results.
- Southwest Airlines, an innovative airline, operates the latest technologies and techniques to improve their organisations, create better services and products, increase customer satisfaction and improve airlines safety. With big data, they are able to understand how their customers use the different products they have on offer and adjust it accordingly resulting in more revenue for the SAFCU and higher employee satisfaction.
- Even GM is combining big data and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to model dealership performance. Moreover, the company is pushing these capabilities out to its dealers.
Source: Information Week 2015 Analytics & BI Survey
When it comes to addressing both business and user challenges, big data:
- Begins to enhance user experience by predicting what actions a user would prefer next, a concept derived from the need for increasingly dynamic web-based applications.
- Pushes requirements further through the emergence of the Internet of Things and wide adoption of mobile technologies. The Internet giants of today (Amazon, Facebook, Google, Yahoo) are all massive big data consumers. Some even describe Google as perpetually futuristic, relative to everyone else.
- Assists in identifying credit card defaults. On analysing data from social networks, credit card companies found a high correlation between credit card defaults and customers who typed their Facebook names in uppercase letters.
- Helps manage unstructured data. Big data analytics also bring unstructured data into the fold, information gleaned from social media feeds, blogs, videos and other sources. Sorting through this information would have helped the airline answer a big-picture question that companies have struggled for decades to answer: How do we treat all of our customers like rock stars?
- Gets help from Hadoop to construct predictive models. Consumer-facing websites, from online banking to e-commerce, use data collected in systems like Hadoop in order to construct predictive models that help business understand how a user will behave in response to a specific offer or content. Because these models rely heavily on massive amounts of data, these new enhanced applications can be dubbed Big Data Applications.
In summary, data can only suggest trends, validate claims and reduce the amount of human error in decision making processes. But, let’s face it. It’s still the human decisions, and human strategy that turns the wheel. When it comes to managing data, don't look at backup and archiving systems as burdens and cost centers. A well-designed archive can enhance data protection and restores, ease search and e-discovery efforts and save money by intelligently moving data from expensive primary storage systems. New technologies like NoSQL, MPP databases and Hadoop have emerged to address big data challenges and to enable new types of products and services to be delivered by the business.
From governments to airlines to rental car companies, insurance firms and banks, big data is transforming how we understand the world, do business and implement public policy. As more and more companies realize the worth of implementing big data strategies, more services will emerge to support them. Big data will finally forge the last links of the value chain that will help companies drive more operational efficiencies from existing investments.