We have more information about our own lives and the world around us than ever before. But how are we using that data? And when there’s so much information to keep track of, how do we choose what to study and capture the most important insights?
Big data is a phrase for technology that collects and analyzes huge amounts of data, on any topic that can be measured — like health, business, or transit. The technology sifts through this data to uncover new patterns and optimize in ways that weren’t possible before.
Big data approaches are flexible and applicable to just about every field. That means that big data helps out in all the places you expect — but you may be surprised about some of the ways that big data is helping our world.
Data-Driven Health and Wellness
Clinics, hospitals and out-patient healthcare facilities produce vast amounts of medical data — enough data that big data analysis is one of the best ways to study it. Some hospital associations have even created their own big data analytics centers, hoping to develop solutions to problems like access-to-care barriers and the relationship between mental health and substance abuse.
Big data is also changing health at the individual level. Fitness trackers are also using big data to improve how consumers know their own health. Right now, these devices track heart rates, but the accuracy isn’t as good as it could be, especially if the heartbeat is irregular. Soon, these devices may work as portable cardiograms, alerting the wearer if their pulse is arrhythmic, or too low or high.
Pet and Animal Health
Big data can have impacts even at the smallest levels — even down to helping our pets.
The ASPCA is using big data to help animals by learning where abandoned animals are most likely to come from. Once the shelter system knows what areas need the most help, they can send additional resources to those shelters. The shelters can also then coordinate with local veterinarians to create initiatives that reduce vet costs.
Big data may also mean better health for Fido. Pet owners can benefit from digital health records for pets that big data can aggregate and analyze. Analysis of these records can reveal subtle patterns and relationships between breeds, symptoms, pet age and more. This analysis can help owners know what changes in their pet aren’t worth worrying about — and which are worth a trip to the vet.
The Rise of the “Smart” City
There’s a new kind of city being built in the 21st century. Major cities are using big data analytics to turn themselves into “smart” cities — cities that use smart devices to collect huge amounts of data. These cities then use big data technology to turn this information into action, building new policies and shifting decision-making processes to reflect what they’ve learned.
Big data helps smart cities in a variety of ways, including city security, planning and transport. Big data can be used to help decide what kind of infrastructure and resources a particular area of the city needs, or be used to train an AI that generates new, optimized bus routes. The future of the city is one where big data is used to increase the quality of city services and plan for the future.
Big Data is Changing the World
And it’s changing the world at all sorts of levels, big and small. Consumers and enterprises are already benefiting from big data. Big data technology is new enough that we don’t know all the innovative ways it may be applied to solve new and emerging challenges. For now, it’s interesting enough to see all the ways big data is changing how we solve problems — from building a city to curing a kitten’s runny nose.