Big Data is Everywhere: 5 Ways It's Used in Your Everyday Life

Big Data really is ubiquitous these days, and sometimes we might not even realize how much it affects our everyday lives. It is getting harder and harder to function in normal society without the presence of Big Data somehow in your life. Many of the changes are so subtlety convenient we barely notice them. It's no exaggeration to say that Big Data is everywhere today. Here are five ways it's used in your daily life. 

1. Mobile maps and GPS

Remember reading maps to take a road trip? You’d have a bunch folded up in the dashboard of your car to take out when you would inevitably get lost on a trip to the mountains or beach. Then we had MapQuest: before embarking on a multi-stop business trip, one would meticulously plan their stops in advance, being sure to print the appropriate instructions, perhaps only to find that a road closure had left you completely in want of new directions. Finally, with satellite GPS technology, we are able to enter in our start and end points from virtually anywhere and get real-time travel instructions in most industrialized places on the globe!

Today, Big Data allows for the continual improvement of mobile mapping. Since the Internet of Things is something that improves the more it is used, with the introduction of more mobile apps and more smartphones as well as the liberalization of telecom grids, the amount of Big Data that goes into providing accurate real time directions is staggering.

Now, in 2017 we take it for granted, but if you log into Google Maps on your smart device now, you will notice that the directions provided are always getting better and more detailed, with options for cycling, and in some cases public transportation. More developed smart cities may even provide intermodal transit routes that will be the fastest from point A to point B.

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2. Online Shopping

Since the growth of Big Data in retail, the entire industry is completely changing. Retailers use Big Data from the moment you begin your search through targeted advertisements all the way to the delivery of your parcel, in Amazon’s case even placing the package inside your home with its new Amazon Key service. Of courseBig Data is present with online shopping in that your tendencies are being noted by web browsers, maybe even with GPS as well, to target you with effective advertisements.

A shopper’s online profile only gives the retailer a fraction of the information that will allow them to optimize their offerings. By tracking clicks – maybe a book purchase on a Monday and a film the following week – the retailer can begin to form a more substantially useful purchasing profile. That, together with demographic and location information allows the retailer to consolidate mass quantities of data from other shoppers through complex event processing, allowing for dynamic segmentation and online retail success.

Big Data is also affecting retail in real space. A great example is the new retail concept from Nordstrom. Nordstrom Local is a shop that is using Big Data technology to minimize retail space: a store that sells nothing. Business Insider reports that the store will be just 3,000 square feet, and consist of dressing rooms. Personal stylists will retrieve goods from other Nordstrom locations or through the Nordstrom website.

This is only possible due to the way Big Data allows for fast, accurate transport of goods in real time. Customers can shop online, then go to the “shop”, try things on, test them out, and then complete their purchase. They can choose to walk out with an item or have it delivered to their home.

Big Data will certainly lead to some other creative retail models in the near future as space becomes more expensive and warehouses are more lucrative.

3. Urban Planning

Big Data is constantly being used in the context of smart cities to plan urban centers. Big Data allows urban planners to develop a new understanding of how cities function. This is also on a much shorter timelines than previously available. Urban planners can think of planning cities over the course of minutes, hours and days rather than years or decades. A good example of Big Data in urban planning is how data can affect public transport functionality.

Now, underground systems can track the flow of passengers in real time. This can be from data from ticketing systems when people enter or exit a train. Transport operators can use that information to determine peak ridership times. Then, they can adjust the number of cars available on the tracks in certain areas at certain times of the day. Delays or accidents can also be reported, and communicated in real time with passengers so they can adjust their travel plans accordingly. This is particularly useful in cities where large events happen on a regular basis.

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4. Energy Consumption

Big Data allows smart meters to self-regulate energy consumption for the most efficient energy use. Smart meters collect data from sensors all over an urban space. They determine where energy ebbs and flows are highest at any given time, much like transportation planners do with people. Then, the energy is redistributed across the entire grid to go to the places it is needed most. Smart meters may be expensive in the short term, but they are going to be the new norm. They will automatically adjust to ensure the efficient distribution of energy in a given network.

5. Wearables

Finally, wearables are everywhere. Wearing a device that monitors your activity and sleep is great to keep on top of your health and fitness. Before we had to write things down in journals to remember what we ate, or how far we walked. Now with technology changing our lifestyles, we can track ourselves to ensure we maintain healthy habits.

In the 80s and 90s we saw a large shift of people from factory jobs to office jobs. That also meant a huge shift in the way we move and eat. Most Westerners are now more sedentary and more heavy than ever before by comparison. Wearables are providing technology to monitor ourselves, and use that data to give valuable feedback for continued improvement.

These are just five ways that Big Data is everywhere in today's world. There are many more - and we can't wait to see what the future will bring.

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