The digital age has ushered in a level of information transfer that has never been seen before. A Cisco report predicted that in 2016 alone, the human race will generate more than a zettabyte of worldwide IP traffic. For those who don’t know much about data storage, a byte, as Tech Target describes it, can contain about a single letter of the alphabet. A zettabyte, on the other hand, is one sextillion or 10²¹ bytes. That’s a lot of letters zipping around the globe every year.
With all of this data creation, it’s not surprising that many within the field of IT are looking to analyze the massive piles of information out there to try to find patterns and trends. This is called big data analytics, and it’s become a hot topic in recent years. Until now, people hadn’t really dealt with data on the massive scale that the world is seeing now. As such, analytics experts hadn’t developed ways to sort through huge data dumps until recently.
As big data analytics becomes more popular, people are beginning to ask the question of which industries are going to be affected by this trend. While this is certainly an understandable inquiry, the real question is which industries aren’t going to be affected by big data. Just about every sector can benefit from analyzing massively produced data, and we’d like to take a look at some of the industries with the most potential.
“Those working outside IT can benefit from analytics.”
Although a lot of people like to discuss the effects big data is going to have on the tech industry, those working outside IT can also benefit from analytics if they take the time to do so. Insurance is definitely one of these sectors, as agents within the field have to sort through a lot of information in order to assess risk.
Forbes contributor Bernard Marr brought up the interesting point of how big data analytics can help insurance companies set premiums for potential clients. He discussed how many insurance agencies install tracking devices in cars and use the information gained to analyze the driving behaviors of that specific client against the mass of data collected from other clients. Essentially, big data is helping to turn setting a premium into more of a concrete procedure rather than an educated guess.
As compliance standards such as HIPAA begin to accept more digital means of transmitting patient information, health care is increasingly seeing the benefits of big data analytics. Taking massive quantities of information and forming them into workable understandings of the current health landscape is going to be a critical part of the industry’s growth in the coming years.
One of the biggest areas with potential for big data analytics has to be the adoption of smartphones – and to a lesser extent wearables – into the general populace. About 68 percent of Americans currently own a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center, which means a majority of U.S. residents are taking advantage of the ability to have a computer in their pocket.
These handy devices have a plethora of everyday uses, but one of the ways people are using them currently is to track their exercise and dieting habits. The number of apps that follow your activity levels are nearly innumerable, and all of them are gold mines when it comes to big data analytics.
Imagine if doctors working on a cure for diabetes could see the dietary and exercising habits of the average diabetic. Years ago this would have meant intense research, followed by an even longer amount of time dissecting the results. Now, with modern technology and big data analytics, it is possible for diabetics to simply track their own activities via smartphones and upload that information straight to the doctor’s data storage method. Combining these specific studies with the millions of data points already created by diabetics using existing tracking applications like Glucose Buddy – an app that keeps a log of the food intake and activity levels of diabetics – could potentially allow for a breakthrough in the field.
Although industries outside the tech field can obviously benefit from big data analytics, those within it are seeing endless possibilities for this unprecedented wealth of information. One of the most prominent areas would be social networking sites, which are known for their data storage habits when it comes to user information. Facebook is already using the comments and articles you like on the site to influence the ads you see, but many within the industry think these sites can go even further.
In fact, a recent study from Stanford showed that big data analytics has the potential to understand your personality better than your friends do. The study, which had a computer analyze what kinds of pictures and statuses a person liked on his Facebook page, attempted to find out how well a computer can get to know you personally. What they found was remarkable:
“Forget targeted ads.”
A computer, given only information from Facebook to match up against a personality inventory test of the participant, was able to guess personality patterns better than the participant’s friends and family. While this certainly has quite a lot of implications for sociology and psychology, this study shows the truly limitless power of big data analytics on social networking sites. Forget targeted ads; a properly calibrated machine is now able to comprehend the deepest workings of the human mind.
Although that may sound like something straight out of a dystopian novel, being able to fully understand the personality of an individual is immensely helpful in areas like criminology. Tens of thousands of felons could have their personalities tested in a much shorter time than one-on-one interviews, allowing for law enforcement officials to truly map out the mind of a criminal and discover preventative measures for the future.
The world is in the exploratory stages of big data analytics right now, and it’s really hard to know what’s going to happen next. That being said, it’s pretty obvious analyzing huge amounts of information could have serious benefits for multiple industries. Knowledge is always necessary for a society’s growth, and big data has the power to give people a level of understanding that has never been seen before.