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The Era Of Big Data
December 5, 2016 News big data Political Use


90% of today world’s data has been created in the last two years alone. The world produces an amount of information that can fill ten million Blu-Ray discs daily, which stacked would equal the combined height of four Eiffel Towers. Furthermore, the rate of growth is dramatically increasing: from 100 GB/second in 2002 to the projected 50,000 GB/second in 2018. This trend will not stop anytime soon. As long as the number of people and devices connected to the internet is driven up by the forces of globalisation and new technologies, the amount of digital data can only increase.

Collections of information available on the internet can be so large that traditional statistical and computing tools are not powerful enough to analyse them. When this is the case, data is called big data. All the information that billions of us are generating through our interactions with and over the internet – such as movie streaming, downloads, social networks, purchases on Amazon, Google searches – is big data.

Who is big data for? Simply put, just about everybody. From tech to air companies, from banks to retailers. The analysis of big data can create tangible competitive advantages, for instance by extracting patterns or insights on the tastes and habits of consumers.

The Big Players

Obviously, there are data-based companies such as Amazon, Google, Facebook and Bloomberg. These companies find their raison d’être in big data as well as their future opportunities. For instance, Google has reached its prominence with its PageRank, a sophisticated algorithm that makes sense of the plethora of pages on the web, internet users. At the same time, Google finds in big data its next opportunities. Believe it or not, it is the analysis of big data that controls Google’s self-driving car. Autonomous vehicles learn how to tackle the infinite possibilities that may be encountered on the road by processing an enormous amount of data accumulated by their sensors over time. The Amazon recommendation engine or voice recognition systems like Siri are just other examples of how big data is driving the next technological changes.

What about all the companies that are not data-based? Companies like Easyjet, Barclays or Tesco exploit big data too. In fact, the large amount of information on the internet can be harnessed into mathematical models that can significantly improve a frontline managers’ decision making. Think about an airline choosing an optimal price to charge for each flight, for any day of the week. A railway scheduling its crew. A bank wanting to understand which channel of customer care to focus on.

A manufacturer optimising its supply chain or a retailer choosing the optimal amount of inventory to hold. In all of the situations above – and in countless more – extracting patterns in big data can lead to better managerial decisions than when choosing solely on gut instinct and experience. Quite simply, the analysis of both internal and external (big) data gives a company a better view into what is happening to its operations or its customers.

Political Use

Netflix knew that its TV series House of Cards was going to be a success before even saying “Action!”. By analysing subscribers’ likes, dislikes and streaming history, they crafted a show that quite perfectly matched what users wanted. It was a great success indeed. Quite interestingly, big data has a role inside the plot of House of Cards as well. Those who watched the show may remember that a data scientist helps Frank Underwood in a couple of his shady political moves.

In fact, big data can be extremely useful in politics. Campaign managers increasingly employ analytics to obtain insight into voter sentiment and behaviour, beyond anything the so-called political experts can provide. For instance, Obama’s data-crunching operation was a clear winner in 2012.

According to Harvard Business Review, “data scientist is the sexiest job of the 21st century”. Of course, not everyone wants to enter the booming sector of big data analytics or has the ambition to become pioneers in technology. Nonetheless, whether one is running a multinational company, planning to win the next US presidential elections or, more simply, looking to impress their boss, one should learn how to exploit big data. They could make a big impact.

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