5 Astonishing Uses of Big Data in Everyday Life


“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” – Verbal Kint, The Usual Suspects

The Devil is in the details…and so is big data.

Seen by many as a complex overused buzz word that affects major corporations, big data is becoming more and more interwoven into our everyday lives, often without us realising it.

This article will look at 5 uses of big data that might actually surprise you.

#1 Creating A Popular TV Show

When it comes to creating a breakthrough TV program, many imagine that it’s a hit-and-miss act of creativity. But when Netflix decided to create its own original programming, it was a pure big data exercise.

Through analysing the vast amounts of data generated by its 48.35 million subscribers, it identified several intersecting user-interest trends between Film Director David Fincher, Actor Kevin Spacey, and popular British series House of Cards.

And so it used this data to recruit both Fincher and Spacey in launching a Netflix-produced remake of House of Cards The result? A production that has won numerous awards and is the most watched show on Netflix.

#2 Choosing A Concert’s Setlist

Concert playlists can often seem subjective, with many fans at concerts holding up signs asking the artist to play their favourite song.

In the case of Lady Gaga, it turns out that her setlist is very heavily driven by big data.

Here’s what Lady Gaga’s then-manager and data-centric collaborator Troy Carter had to say about the music industry’s relationship with Big Data file transfer:

“They’re not using the data. I can sit down with the guy from Spotify, and he shows me this spike on Fridays as people listen to Gaga before going to the clubs.

When I go to South Africa I know to include this song in this set, because I know that’s a fan favourite, and also to take this song out.”

#3 Announcing Your Teenage Daughter’s Pregnancy

US retailer Target routinely uses its data analytics software to identify female customers who have just become pregnant. It then sends these customers discount coupons for maternity-related items. And this practice in cornering the ‘baby on board’ market was responsible for helping Target grow revenues from $44 billion in 2002 to $67 billion in 2010.

However, in one instance, this practice backfired.

As NY Times’ Charles Duhigg shares in ‘How Companies Learn Your Secrets’:

An angry man went into a Target outside of Minneapolis, demanding to talk to a manager:

“My daughter got this in the mail!” he said. “She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”

The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologised and then called a few days later to apologise again.

(Nice customer service, Target.)

On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

#4 Monitoring Hurricane Sandy Using Flickr

Flickr is a popular file transfer platform that lets 87 million users share over 3.5 million images and videos every single day. But in a 2013 paper published in Scientific Reports, several researchers proposed another use of the platform…monitoring hurricanes and natural disasters.

During the Hurricane Sandy disaster in 2012, the researchers found “the number of photos taken and subsequently uploaded to Flickr with titles, descriptions or tags related to Hurricane Sandy bears a striking correlation to the atmospheric pressure in the US state New Jersey during this period.”

You can check out the research paper by clicking here.

#5 Understanding Your Child’s First Word

In 2005, MIT researcher Deb Roy was exploring the intersection between robotics and big data…when he discovered that he and his wife would be expecting their first child.

And naturally, this was the perfect excuse to launch a research project into the cognitive trajectory of a child learning his first word.

So Deb wired up his house with video cameras to capture virtually every moment of the first two years of his son’s life. And after analysing the resultant 90,000 hours of big data, he was able to demonstrate the evolution of “gaaa” into “water”, as shown in the TED Talk video below.

These are just a handful of the surprising uses of Big Data in everyday life. And there are countless other examples such as predicting infections in newborn babies, Google’s self-driving car, and predicting winning strategies during live tennis games.

So the next time you watch an amazing TV show, or have a truly remarkable customer service experience, if you look carefully, you’ll no doubt see Big Data hiding, as always, in the details.


Author: Maytech is the Company that made Quatrix, “the easiest way to send files securely online”. Get started in seconds by clicking here now.



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