As our society advances in ways we could hardly have fathomed a few centuries ago, we are faced with new questions and challenges. This is especially true for the advent of big data, a term describing data sets larger than the capacity of our usual processing tools. Every technical school seems to be adding a new big data course and new job listings pop up every day. Here are four ways big data is changing our lives:
1. Big data is helping us map the brain
While brain imaging technology has been around for four decades, the information we gathered from it was at first extremely limited. The results of any particular scan could only be applicable to that one patient. Over time, as more scans were run and more patients seen, a bank of data began to form. Increases in big data processing power have now let us begin creating maps of the over 100 billion neurons in the brain. Before, we could never have hoped to visualize the sheer number of these connections.
2. Increasing information in big data sets is helping us catch criminals
It seems everybody these days has had their ancestry mapped. While this process used to involve pouring through government records and family diaries, now it is as simple as swabbing your cheek. As more people utilize ancestry sites and their databases, those same databases grow. Recently, police in the United States were able to use the expanded data from these sources to catch a serial killer who had escaped capture for over forty years.
3. Big data is leading to new business opportunities
As advertising and other communication fields endeavor to connect with audiences, market research and the data obtained from it have become of vital import. Huge data mining efforts are undertaken by major corporations as they seek to find the messaging that corresponds to a bump in shares prices. This has led to the development of the field of big data analytics, wherein specialists help clients understand what their data is telling them. Statisticians who have taken a big data course are in high demand. Industries utilizing big data analysts range from governmental to entertainment to pharmaceutical.
4. Big data is decreasing delivery times
We live in an increasingly interconnected world, and are facing new, corresponding challenges from that fact. As online shopping becomes more prevalent, so too does the need for shipping solutions. Various delivery services, both governmental and private, face tight deadlines and budgets. Big data analytics has led to the optimization of delivery routes by crunching traffic, weather, and fuel consumption data, so we all get the excitement of opening our new packages that much quicker.