The Human Face of Big Data

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Though the mystery of missing Malaysian airlines MH370 plane is still to be resolved even after a span of two months; the multi-national search co-ordination committee and other supporting partners are processing massive amounts of satellite, flight path, and ocean data commonly referred as “Big Data” to find clues that would lead them to possible debris location. Big Data is one of the most popular buzzwords in technology industry today with a promise of transforming our daily lives.

Rapid evolution of internet and social networks spanning 100’s of millions of users has resulted in explosion of massive information that can be analysed for trends and correlations. Many experts believe that not long from now, we will all wear devices capable of capturing and storing every possible human interaction in real-time so that they can be retrieved and accessed whenever needed. To some extent we are already witnessing the rise of such devices in the likes of google glass project and wearable fitness trackers that are growing in terms of popularity and adoption rates. Even organizations worldwide have realized the value of the immense volume of data available, and are trying their best to manage, analyze, and unleash the power of data to build strategies and develop a competitive edge. Definitely the future of Big Data looks very promising with potential applications for enterprises and individuals alike.

Apart from providing enterprise benefits, Big Data is also addressing many challenges of our planet in smarter ways. It has led to the beginning of new thinking which starts looking at entire human ecosystem as a nervous system with intricate connections spread across and abound with information. This machine enabled connectivity of billions of people not only enables us to contribute and consume information but also making each one of us play a more central role in the entire information lifecycle. These exabytes of information we generate coupled with the processing capabilities of emerging IT technologies such as Hadoop can lead to insights that can have a bigger impact on civilization beyond ever possibly achieved.

In the field of utility consumption, a computer scientist and entrepreneur named Shwetak Patel has developed a way for households to track and monitor their utility consumption and further provides a better way to save on their bills. This innovative idea runs smart algorithms on data generated by wireless sensors plugged in every home to provide saving tips for households to act on a daily basis. On similar lines, Opower is another publicly held company that partners with utility providers around the world and provides energy consumption monitoring services to their customers with the help of smart meter technology. According to an official statement, an average customer using the Opower platform has cut energy usage by more than 2.5 percent.

Another great example in the field of medicine would be the use of Big Data in Canada to detect infections in ICU babies by harnessing millions of heartbeat measurements each day, and detect any potential threats at least 24 hours before. This early detection would allow doctors to get a head-start on providing relevant treatment and save many innocent lives.

Even in terms of early detection of earthquakes, Japan invested about half-a-billion dollars in installing hardwired sensor system on the ground to track the wave that comes before a violent earthquake. As a direct result of this, they managed to stop every bullet train and every factory 43 seconds before an earthquake hit back in 2011. However these examples are only a few out of many advances through Big Data across diverse fields such as social networks, smart cities, DNA sequencing, medicine, geophysical and ocean depth tracking and it is not hard to imagine a future where Big Data will become part of everything.

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