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The Big Data Revolution: How Data Can Solve Commercial and Public Health Problems

“Big data” is more than just a buzzword in the world of tech. There is practically an endless number of applications for big data. It allows organizations to draw inferences about trends across the world and plan accordingly. It isn’t exactly “predicting the future,” but it’s the closest we’ll get any time soon.

Big data is the key to solving many problems in both the marketplace and in public health. While consumers may not be aware of it, big data guides most decisions today. It has a nearly limitless number of uses for both commercial and philanthropic purposes. There is no limit to the potential for big data. Let’s look at some examples of how leaders of organizations across the globe are leveraging big data to make an impact in their respective sectors:

Big Data Leads to Commercial Success

When it comes to getting a competitive edge in the marketplace, utilizing big data is a no-brainer. It can help marketers make inferences about consumer trends and plan accordingly. Furthermore, big data can improve online services, greatly increasing sales and client retention. Here are a couple examples of businesses using big data in innovative ways:

Red Roof Inn: Effective Advertising

Geotargeting — the practice of focusing advertisements towards individuals in specific regions — has a number of useful applications in online marketing. However, Red Roof Inn took this to a new level a couple years ago when it sought new ways to improve sales. In 2016, they began analyzing data that compared weather conditions to flight cancellations. Marketers of the hotel chain concluded that sudden cancelled flights due to inclement weather would inevitably lead to people with a sudden need for lodgings. These individuals are likely to be interested in Red Roof Inn’s services, so they are a perfect target audience, right?

They nailed it. Thousands of disgruntled passengers received advertisements and special promotions for Red Roof Inn locations near airports. As a result, these locations saw a substantial increase in business — often by 10 percent or more.

Amazon: Anticipating Customer Needs

Amazon may not be able to literally read your mind (yet), but any regular customer knows that the site offers eerily spot-on recommendations — much to the chagrin of our wallets. For several years, Amazon has even introduced the idea of ordering and shipping products to customers before they even place an order in a process they’ve dubbed “anticipatory package shipping.” This begs the question: How is Amazon capable of predicting our needs and desires to such an accurate degree?

Using data from your history of behavior on the site, along with other information, Amazon is capable of getting a deep understanding of your online shopping habits. Some behavior they track includes:

  • Past purchases
  • Shopping cart activity
  • Products on your wish lists
  • Overall time spent on the site
  • Duration of time spent on specific product pages
  • Links hovered over and clicked on

Amazon also uses demographic and geographic information to make inferences about your interests. By looking at this information, in conjunction with individuals’ shopping habits, they are able to discern regional and cultural trends in consumer behavior. Predictive analytics give Amazon a competitive edge when it comes to meeting customer demand. Throughout Amazon’s history, they’ve only become more efficient with the smart use of big data.

The Ultimate Tool for a Healthier World

The corporate world isn’t the only sector that big data is transforming. Public health can also benefit drastically with the help this approach. From demonstrating the importance of holistic nursing care to tracking disease outbreaks, big data can help with all facets of healthcare. In the past, such tasks could be challenging and time consuming. With the assistance of innovations in big data, however, these have become substantially easier:

Centers for Disease Control: Tracking Disease Outbreaks

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) uses big data to track essential information to maintaining public health across the globe. An example of this is how the CDC tracks the spread of epidemics.

In 2014, the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) began tracking the Ebola outbreak using conventional methods, but the former knew that these methods were inadequate. They began exploring the benefits of big data by using BioMosaic, a tool that allows users to examine data including health, population, and movement information — it could essentially be used to predict the spread of disease.

This helped the CDC identify at-risk populations and take action to prevent the outbreak from becoming a pandemic. This is only one example of how big data can inform public health policies, and it continues to see use to inform decisions for a wide range of issues.

Chicago Department of Public Health: Improving Food Establishments

The Chicago Department of Public Health provided an excellent example of the potential positive impact of big data in 2016, when they worked with the Department of Innovation and Technology to resolve multiple problems with food establishments within the city. Building code violations, unsafe conditions, sanitation concerns — there were a plethora of problems plaguing restaurants in the area.

Working together, the departments analyzed data, including:

  • Registered complaints with state agencies
  • Social media complaints
  • Past building code and sanitation violations
  • Sourcing of food
  • Neighborhood population densities
  • Other factors near each establishment, including lighting conditions and nearby construction

As noted in a resource by the University of Southern California, the departments in Chicago used this data to “construct models that calculated a score for every food establishment, with higher scores correlating with an increased risk of critical public health violations.” These scores allowed city officials to preempt violation complaints and prioritize their efforts in accordance with each location’s level of risk.

Big data is clearly a game changer in both the business world and in efforts to improve public health. New uses are being found for it every day in practically every sector. As we move forward, innovators will need to leverage data in new ways to meet the complex needs of an increasingly technological world.

About the Author

Avery Phillips is a freelance human based out of the beautiful Treasure Valley. She loves all things in nature, especially humans. Leave a comment down below or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or comments.

 

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Comments

  1. Well, this is new.. Most data gathering is focused towards getting people to consume, or in the case of social media to get keep users glued to their computers. I would be interesting to see how they gather information or rather what kind of information one would need to construct models that calculated a score for every food establishment.

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