Google has figured out that I shop for a lot of children’s clothing online, as my two children grow like weeds. Every time I launch a search, my banner ads link to brands that I have bought previously or similar brands that other consumers may have purchased. That is Big Data at work, as it is being used to identify other brands that I might be interested in purchasing based on shoppers with similar consumer profiles to mine. But let’s say that the next banner ad I receive isn’t for children’s clothing, but is instead for an all-inclusive Caribbean vacation. Well, I have never searched for Caribbean vacations, why would this be turning up? Again, this is Big Data at work, because patterns in human behavior have informed Google that people with small children are likely good targets for a quick getaway vacation. This is an example of the value of Big Data in predicting individual consumer behavior based on the behavior of many.
“Big Data” is the somewhat uncreative but accurate term for the process of collecting, culling, and categorizing of data from diverse sources on a massive scale. Through the application of algorithms, companies are analyzing Big Data in order to see patterns in human behavior, and (most commonly) using it to develop targeted, individualized marketing. The primary goal of Big Data is to learn from a large body of information things that we could not comprehend when we used only smaller amounts. Recent trends point to an increase in the use of Big Data, but there are several cautionary points from a legal and privacy perspective to consider.
What are the uses of Big Data, and who uses it? The potential benefits are wide ranging, but can be categorized as follows: