Outside the box: 4 Surprising ways big data is put to use in the real world

It seems that a new use for big data is being discovered with each day that passes. It's not all that unexpected considering the vast amount of information in the world today, and all the different data sets that can be combined and analyzed for insights.

The enterprise sector in particular has been heralding the benefits big data can offer for years now. Since these processes first burst on the scene, companies of all sizes in every industry sector have looked to gather the information they have available and analyze it for a deeper understanding of their client base, business processes and a whole host of other uses.

On occasion, though, big data is put into use in a manner that makes one say, "Wha-? I didn't think of that!" In the current environment, these surprising uses for analytics are popping up more often than ever, creating fun and innovative new ways to put big data to work. Today, we'll take a tour of some of the best and most creative uses for big data in the real world, in the hopes that these cases will inspire your company to think outside the box when it comes to its analytics initiatives.

1) Beyond traditional GPS: Navigation assisted by big data

Even in the age of smart cities supported by sensors and IoT technology, traffic jams remain a headache that drivers all over the globe have to deal with. Now, though, big data is looking to solve this age-old problem by gathering real-time statistics and information from drivers to create the most up-to-date traffic solution possible.

Kaspersky Lab noted that one platform taking this approach is Yandex.Traffic, which analyzes traffic data to help drivers avoid trouble spots. Not unlike Google Maps, this app shows actual traffic conditions as they are taking place, highlighting routes in different colors to show where accidents and bottlenecks are occurring.

Another app, Waze, utilizes data and notifications sent from its community of users to help other drivers spot traffic jams, accidents and even radar-supported speed traps. Google-owned Waze recently took its use of big data a step further with the announcement of Favorite Brands. This native ad-based system allows users to select their favorite brands, while enabling companies to create tailored messages to target its specific Waze-using audience.

2) Big data-backed billboards offer real results

Speaking of big data on the roadways, technology expert and author Bernard Marr recently wrote about Route, an outdoor marketing company that is leveraging big data to offer a better return on investment for companies that advertise via billboards. Marr noted that Route utilizes a sophisticated technological system to provide a more accurate picture of the audience a certain billboard would reach.

"Traditionally, outdoor media pricing was priced 'per impression' based on an estimate of how many eyes would see the ad in a given day," Marr wrote in a LinkedIn article. "No more! Now they're using sophisticated GPS, eye-tracking software, and analysis of traffic patterns to have a much more realistic idea of which advertisements will be seen the most — and therefore be the most effective."

3) Low-hanging fruit: Big data highlights edible municipal trees

Big data is also helping to feed the masses in new and surprising ways. FallingFruit.org utilizes its platform alongside public information from the Department of Agriculture, municipal tree inventories, street databases and their sources to show residents the best places in their neighborhoods to forage for fruit. Many cities now place fruit-bearing trees that flower in one season, and drop edible fruit the next. In the past, though, many citizens didn't know that their town even had trees of this kind, let alone where they were located.

Now, with FallingFruit.org, residents can see in real-time where such foliage is, and when to seek out fresh produce. "By uniting the efforts of foragers, freegans and foresters everywhere, the map already points to over a half million food sources around the world," the organization's website states. "Our rapidly growing user community is actively exploring, editing and adding to the map. Join us in celebrating the overlooked bounty of our city streets!"

4) Farming digitized with big data

It seems big data has reached every sector, and the agriculture industry is no different. Now, farmers are reducing the need for human interaction while helping to guarantee a bountiful harvest through the use of big data analytics.

Every process from planting and watering to fertilizing and harvesting can be informed by big data. In this way, farmers never have to guess at the best times to tend to their fields. What's more, big data combined with technologically advanced equipment has forever changed the face of the farming and agriculture industry.

"A self-driving John Deere tractor rumbles through Ian Pigott's 2,000-acre farm every week or so to spray fertilizer, guided by satellite imagery and each plot's harvesting history," Bloomberg Businessweek contributors Adam Satariano and Alan Bjerga wrote. "The 11-ton behemoth, loaded with so many screens it looks like an airplane cockpit, relays the nutrient information to the farmer's computer system."

Such systems can help farmers adjust their efforts to produce the largest, healthiest crops and cattle possible. Drones, sensors and other technologically advanced systems are commonplace on many large farms, and each of these items produces big data that can be analyzed and leveraged for the benefit of the farmer as well as the global population.

Tools of the trade: Colocation to support big data

No matter what industry your organization operates in, opportunities abound when it comes to the use of big data. Overall, there are endless possibilities - so long as your business has the right tools and technologies to make the best use of its available information.

A key piece of this puzzle is the support of a colocated, analytics environment, where companies can store, access and analyze the wealth of informational assets they possess. This type of secure storage can only be offered by an industry-leading colocation provider like Data Realty. To find out more, contact us today.