And how it influences our everyday lives
A very popular keyword these days is the term Big Data. It is literally, as its name suggests, a collection of a huge amount of data. What started as a concept of maybe zettabytes of data points a year has now evolved to a quintillion bytes of data points each day, and it’s only going to increase from this point on; there is no turning back. However, as with almost all good things on this planet, it’s the quality that matters and not just the quantity.
Dr Meglena Kuneva, the European Consumer Commissioner, said in her keynote speech at a roundtable on online data collection, targeting, and profiling: “Personal data is the new oil of the internet and the new currency of the digital world.” This was said in March 2009, and continues to ring true to this day because every day, our lives are heavily influenced by Big Data, which is really just a hub of our personal information.
This hub that contains personal information includes, but is not limited to, say, all the likes or clicks we spend on random websites. Data points record how much time we spend on individual sites, and how we swipe or buy products based on our preferences. This entire stream of data is then sent to a predictive algorithm that tries to basically predict our behaviour.
What this essentially means is that our regular data is being used to forecast our individual behaviour, such as how likely a particular person is to buy a certain product, what the probability is that they will contract a disease, or if this individual will be swayed through a recent online phenomenon.
While, indeed, these practices do raise concerns about the basic rights to privacy and protection (that’s an entirely different chapter to dwell on later, maybe), the fact that big data has successfully changed the concept of “understanding society” is undeniable. Perhaps its biggest influences are best seen through the business and healthcare point of view.
Using these tallies of customer information, modern businesses are now creating consumer-curated or user-based products. Whether it’s your Netflix recommendation or the super shop near you, every product is recommended or placed based on customer preference. But it’s not just the customer who benefits from this new trend, it’s also the owners. With the help of almost accurate predictions, business owners now know which products to stock and in what amount, thus reducing extra transport costs, incurring product, or capital waste.
Even in hospitals situated in the more developed countries, doctors and medical professionals are now deploying advanced patient care techniques to provide a more useful and efficient treatment. With the help of intelligent file tracking systems, they can now not only access full patient history and lifestyle descriptions, but these systems can also suggest certain patterns that could be suggestive about early on-set of diseases.
Hospitals in Australia are also using past hospital management records to predict the type and volume of medications to stock their inventory for a particular season and designing more cost-friendly patient packages.
In this new era of technology, where every movement is recorded, analyzed, and hoarded to form Big Data, its influence is slowly but surely slipping into our daily lives and our surroundings as we speak.
Tahsin M Rahman is an aspiring data analyst and a writer.