The wide reach of big data (and how it’s affecting your life)

Big data is all about combining and contrasting large data sets. You're probably used to the term being thrown around in the context of business, and it's true that the collection and interpretation of data can have extremely positive results for businesses looking to optimise their service offerings. But big data reaches further than that, much further. Our capabilities for leveraging insights from data are so much more robust in 2018 that big data is set to affect our lives in ways we never expected just a few short years ago.

Here are three ways big data is influencing the world around you, that you may never have considered.

How is big data making sports more interesting? Big data can assist sports teams in improving performance, recruiting better players and boosting fan engagement.

1. Improving performance of sports teams

While the success of a sports team once may have lived or died based on the intuition and experience of their coach, it's now possible to collect data on almost every aspect of any given sport. This can, in turn, be used to pinpoint areas for improvement, from recruitment to individual performance to fan engagement. But how is the data collected, and what can be learned from processing it?

Data gathered from on-field performance can pinpoint areas for improvement, from recruitment to individual performance to fan engagement.

Let's start with video analytics. UK Premier League soccer team Arsenal recently undertook a multi-million dollar project to begin gathering and analysing data. Part of the project was installing eight cameras around the stadium. These are set to record 10 data points per second, per player, totalling 1.4 million data points for every game. Data can be filtered down to address key areas of concern, for example, you could easily opt to view "all unsuccessful passes by Mesut Ozil" to find out where the player in question needs to work on his game.

Big data informing athletes is not limited to just video analytics though. An Irish tech startup recently launched a multifaceted talent identification platform capable of analysing physical, mental and social factors to help teams make better recruitment decisions. As more sports teams across the globe adopt this kind of technology, following your favourite team will become a lot more exciting, as the "underdog" teams will have the same developmental resources as the major players.

How does big data contribute to the sciences?Where more data leads to better insight, big data opens a world of possibilities for scientists.

2. Expanding the capabilities of scientific research

When it comes to scientific research, qualitative data is all important. However, in many cases, the more data gathered from experiments, the more accurate the result. Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, have recently built an HPC cluster (a high performance computer built on multiple independent processors) to allow analysis of huge data sets. Not only has this allowed them to conduct more meaningful research in the fields of oncology, nanotechnology and quantum mechanics, it's also allowed them to branch into the areas of epigenetics, cytometry and the mapping of the human brain.

Big data tools have allowed CERN to whittle 40TB down to a single gigabyte of information.

You might already be familiar with the large hadron collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. This is the particle accelerator that many people theorised would create a black hole here on Earth (you may have guessed, but it didn't lead to much other than a Nobel Prize for the research team). The LHC creates approximately 40 terabytes of data per second.

Big data tools have allowed them to whittle this down to around a single gigabyte per second, which makes for far easier analysis of the critical information hidden within these data sets. If that doesn't impress you, consider this: The 2012 experiment confirmed the existence of the long rumoured "God particle," the last discovery needed to confirm that The Standard Model of Physics (you know, the thing that dictates how the entire universe works) is accurate.

Can big data make our cities more livable? Big data can improve transportation and resource management in our largest cities.

3. Supporting the development of smarter cities

It's certainly no secret that much of the early development of cities and urban centres weren't exactly focusing on long term sustainability. What we lacked in foresight then is coming to a head now. Many urban planners and public infrastructure professionals are looking for ways to make cities both more liveable and less environmentally taxing. So how is big data supporting the development of smarter cities?

The DSSO system helps operators adjust traffic signals to help keep the flow of vehicles moving.

The first factor, and perhaps most immediately gratifying, is the way that transportation is being improved. Utilising RFID tagged vehicles, GPS devices and smart sensors built into the roads, it'll be possible to reroute and clear traffic in congested areas. The city of Lyon, France has already integrated such a system. Dubbed DSSO, the system helps operators adjust traffic signals to help keep the flow of vehicles moving.

The second factor relates to energy and utility management. Monitoring the movement and waste volume of water could help identify opportunities for better resource management – a concept that has huge implications for cities experiencing drought. Tracking things like footfall in heavily populated areas could have a positive effect on how much electricity is used, since cities will be able to dim or cut lighting in public spaces when no-one is around. Seattle, Washington is currently looking into these kinds of applications to reduce their energy use by 25 per cent.

How can big data be applied to improve the world? Big data isn't merely an intangible set of information, it's a tool for bettering our world.

In many cases, big data is playing "the long game" in that what we are learning today will greatly inform the world of tomorrow. While we are in truth just beginning to understand the ways that big data can change our world, the progress we have made already is astounding. Being able to gather huge amounts of information in shorter time means we can act quicker, and implement meaningful change on truly grand scales. Big data isn't just for businesses, it's for everyone, and the reach is limited only by our imaginations.

For more information, get in contact with AtoBI today