iStock_000015969477XSmallLast week we had multiple kicks to our 4th amendment, most notably, the discovery of PRISM, NSA’s citizen spying operation. The data center buried in Utah’s desert is ingesting all our behaviors, tastes, and decisions.  Your government is doing Big Data, and the ramifications on every one of us are far from understood.

But hey, in the meantime, let’s discuss the non-nefarious aspects of Big Data, and what it really is.  Big Data is the understanding and prediction of customer behaviors to improve how brands address and influence them.  Big Data might seem out of reach for small and medium enterprises, because the name itself is misleading.  One recent (and favorite) example of “Big Data” isn’t really that big in scale, but is huge in its result.  Bus routes were optimized based on cell phone location data.  Simply, this example of analytics took two sources of data — existing route lines and user movements, and mixed them together.  This resulted in smarter changes to the system, reducing travel times by 10%.  You can read more at: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/514211/african-bus-routes-redrawn-using-cell-phone-data/

Nearly any business can take advantage of Big Data.  The simple way to start is by looking at public sources of data and using those as a lens to look differently at your own data, finding new interpretations.  Looking to expand your service area?  There is enough data that is now easier to analyze yourself, using tools like Excel, to make better business decisions. Explore some of the data you have access to at: https://datamarket.azure.com/

Are you using Big Data?  Are you concerned with privacy?  Despite the upcoming socio-political issues Big Data is bringing to light, embrace how it can be used as a prism for your business.

Please leave a comment below with your thoughts, or even more interesting info on big data.

-James Rice, Chief Digital Officer