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10 actual uses of big data

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1. NetflixThis article from the Wall Street Journal details Netflix’s well known Hadoop data processing platform. 

Cloud architecture is highly scalable and allows Neflix to quickly provision computing resources as its sees the need. Traffic patterns are analysed across device types and localities to help improve the reliability of video streaming and plan for growth.

The technology is also used for Netflix’s recommendation engine based on a customer’s viewing habits and stated preferences.

2. PricingSticking with Netflix, this piece in the Washington Post theorises that Netflix could vary its price if it had enough information on each user to know how much they might pay. 

To a certain degree, this happens in online retail with airlines targeting previous browsers, and some stores (such as Staples) changing prices depending on which physical store the customer is nearest.

The Wall Street journal has also documented that Orbitz, the travel website, has in the past charged Mac visitors higher than those on Windows. Taking into account IP, device, age, past visits, and more variables, throwing them into a database and calculating a charging threshold can conceivably be termed big data.

3. Out of home advertisingI’ve previously covered Route, who have combined lots of data on footfall and traffic, including the tracked day-to-day movements of 28,000 people. It’s hoped that the accuracy of predicting eyes on billboards will increase, leading to fairer pricing.


4. Retail HabitsI can’t recommend too often that you read this piece from the NY Times on how Target uses a wealth of customer data to predict future purchasing habits. Specifically, pregnancy kicks off a chain of purchases that are fairly distinctive – Target’s data collection is spookily prescient, sending one teen customer nappy vouchers before her own father knew she was pregnant.

5. PoliticsPolitics has traditionally seen data siloed, with canvassing done on little more than a list of postcodes. Obama’s election campaigns began to change this. Check out this article from Slate on Project Narwhal.

Narwhal would bring new efficiency across the campaign’s operations. No longer will canvassers be dispatched to knock on the doors of people who have already volunteered to support Obama. And if a donor has given the maximum $2,500 in permitted contributions, emails will stop hitting him up for money and start asking him to volunteer instead.

Those familiar with Narwhal’s development say the completion of such a technical infrastructure would also be a gift to future Democratic candidates who have struggled to organize political data that has been often arbitrarily siloed depending on which software vendor had primacy at a given moment.

Go to the article to see the other 5 ... 

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