24 JAN 2018

Big Data, many valuable applications: from Google Flu to Facebook and the smart cities

Big Data is large amounts of data which can be analyzed, worked on and used in order to better understand the events studied. Big Data is essential for Marketing activities in all sectors because Big Data allows information to be analyzed in a way which was not previously possible.

To understand the extent of the phenomenon, we can think about how the profiling of users exposed to advertising has changed: in the past, the advertising of a product by way of a spot was broadcast associated with a given transmission. The only data obtainable regarding the diffusion of the spot was the number of people who watched it, but it was not clear how many of these belonged to the target of the product. Today, with internet advertising, it is possible to obtain detailed information, not only about the number of users, but also other information.

Big Data is literally a mine of information which, elaborated appropriately, can supply a competitive advantage. Google Flu is an example of this type of elaboration which immediately transmits the results of the analysis of Big Data. Google has shown that it is able to predict the spread of seasonal influenza, better than the map generated by the World Health Organization, based only on the statistical analysis of users’ research.

Different types of Big Data exist, depending on the collection and on the analysis which can be done to data, which is significant. Data generated by Social Networks is a classic example. This data is generated at an incredible rate. In 2017, there were about 41,000 new posts on Instagram, about 35,000 new tweets on Twitter and almost 900,000 accesses to Facebook every minute.

If we consider Facebook, where users freely offer information about themselves, we have an idea of how great the volume of information of Big Data is. When a user shares a photo of his meal, he is communicating to the Social Network where he is, with whom, what he is doing and what his culinary tastes are.

Social Networks and all net providers produce a large amount of data. The giants of the web have the greatest amount of Big Data: Amazon now knows the tastes of its users, and for this reason is about to launch a service where it ships items to storage/shipping points nearest your home, based on the profile they created for you.

Facebook and Google exploit the information they have about their users to offer them ad hoc advertising: if you look for an item on Amazon, but you do not buy it, it is highly probable you will see that object, or similar products, in the advertising of the sites you visit in the following days.

Social Network and online giants collect and use a large amount of data for their business, even small and medium businesses do the same. Unfortunately, small companies do not mine Business Intelligence from these data.

Another example of the application of Big Data is the Netflix case. Netflix decided to produce the TV series ‘House of Cards’ based on the information in its database, which collected the preferences of its customers regarding the rental of films.

An example of a futuristic application of Big Data is the relationship between Big Data and the Smart City paradigm. The idea of ​​a Smart City revolves around data: the principle is the same as Business Intelligence, that is, collecting data to turn it into information to be used to plan decisions, in this case decisions related to the city.

A simple example: by now everyone uses the navigator to move and to choose the shortest route. Imagine that a thousand people use the navigator at the same time, each with a different destination, it could happen that these thousand different routes all pass through the same road, with the risk of clogged traffic: a traffic management system for a Smart City can suggest slightly different routes to everyone, in this way everyone arrives quickly.

Edited by Lucia D’Adamo, in collaboration with Luigi Laura, supervised by Marco Pirrone