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What’s common between Google, Facebook, Amazon, and NASA?  Well, all of them thrive on data gathering and analytics to improve the way we live our lives. The popular name for the way they do it is Big Data. The extraordinary tsunami of data available today has dramatically changed the way businesses work. Data science is quickly becoming a new frontier of competitive differentiation.

Let’s look at some cases and see how Big Data has brought in the revolution for them –

Google – For you and me, Google might be just a search engine. OK, one of the best search engines. But do you know that every day, Google gathers a tremendous amount of data about us based on the Google services we use? This data is gathered and analyzed to improve its understanding of us and how we behave online. As creepy as it may sound, but this is the fact. Based on your search history and onsite behaviors, Google understands who you are – your gender, age, languages, interests, and so on. This information is used to enhance your search experience by providing you with more targeted and useful ads. For advertisers also, this is a huge benefit because their ads are shown to only to those who are interested in hearing from them. If you have not turned off the location tracking on your Android phone, then Google also knows where you have been. Using the location data, Google ensures that the online enquiries show relevant search results which are fine-tuned to your local information. Google also knows the apps which are linked to you – including YouTube, Google+, Gmail, and so on. Google uses this knowledge to tailor the products to suit your needs. So in reality, it is much beyond simple search which you type in the search box.

Facebook – This social media giant deals with staggeringly large amount of data –users’ personal data as well as data about the brands. It includes more 2.5 billion content items, over 600 terabytes of data, and close to 300 million photos per day! Last year, Facebook had caused a lot of stir amongst those who care about online privacy and data protection. Facebook was accused of carrying out unethical physiological research experiment. In their experiment, Facebook showed that it can change the moods of the people by showing them specific posts with positive or negative vibes. This is a scary stuff for many! A social networking site which we are so used to opening every morning (and possibly many times in a day) is so powerful that it can change our mood. Using the users’ data, Facebook provides more targeting options to its advertisers. For example: Advertisers on Facebook can target as specific as “women over 35 who love romantic movies” or “men over 40 living in San Francisco who love tennis”. This is possible only because of the highly detailed profiles which we, as users, build up over time as we use the site. Facebook also has a dedicated team to analyze the status updates which the users type but do not post! Check out the insights from Facebook’s Data Science team, which it posts on this dedicated page.

Amazon – With data about more than 244 million active users and more 2 billion itemsworldwide, Amazon has access to a humongous amount of data. Amazon uses this data to perfect its customer service. The personalized recommendation engine suggests the exact items to its users based on the data about their click-stream and purchasing patterns. Amazon almost creates a very personalized web page for each user visiting the site. Amazon also uses this data to improve the customer support interactions because the customer support reps are now equipped with complete information about each and every user, which helps them build a relationship with the user. Recently, Amazon has obtained a patent wherein; it will ship the goods to us even before we make a decision to buy it – this is purely based on their predictive big data analytics. Amazon firmly believes that very soon, the big data analytics insights are going to become more and more accurate and it can predict who will order what and when!

The City of Dubuque – No, the mention of the city is not by accident here. Roy Buol kept the theme of making Dubuque a more sustainable city at the center of his run for mayor in the year 2005. The 60,000 residents of the city embraced the message “the next five years will define the next 50 for Dubuque”. With the help of smart meters and powerful analytics, the citizens got insights to help them adjust their energy and water consumption. The result? The city has seen up to 11 percent reduction in electricity usage and a 7 percent reduction in water usage. The city also saw a significant increase in the rate of water leak detection. Fast Company recognized Dubuque among the world’s top 10 “Smartest Cities on the Planet”!

US Open Tennis Championship – The US Tennis Association (USTA) is the governing body for the sport of tennis in the United States and it is the largest tennis organization in the world. During the 2012 contest, the website was visited by more than 10 million people, from their computers and mobile devices – to get information about the latest match results, news or live streaming of the matches. The US Open used predictive analytics to offer an enhanced experience to the tennis fans. Before each match, the predictive analytics solution showed an analysis of competitors’ historical head-to-head matchups, details about individual players’ previous matches and stats against comparable player styles. This analysis allowed the fans to check out match analysis, get an insider’s view of who is gaining the edge during the match and who could most likely win – even before the final scores are out. The website saw 136 million page views through mobile devices, which is a 47 percent increase over the previous year!

For any industry, data is at the center today. It has now become a reality. Companies have experienced its benefits by bringing in changes in their operations, by preventing frauds, by gaining the competitive edge, and by improving customer relationships – the possibilities are truly endless.

So you’ve used services of companies that use data well, but aren’t you being served well? and better than before?

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