How is Big Data Changing the World?

When we talk about Big Data, many of the examples and use cases we share center around how Big Data is changing the way businesses must operate. But Big Data is changing the world on some exciting global levels as well. So let’s take a step back from the business impact of bigger data and check out some of the exciting ways Big Data is changing our lives.

1. Big Data loves the Earth – Combatting Deforestation

Environmentalists and policy makers can monitor, almost in real-time, the status of forests around the globe with the help of satellite imagery. Tools like the Global Forest Watch, which was launched in 2014, uses high-resolution NASA satellite imagery processed through Google, to analyze over 700,000 satellite images. High resolution maps show annual forest cover change since 200 to assist environmentalists and government organizations to monitor deforestation in “near-real time.”

2. Will it Rain or Shine? Predicting the Weather

Scientists leverage Big Data technologies to predict weather to prevent disasters, save assets, and take precautionary measures. Research organizations and weather companies such as Basho’s Riak NoSQL, use 13 data centers to capture 2.2 million weather data points from all over the globe four times per hour. 

The Weather Company, which already monitors over 20 terabytes of data per day to create some of the most accurate forecasts, is integrating this new technology to bring weather predictions to a whole new level.

3. Growing More Crops to Feed the World in 2050

By 2050, the world’s population is expected to reach 9.2 billion people, 34% higher than it is today. To enhance crop production, farmers are using precision technology, a concept that collects real-time data on weather, soil and air quality, crop maturity, and equipment and labor costs, to develop predictive analytics used to make smarter decisions.

One study found that farmers using only one type of precision technologies increased their yield by 16% and cut down water use by 50%. Another example given by IBM is the use of sensors placed throughout the fields to measure temperature and humidity, which when coupled with predictive weather modeling, helps farmers make proactive decisions on when to water or fertilize.

4. How to Avoid the Flu with Big Data

Big Data is used in the health industry for numerous applications – from monitoring wearable data to detect early signs of Parkinson’s disease, to fighting the Ebola crisis, or predicting outbreaks of infectious disease.

IBM recently released a great infographic showing how Big Data can help contain global outbreaks of dengue fever and malaria. With dengue fever having spread to over 100 counties and malaria causing 1 million deaths annually, this Big Data application is saving lives.

Researchers can also predict infectious disease outbreaks such as the flu by using modeling developed from data gathered through mobile, social media, and other public web data. One study by the MIDAS research group analyzed page view histories of disease-related Wikipedia pages in 7 languages to forecast the number of people who may become sick in 4 weeks.

5. Smarter Education in the Classroom

Every 26 seconds, a student in America drops out of high school, which is 7,000 a day. To combat the failing education system, education technology companies are chomping at the bit to leverage their Big Data technologies to make learning more effective.  

Knewton is an adaptive platform that collects real-time data based on students' learning habits. They recently received $105 million in funding to enable smarter learning that's tailored to the ways in which students learn best. The company also recently partnered with Mifflin Harcourt and Gutenberg Technology to create smarter digital textbooks that adapt to individual student in real time. The technology assesses students as they solve problems and can adjust the difficulty of the remaining problems as needed.

Big Data is changing the world in new and exciting ways. Please share your real-world examples of how Big Data is impacting our daily lives.

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