For some time now, the term big data has floated through the tech world, carrying an air of excitement, intimidation and anticipation. The massive data sets big data aims to collect, cultivate and, ultimately, mine, can be a source of valuable information for companies, governments and everything in between. (Get more insight into big data in 5 Things You Need to Know About Big Data.)
That’s pretty cool, but it doesn’t stop there. In fact, big data is being sought as a solution to all kinds of problems that extend well beyond the tech realm, over even the business realm. Here are five of the most noteworthy things big data is about to do.
Help Overcome Fertility Issues
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about 10 percent of American women have trouble getting or staying pregnant. Although some cases of infertility require medical intervention, doctors say this is challenge that many women could resolve with just little bit of extra information about how their body works. Tracking ovulation is one of the most effective ways for women to know when their body is ready to get pregnant. An app called Glow, which was released to the App Store in August 2013, uses big data to help women get in touch with their fertility. By tracking critical fertility signs, such as menstrual cycles, morning temperatures, weight, stress levels, and more, women can get the data they need to know when their body is most ready to conceive, much like many fertility treatment centers do. If you’ve seen the price tag for fertility treatment, it’s clear that anything that can help couples side-step more costly treatment options is a real coup.
Provide Small-Dollar Loans to People in Need
According to research by the Pew Institute, 5.5 percent of Americans have taken out a payday loan in the past 5 years to cover regular expenses. These types of loans can cripple people who already struggle to make ends meet by striking them with high interest rates and hidden fees.
Now, one app developer has put big data to work to come up with a solution to this challenge.
LendUp is a website and mobile app desigend to help people access small loans to cover their expenses. It works much like many microfinance lending organizations, where a a small pool of local venture capital and angel investors make investment money available to people in need. Then, a person can start the borrowing process by tapping into the pool of money available.
The loans amount to no more than $250 for under 30 days. Good behavior for paying back loans early, or on time, is rewarded through the app. For example, paying a loan early could open up discounts or lower fees in the future. These small-dollar loans can help people in need get quick and more affordable access to the cash needed to pay bills. It can even help them build better credit.
Put Students Out of Their Misery
Neither students nor professors relish long lectures in crowded halls. Yup, big data might even put an end to boring and minimally effective classes. By using big data and technology in classrooms, students and teachers may interact with each other in new, more effective ways while learning new material.
A recent experiment done at Arizona State University challenged students and professors to put the traditional lecture methods aside and opt for big data powered technology as a learning tool instead. At first, the idea did not thrill students or professors. However, as students began engaging with the technology and learned by doing instead of by listening, they were converted. The professor was still present during class, but was more available to roam around answering questions and giving feedback. He was able to track student performance better, and use big data to determine who was doing well at a topic, and who was not.
With this technology rolling out to more and more classrooms, students may be able to learn at a pace that suits them, while teachers can get a better overview of where students struggle. Many anticipate that this technology will make higher-level education more effective.
Read Our Minds
Put the crystal ball aside. Soon, big data will predict your every thought. OK, it sounds pretty creepy, but the science behind using big data to read your mind is not that complex. By capturing and analyzing information, such as websites visited, social media posts, check-ins and more, reasonable assumptions can be made about your thoughts and future actions. It’s hardly a perfect science, but as more and more data becomes available, the more likely it is that big data will give businesses – and even government – a Big Brother view of the public. (Read more about privacy on the Web in Don’t Look Now, But Online Privacy May Be Gone for Good.)
If there’s one worldwide buzzword that doesn’t seem to be going away, its’ national security. Big data’s been raised as a way to respond to this issue too. When government agencies can get access to big data to track – and eventually predict – people’s behavior, they have the potential to stop terrorists before the strike. All they need is enough data to identify trends and behavioral patterns.
Government agencies can sift through years worth of data from known terrorists. This data can help identify trends and behavioral patterns. Based on these trends and patterns, the government can monitor current behavior of the public to find potential terrorists lurking in the shadows.
Millions of files are scanned, reported and analyzed each day, which means big data just keeps on getting bigger. And the more data we collect – and the better technology becomes at sifting through it – the more useful it may become, perhaps in ways we haven’t even thought of yet. (Read about some of the hurdles big data has to overcome in Big Data Has a Problem, But It Isn’t Technology.)