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The World of Big Data (Part 1)

You may have heard the term "Big Data" before, but did you ever wonder what it means exactly, or more importantly, how it affects your life? That's the question Tech Talker answers in Part 1 of his series on Big Data.

By
Eric Escobar,
October 24, 2013
Episode #097

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Where Is Big Data Stored?

Pretty much everywhere you look you can see some way that Big Data is affecting the world or somehow gathering information about it. Let's take an example such as Amazon.com. Everything you buy and look at on Amazon is tied to your account, and from there recommendations are made about what you may and may not like. More than that though, Amazon tracks how long packages are in transit, where they are going, and even the demographics of the buyers. Collecting this data allows Amazon to optimize and customize the users' experience, which ultimately increases their bottom line.

Another interesting example of this type of Big Data is UPS. As you can imagine, UPS generates a ton of data, what with the transit information of all its packages and the routes the drivers take. UPS handles over 16 million packages a day, and over 40 million package tracking requests.

UPS also has 0ver 40,ooo vehicles that it tracks constantly. Through all of this data collection, they are able to find trends and ways of optimizing truck delivery routes to increase efficiency. That's how UPS was able to shave 85 million miles per day off its delivery routes, saving over 8.4 million gallons of fuel. Keep in mind, people - this is daily!

How Does Big Data Affect You?

I know what you're going to say next: "Well, this is all great for big companies. They can save money and make money by leveraging Big Data. Fantastic! But how does that affect me?

I'm glad you asked! Big Data is being used to make scientific discoveries that can change all our lives (or our perceptions of our place in the world). Most notably, the discovery of the Higgs Boson this past year - which led to the recent Nobel Prize award for physicists François Englert and Peter W. Higgs. Big Data is also helping us to predict the weather and outbreaks of diseases, as well as helping to cure diseases such as cancer and AIDS.

All of these applications require vast amounts of data and vast amounts of processing power, so much so that the amount of computing power we have today far outstrips anything thought possible even a decade ago.

For instance, the Human Genome Project, which decoded every piece of DNA in the human body, was a huge scientific undertaking. It took 10 years to finally finish in 2003. If we had started the project now, just 10 years later, we could process the same chunk of data in just under a week!

With that, here are your 3 Quick and Dirty Tips on Big Data:

  1. Big Data is the term used to describe the vast amounts of data collected and analyzed for commercial, scientific, and governmental purposes.
  2. Companies use Big Data to tailor their products to consumers, as well as cutting down on their overhead costs.
  3. Scientific advances have been made using Big Data, by crunching trillions of calculations for use in a wide range of fields.

Well that’s all for today!

Have a question about anything in this episode? Or a suggestion for a future podcast? Send me an email at techtalker@quickanddirtytips.com or post it on the Tech Talker Facebook wall.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Data storage and other images courtesy of Shutterstock.

 

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