From the weather forecast to medical studies, knowledge based on big data sets has always defined important parts of our lives. Collecting and analyzing data is how we learn, predict, optimize and develop ideas. With the digital revolution, huge amounts of data are shared every second. With this, we see new ways in which services and technologies adapt to our behavior and how they, in turn, shape our actions.
In this article, we want to look at some ways big sets of data are collected, what they are used for and how learning from data plays a role in our daily lives.
In the morning: Heading out
For your way to work, you might check Google Maps or a similar service to find the best route. If you go by car, you’re probably interested in traffic. And Google Maps is ready to give you real-time information about current traffic jams. This only works because people (anonymously) share their location with their mobile devices and the service registers how fast cars are moving in one area.
Big data also helps in improving the public transport systems. Knowing how many people take a specific metro line helps optimize the frequency in which trains pass. To gather this data, urban planners can track how many people pass a turnstile or they can simply survey people in an area about their preferred modes of transportation.
During the day: Searching, deciding, browsing
At work, you will probably at some point type something into a search engine. These services don’t just give you answers. They also register what people search during a certain period of time, which can give us interesting insights into what people are thinking about and interested in. There are also trackers you can install on your device to participate in market research. Nicequest, for example, offers the opportunity to add Nicestats to your phone or PC so you can anonymously contribute to the creation of statistics on how people use the internet. Learning about what people search and which websites they visit or apps they use will help companies and decision makers improve their services and their offer.
You might also be planning a trip or look for a new restaurant to go to – this is where you turn into a data analyst. If you don’t have a waterproof recommendation from a trusted friend, you go on the internet and visit websites like TripAdvisor or Yelp. By looking at the ratings and reviews by other people you form your own decision. And after your visit, you might even contribute to this “crowd intelligence” by sharing your own point of view.
After work: Shopping and relaxing
One example of a very useful way of sharing your data is participating in market research. When you go to the supermarket after work, most products you see have gone through a phase where consumers were asked about their opinions on them. Apart from sharing your internet behavior, as mentioned above, there are many ways of getting this data: surveys, focus groups or even consumers sending their shopping receipts to research companies. This way producers can keep up to date and, for example, offer more vegetarian options if more and more people express an interest in meatless foods.
At the end of your day, you might want to relax with a movie or a good book. Services like Netflix will suggest shows and films based on what you and people with a similar viewing pattern have watched in the past, just like how Spotify suggests music to you. If you bought a book on Amazon, you might have also chosen it based on a recommendation. And your purchase will add information to the algorithm for future suggestions. Or maybe you chose a movie or book based on what people have said about it on a review site. Again, data will help you make an informed decision.
As you can see, data is an important part of our lives and when used responsibly it can make our lives as individuals and as a community so much easier.
Can you think of more ways how data influences your life? Tell us in the comments!