“Big Data” and Why It’s So Big

When most people hear the word “data”, they think of boring number-crunching, graphs, and sitting at a computer all day analyzing information. However, data is much more than that after a documentary I watched in Market Research class. The documentary was called “Big Data Revolution”, and I was absolutely amazed at what I saw and heard about data and how it is used in the real world. I am going to share just some of the interesting and fascinating information I learned from watching this documentary.

First of all, data is EVERYWHERE. From the apps you use on a daily basis to tracking your food intake or how much sleep you get, this is all considered data. All of this data is being gathered by analysists who can determine so much about society and how people go about day to day.

At the beginning of the documentary, data analysists explained that they could see airplane flights taking off and landing all around the United States at any given time. During busy hours of the day, you saw more planes traveling than you did around midnight or so. You also could see how many text messages were being sent on December 31st and then the numbers shot up January 1st of the new year!! This was an indication people were wishing their friends and family a happy new year text! This was pretty cool stuff to learn about if you ask me!

Towards the middle, a woman was at a hospital monitoring premature babies to find out when they became unwell or sick in some way. She explained that the data the hospital had when monitoring the babies wasn’t recorded so after a few minutes it was lost forever. She then started writing down every number from every machine the baby was hooked up to. This helped her to collect data of symptoms that were showing when the baby was getting sick. When all of this data was collected and analyzed, researchers were able to determine when symptoms would show up in the body before the baby even got sick!! It was almost like they knew what was going to happen in the future before it actually happened!

Lastly, I will be talking about one of the most interesting topics discussed in the documentary. When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012, 5 MILLION people sent out tweets saying where the hurricane had hit. They mentioned exact locations, such as street names in the tweets so people knew exactly where the hurricane was at any given time. Civilians documented the natural disaster and researchers found that amazing. The same thing happened when the earthquake hit Kenya in 2015. Everyone was sending tweets out of locations and where the earthquake had hit. All of this data helped researchers to identify how far the natural disasters went and where people needed help afterwards.

As you can see, data is much more than numbers! You can use data for so much and I have a completely different perspective as to how I see it. It is definitely something that can be really cool to analyze. I learned a lot from the documentary and will think of “data” as something cool and visually interesting to look at and learn about!

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