Top 5 Things to consider with Big Data and Mobile

Big data has been responsible for many innovations, such as the development of the atomic bomb that was responsible for the ending of WWII or the space shuttle landing on the moon.  Now, big data is used every day through the device that used to only be attached to our walls – our mobile phones.  Years ago, big data could only be processed by supercomputers that took up more space than most houses do.  Now, search engines like Google or Yahoo perform vastly more complicated tasks in less than an average of four seconds.

What exactly is “big data?”  According to Cameron Clayton of The Weather Company:

“Big data is volume.  It’s a collection and synthesis of internal and external datasets.  The best big data solutions are the ones that marry internal first-party data and external third-party data together at scale and in real time — thats true innovation”.

A great example of this first and third party marriage is Amazon’s product recommendation of “customers who bought this, also bought this”, or how Netflix creates a custom tailored list of recommendations based on the tv shows or movies you’ve watched.  Pandora does it as well by asking users to give songs a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” so users’ custom radio station is constantly becoming a little more customised, thumb by thumb.

According to the Forrester Research Annual Report on worldwide IT spending, software registered the largest share of tech spending in 2013, and companies will continue this in 2014.  The most investment is directed towards cloud computing solutions, SaaS solutions development and smart computing, i.e. big data and mobile application development.  Saroj Kar of says that mobile software and apps grow because consumer are more inclined to tablets.  According to the report, the tablet market will grow by 36% this year with a turnover of $21 billion, and will be dominated by Apple, Samsung and Microsoft.

Researchers have now been able to collect large amounts of informations from websites such as Google, Twitter and WebMD and collect data on flu symptons, frequency of visits or specific trens that allow them to better track diseases.

Mark Dredze and Michael J. Paul, computer scientist at Johns Hopkins, study map of flu outbreaks in the United States yielded by Twitter information.

A research team at Johns Hopkins University developed a programme called TwitterHose, which allows them download approximately 1% of tweets in one hour at random, giving the researcher a nice cross section of participants.  Others were paid to sift through tweets and flag anything that mentions the specific disease being tracked.  The researchers then used location-based data to figure out where the users report being sick, giving the Center for Disease Control a predicted flu outbreak.

Clayton discusses how in today’s business world, we’re not looking at whether processing big data is a possibility, instead were determining how quickly and cost-effectively big data can be processed on mobile devices.  Big data is now in one place and processed in real time due to search capabilities, cloud computing and the upgraded processing speed of most mobile devices.  This has created lower costs, which allows startups to access these capabilities and pay as they go.

Most companies are trying to assess how much value big data brings to their organisation, but it’s crucial to have a set of rules if you decided to utilize big data.  Clayton has created a list of five things you should ask yourself as you get started:

1.  Ask your audience:  This is a pretty obvious one, but it’s necessary if you want the most accurate utility in your category.  You can use big data to better understand the patterns of your customers at an individual level (i.e. trends, market, competition, behaviour, interactions between people).  This will allow you to better predict purchasing patterns.

2.  Track and record:  Records are crucial in the utilization of big data.  It is an extremely complicated process, but recently the cost has become more affordable for smaller businesses.  You never know when certain groups of older data sets paired with new data will give you valuable insights.  Even if you think it’s pointless, track it, store it and save it for a rainy day.

3.  Think globally, act locally:  You want a data set that has a broad, global measurement, but can also be broken down and applied to individual markets to create value.  The Weather Company does this brilliantly by using global weather data to predict retail patterns in distinct areas of the US.  If the data says a temperature high of 15 degrees celsius, sales for shorts will rise in Chicago, IL and sales for jackets will rise in Phoenix, AZ.  This type of data use helps to shape messaging on our properties more effectively for both consumers and advertisers.

4.  Location is the key:  If your city, region or country allows you to track user’s location, do it.  Location is a great way to observe consumer behaviour and it can provide a plethora of marketing and advertising solutions for you.

5.  Keep transparency in mind:  As more and more companies are starting to utilize big data, big problems can come along with it.  Transparency and openness (especially to your lawyer) may save you in the long run, and instead of spending 15 years duking it out in court, you may be able to avoid mishaps and lawsuits as long as you are honest and ethical about your big data use.  Follow the golden rule of “do unto others as they would do unto you”.

How does “big data” apply to mobile applications?

Clayton says that big data is responsible for more accurate placement of cell phone towers, which in turn allows the basic applications and utilities we use on our smart phones to provide more materially accurate information.  The Waze traffic app allows users to crowdsource traffic and find a quick alternative route.  The result is a faster, more accurate phone, making it easier to use.  And nothing is more important in the mobile world then the user experience.  It also creates a new wave of economic data being generated that can be collected, analysed and used in creating new solutions.

In terms of mobile applications, it’s more important for companies to leverage big data as an integrated part of an overall CRM strategy and examine how mobile analytics can co-exists with customer data warehouses.  Linking third-party consumer data will give marketers a more holistic view of their targeted customers and allow them to reach their audience more effectively.

Hundreds of people are probably purchasing a product or service on their smartphone as you read this.  The more efficiently the phone operates and the more convenient and accurate the information is on the phone, the better the experience.  Big data enables our world to be more personal, local and social and it has the potential to be the greatest innovation for the mobile industry since the launch of the iPhone.