Big Data is more than a buzzword. After years of boosting from tech companies and enthusiasts, the bulk collection of data has thoroughly worked its way into the way technology is developed and implemented.
It has taken its place alongside electricity, the integrated circuit, and plastics as a core component of the way we build, care for each other and play games. But there's still a ways to go, that's for sure.
In this article, we'll look at a few of the most interesting ways that Big Data is affecting upcoming technologies, trying to tease out some relevant themes. In the process, we should see signs that it is maturing, and having the kind of real-world benefits we've been promised.
Making Industrial Maintenance Ultra-Efficient thanks to Big Data
Let's start with the most practical kind of implementation: on the factory floor.
Ensuring that machinery and components are in peak condition is a key element of any manufacturing process, and maintenance is a sizable chunk of total industrial budgets. As a result, any ways to lower operating costs is welcome. However, until recently, the options for reducing the cost of maintenance were relatively limited.
Big data holds out the possibility to change all of that, especially in conjunction with a suite of software tools called (Computerized Maintenance and Management Systems). These systems enable plant managers to create automated, data-driven systems to monitor the condition of machinery - and even offer the potential for "predictive maintenance".
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With these systems in place, it's theoretically possible to detect failures well before they become noticeable and to plan maintenance with a hitherto unheard-of degree of efficiency. And it also has other knock-on effects, helping staff to share knowledge about suppliers, working practices, and organizational structures. So big data could launch a new phase in the way we manufacture goods, helping to boost corporate profits.
VPNs and Data Systems are Finding a Way to Live Together
Big Data is also having a huge effect on the way we protect ourselves against digital threats. This isn't a surprise in some regards. For instance, many people will already use antivirus and antimalware tools that aggregate user data across the world, providing in-depth situational awareness and detecting emerging threats.
However, its role in the world of is less well known but could have equally major implications. The problem here is that VPNs and Big Data aren't natural allies. Many people use VPNs to limit the ability of third parties to detect their identity and track their online movements. This limits the potential for gathering data about online habits, which is a huge segment of the data market.
So, what's the solution? It's not a simple question, but it's important to note that VPNs themselves have a vested interest in promoting it, as well as providing anonymity. VPNs can use data analytics to safeguard their perimeters, manage data flows, and market their services - and responsible operators also recognize the benefits to society in general from allowing some degree of data collection in general.
The outcome could be a compromise, where some high-level VPNs allow customers to set different levels of data protection, allowing some degree of gathering - while others decline it entirely. In any case, we can be sure that those same VPNs will use Big Data more and more to refine their encryption, server routing, and authentication.
Creating a Healthcare Revolution
Moving to a completely different section of the economy, Big Data is having a well-publicized and profound impact on the way that healthcare is provided. And this is having effects on the kind of technology available to drug manufacturers and medical practitioners.
For example, mass data gathering has genetic researchers to deal with vast data sets of sequenced genomes. With millions of records from individuals across the world, researchers are pioneering personalized interventions for a host of conditions. When coupled with AI and bioinformatic tools, the data gathered is turbo-charging the way we create new treatments.
The same applies to patient tracking. By tracking individual behavior, researchers can get an incredibly detailed picture of what drives health issues, how people use medications, and how to care for them most effectively. New forms of sensors and apps have been multiplying in recent times, giving medical specialists an unprecedented level of awareness.
The way we organize and transport goods is also being revolutionized by the advent of Big Data, presenting completely new ways to maximize efficiency.
In the case of logistics, its major impact has concerned analysis. Using state of the art logistics analysis tools, manufacturers can map resource flows with pinpoint accuracy, allowing them to see when bottlenecks occur in their supply chains, or where waste is costing precious money.
Shipping companies and hauliers are using Big Data to understand how to ensure that every truck or vessel leaves with the optimal load, how to save fuel and maintenance costs - and how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Sensors connected to the Internet of Things can provide real-time feedback about fuel levels, engine performance, ship hull integrity - the kind of metrics that prevent accidents and keep vehicles on the road for longer. That's vital to keeping logistics costs manageable.
There are also logistics benefits for everyday customers. For instance, delivery companies are using data to streamline the all-important "", by ensuring that vehicles are available for pick-ups from depots whenever they are needed. Companies can use data streams from delivery staff to understand whether they are using their time efficiently and provide advice about parking, walking routes, break timings, and navigation. In this context, route optimization could be the most important advance - helping to ease the stress felt by delivery drivers, while serving customers far better.
Across the board, the movement of people and resources is becoming faster, more efficient, and less wasteful. The impact of Big Data has a lot to do with that, and its role is only going to become more central.