Analytics for the Greater Good

Think that Big Data only means big money? Think again.

Take a look at the companies most effectively using Big Data and analytics to make billions of dollars: Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, and Google top the list. Make no mistake: these behemoths lead the pack. In the process, they have made countless employees and shareholders very wealthy individuals. For instance, take a look at Google’s remarkable run:

To say that Big Data can only equate to big money, however, would be a vast oversimplification. Increasingly, some of the brightest minds are deciding to concentrate their efforts on humanitarian goals overly purely financial ones. Perhaps most famously, when data scientist extraordinaire Jeffrey Hammerbacher left Facebook to found Cloudera four years ago he said, “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.” (Watch a fascinating interview with him here.)

The Uses of Big Data Are Virtually Unlimited

Hammerbacher’s words echoed throughout the business world. Fortunately, he’s not alone in his crusade to not only use data and analysis to well, but to do good.

Big agriculture companies such as Monsanto and DuPont provide data-analysis tools that help farmers increase their yields. This allows them to feed a growing world population. In fact, several agribusiness-led initiatives are “harness[ing] the bits and bytes of data that increasingly are being used in agriculture worldwide to boost efficiency and profits while simultaneously lowering the environmental impact of agriculture.”

Although its Flu Trends tool exposed the limits of Big Data, Google/Alphabet realizes that data can be an effective tool against the spread of infectious diseases. To this end, the company is working with UNICEF to combat the Zika virus before it reaches epidemic promotions. Together, the two organizations are attempting to identify potential outbreaks via extensive data analysis.

And there are more pragmatic applications. As I wrote in Too Big to Ignore, new types of apps and vehicle data are dramatically improving road safety, lowering individual insurance rates in some cases, and helping the environment. Thanks to advances in telemetry and data-gathering techniques, there’s no shortage of ways to easily and reliably collect traffic and driver data. Sensors in cars and roads can report all kinds of information to car-insurance companies, governments, and other organizations. Tech-savvy companies are also enabling direct data collection from onboard diagnostics (OBD) ports and third-party devices. An example includes the Geotab GO7.

Simon Says: Big Data Means More than Big Money

Progressive organizations will use Big Data and analytics to address an increasing variety of social, health, and transportation problems.

Lest you think that these types of things will come in the distant future, think again. Trucking fleets already employ this technology and the results can be startling. They include improved driver behavior, reduced vehicle emissions, superior and accident identification. Why (dangerously) check your smartphone while driving for weather or emergency alerts when your car can notify you of these events?

To be sure, plenty of companies will continue to rake in the cash based exclusively on selling ads and monetizing user information. There’s also no doubt, however, that progressive organizations will use Big Data and analytics to address an increasing variety of social, health, and transportation problems. Geotab is a perfect example.

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This post is brought to you by Geotab Fleet Management Solutions. The opinions expressed here are my own. To learn more about best practices for improving business productivity, safety, and compliance, visit Geotab’s blog.

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