For better or worse, I can think of few companies that “do” Big Data better than Google.
Case in point: the company’s oft-cited ability to predict the flu better than the CDC. Its interesting to note, though, that Google Flu recently failed to provide accurate estimates. From a Nature.com article:
When influenza hit early and hard in the United States this year, it quietly claimed an unacknowledged victim: one of the cutting-edge techniques being used to monitor the outbreak. A comparison with traditional surveillance data showed that Google Flu Trends, which estimates prevalence from flu-related Internet searches, had drastically overestimated peak flu levels. The glitch is no more than a temporary setback for a promising strategy, experts say, and Google is sure to refine its algorithms. But as flu-tracking techniques based on mining of web data and on social media proliferate, the episode is a reminder that they will complement, but not substitute for, traditional epidemiological surveillance networks.
For those who think that Big Data knows all, we’re not there yet–and we may never yet there. Big Data is a club in the bag; it is not omniscient. Knowing much should never be confused with knowing all.
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