5 Surprising Ways Data Can Be Used

Data provides us with the information we need to make decisions in our professional and personal lives. While some applications are pretty obvious, you may be surprised by these seven ways data can be used to make your life more convenient, cost-effective and socially responsible.
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Data provides us with the information we need to make decisions in our professional and personal lives. While some applications are pretty obvious, you may be surprised by these seven ways data can be used to make your life more convenient, cost-effective and socially responsible.

1. Accurate Customer Connections
In order to get to know your customers better so you can not only provide the products and services they want, but so you plan the most effective content to reach them, Big Data is increasingly the source to make those accurate customer connections. As a 2013 Wired article explained, it is not always easy to do this: "Most everyone knows that analytics are only as good as the data they are built upon, but organizational roadblocks and technology limitations have left many brands struggling to feed their analytics with quality data. They usually lack the step-by-step blueprint of the customer experience that can reveal critical behavioral insights. As a result, their analytics are often misleading, incomplete or inaccessible."

My friends at Searchmetrics (a company I use and love) are trying to change this for businesses who want to form the most accurate customer connections they can for their investment in SEO and content marketing. Their recently launched suite allows customers like myself to analyze their content efforts. I now have visibility of everything I'm doing, my competitors are doing and the general web is doing. I can then break down everything and start ranking online for every keyword that I want to. They have made it 10x easier for me to do my job wit data. They break down pay for performance for content marketing.

2. Enhanced Patient Care
A white paper from Healthcare IT News noted the value Big Data now plays in improving patient outcomes while controlling healthcare provision costs. Similarly, Humana also provided examples of how this type of data can help the healthcare industry: "For example, your doctor might access a database of EKGs to match one patient's abnormality with others, and see what treatment was most effective in similar cases. Or, a digital warehouse of drug interactions could compare data from other patients to avoid harmful interactions and suggest more effective drug treatments... Doctors can diagnose faster, prescribe even more effectively, and prevent complications."

Companies like POC Medical Systems are focused on using this type of data to do just that, especially for those patients who can benefit from a more timely response that will then reduce the number of diagnostic tests and doctor visits they have to make.

The result is certain cancers, such as breast cancer, can be detected at the earliest stages so that care can be administered immediately and the risk greatly reduced. In turn, these patients can enjoy a greater quality of life without having significant healthcare costs or stress over the care they receive.

3. Trend Prediction
Being able to predict the future seems like something more for the fantasy books than reality, especially when it comes to the often volatile global business environment and the unpredictable consumer. As data expert and author Bernard Marr explained in a blog post for IBM, "The ability to digitally measure and record everything we do, and analyze it for improvements, is providing new answers to everything from curing cancer to the fight against international terrorism. And in business, too, it's a game changer like nothing we've seen before. No matter what size a company is, if it isn't leveraging data for a competitive edge (as 70 percent are, or are planning to) it is in danger of being left behind."

Google is doing its part in helping people predict trends and use Big Data in different ways to predict what will happen in the near future. Its Google Trends application offers a way to do this by allowing you to search a keyword and then receive all the top-related search terms and data related to that keyword. This is a way to create new insights and determine how today's behaviors will shift tomorrow for better strategies and ideas to address those trends before the competition figures them out.

4. Energy-Efficiency

Most of us flip a switch to alter our heating and cooling systems without a second thought of the real implications of using more energy. A 2013 New York Times article pointed to consumers using less energy when they are more informed about how much energy they are using.

The article noted, "Giving the consumer access to aggregated data relevant to the devices using energy (in real-time and over time) would be a useful step to promote a positive behavioral change. When we can see how much energy the air conditioner uses, surely we would turn up the thermostat sometimes. When consumers are empowered with data, they tend to consume less energy, and feel they have more control of their overall consumption."

Helping consumers are companies like Truveon, which uses available data about energy use, appliances, and overall performance to help homeowners better understand their energy habits and how these are impacting their monthly bill as well as the environment. This information can then be use to adjust habits to become more energy-efficient.

5. Health & Wellness Habits
Just like some state regulations have called for nutritional information on all restaurant offerings in the hopes that seeing the calories, fat, sodium content and more will adjust habits, other types of big data applications are emerging for consumers to better understand how their daily eating and exercise (or lack of) habits are impacting their health status.

As one blog for Silicon Angle explained, information on everything from how far and fast we run to what we eat and whether or not we smoke is now being provided through apps and wearable technology to hold us more accountable and to provide the critical data to shows what good healthy habits can do for us. Numerous devices and fitness apps are now here to help us gauge and understand our heart rate, running style and intensity, changing how we look at our health and wellness.

Final Thoughts
Data does not lie (unless we manipulate it and then that does not provide any real benefit!). It tells us exactly how we are performing at nearly everything we do. Seeing the data often is enough motivation to put us on the path toward change, improvement, and enhanced performance.