In my last post, I talked about big data blunders in the news. Today’s post is its opposite. It’s only fair to follow up that negative post with some positive stories about big data projects that offer real benefits to society.
There are many, many examples of big data being used for good in the world, but I’m sharing just a few recent favorites I’ve come across. These examples show how big data is being used to improve the world around us in big and small ways.
Big data predicts global conflicts: A researcher from Georgetown University has designed an open source tool that stores global event data and news stories since 1979. Predictive models applied to this data can detect when and where new conflicts might arise.
Big data for cancer research: The Project Data Sphere initiative is an open data project that combines clincal trial data from multiple pharmaceutical companies to give researchers more insight into different therapies. More than 10 companies are expected to participate, with a focus on open collaboration and discovering new cancer treatments.
Big data illuminates our understanding of the world: The Kaggle contest site has launched a new competition to analyze data from the ATLAS Experiment. The goal is to find new methods to identify the presence of Higgs Boson particles in millions of simulated collisions. You don’t have to be a particle physicist to play along … just an analyst with an idea or two.
Big data assists with disaster recovery: In the Philippines, relief workers for the International Organization for Migration combined data from hundreds of displacement sites with public data sources, including social media data, to visualize and prioritize where to send assistance and aid. As part of the project, text analyses of tweets indicated where aid was needed, what sites already had relief workers, and what specific items were needed most.
Big data eradicates pests: Scientists at Brigham Young University are simulating the locations of tsetse flies to help control efforts to eradicate the pests. Meanwhile, city officials in Chicago are using big data to prioritize efforts for exterminating rats in the city. Similar projects could be used to stop the spread of disease carrying creatures around the world.
A common thread you’ll notice in these stories is the use of open data or public data sources, which is where I see a lot of potential in the use of big data. Whether it’s telecom companies combing customer data to create more targeted offers or pharmaceutical companies combining data to develop cancer drugs faster, the point is that we can all see the benefits when data is shared responsibly.
What are your favorite stories about big data or open data being used to benefit society?