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23 Examples of Big Data

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Big data is information that is too large to store and process on a single machine. This is associated with cloud platforms that allow a large number of machines to be used as a single resource. The following are hypothetical examples of big data.


A medical study based on streaming data from medical devices attached to patients such that terabytes of data are generated each day.


An energy company manages a fleet of millions of solar modules remotely. The modules report efficiency data hourly that is analyzed to schedule maintenance and predict power output.

Market Data

An analyst at a hedge fund develops a trading strategy and backtests it against finely grained market data going back decades.

Artificial Intelligence

An artificial intelligence uses billions of public images from social media to learn to identify objects, people and emotions.


A city automatically secures thousands of doors, elevators and transportation equipment in response to an earthquake warning. For example, an earthquake warning that gives 12 seconds advance notice allows doors to open automatically to prevent them from becoming jammed and preventing escape from fire if the door frame twists out of shape.


Cloud infrastructure that is used to monitor electromagnetic radiation for signs of transmissions from civilizations on other planets.


A retail company monitors behavior in stores to gain insights into marketing such as the effectiveness of in-store displays. For example, the retailer might discover that 98% of customers who look at a particular coffee product don't buy it.


A study correlates historical air quality readings at different sites with the incidence of various diseases affecting populations who live near each reading.


A logistics company looks at shrinkage including packages that were lost in transit. The company examines records for billions of packages and other records such as the employees and partners who handled each shipment at different points. They discover that five employees who often work the same shift are associated with shrinkage of 5600% greater than average. They set up an investigation to see if this is just a coincidence.


An engineering team wants to improve their aircraft engines to have the best safety and operational record of any product on the market. They analyze billions of hours of operational and diagnostic data to look for weaknesses in their current design.


A digital advertising engine analyses billions of content items to match ads to content that suits them.

Customer Service

A small electronics manufacturer constantly scans ecommerce sites and social media for negative comments about their products. They often send unhappy customers a free replacement product if they have a legitimate concern. They find that this greatly boosts their product ratings as customers who have written a bad review often change the review after receiving a free replacement. On average, they help two unhappy customers a day but to find these customers requires scanning millions of social media and ecommerce posts.

Revenue Management

An airline uses thousands of variables to price seat inventory based on what they know about competition, demand and customer price sensitives.

Project Management

A project validates its risk management and planning by looking at the results of similar projects in a massive global project database. For example, project estimates can be validated with reference class forecasting.


A search engine ingests millions of new web pages each day to assess their quality, reputation, usefulness and context.

Social Media

A social media platform that processes billions of posts a week.


A government uses artificial intelligence and massive collections of submitted tax data and publicly available details about people and corporations to find patterns that often lead to a lucrative audit. For example, mid-sized companies that expense business trips to tax havens may be a pattern that pops out of the data.


A school system provides all students with a knowledge tool that includes the content of millions of books including textbooks with a search function.


A fruit company performs automated tests on a billion apples a year. They match this to market data to route the best apples to the markets where they will command their best price. The algorithm allows all apples to be used as apples with damaged skin are sold to juice makers.


A national weather service processes millions of hourly observations from thousands of remote weather stations to produce hourly forecasts of weather for hundreds of cities.


A massively multiplayer online game allows up to a million people a day to explore a virtual world, interact and create things.


A streaming media service allows millions of customers to access millions of hours of video and music content on demand.


A robot vacuum cleaner doesn't just learn from its own experiences but learns from the experiences of all robot vacuum cleaners deployed.
Overview: Big Data Examples
Information that is too large to store and process on a single machine.
Related Concepts
More about big data:
Big Data
Dark Data
Data Complexity
Data Dredging
Data Lineage
Data Mining
Data Proliferation
Data Science
Data Velocity
Data Veracity
Data Volume
Machine Data
Personally Identifiable Data
Reference Data
Small Data
Transactional Data
Unstructured Data
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