The discussion about “big data” always evolves around the massive volume of data available. You cast a wide net into this data lake, and get wide results.
Obviously this way you learn a lot about overall trends and developments, and you are able to develop predictive analyses based upon that. With that you are able to adjust your strategy into a direction that is expected to be the most beneficial. You can look at market trends and buying behaviours, you can look at product developments, you can look at channel evolutions, you can actually look at pretty much anything and make informed decisions.
Such big data research can be used to review data from the past in order to create reports, it can be used to predict how specific cases will develop, and when implemented rigorously it can even be prescriptive as to what the recommended course of action needs to be.
One cool dimension of big data is the fact that you can narrow things down to an individual basis. Instead of getting some wide results that apply to a group, you are also able to get some very narrow results that can influence decisions on a personal level. Even better, you can use information that applies to a group, and further focus that data to be specific for a particular individual.
This type of analysis is especially useful when you need to make decisions about e.g. mortgages, insurance, healthcare, etc. Complex topics, with a lot of statistical data, but effectively only useful at an individual level if you are able to correlate the data to your specific situation.
After all, as an investor you are not interested in the average yield of an average portfolio, you want to analyse the very specific mix of funds and look at what that does for you.
And as a patient you are not interested in the average mortality rate for a disease, you want to know whether one condition combined with another, along with the use of a specific set of prescriptions, will actually impact you.
One application in the market for example compares your specific characteristics of your heart condition with a database of such reports from patients from around the globe. By using these comparisons your doctor can pretty much predict whether you’re going to have a failure of some sort in the foreseeable future. Good information for you, but possibly also for your employer if he needs to decide whether to transfer you to a remote location for an extended period of time.
Looking at it this way, big data is not some esoteric intangible concept that generates only bigger data that can be used to manage trends. It is actually also a tool that can provide expert insights in in individual situations, so that you can make informed decisions about your personal situation.