Big Data Use Cases across 11 industries

15 May

Big Data image attributed to big data. luckey_sun | Flickr via Creative Commons

According to a New Vantage Partners survey, 85% of Fortune 1000 companies have Big Data initiatives planned or in progress [1]. This underlines our own view that Big Data is an important topic for every business. However, for many of us Big Data already appears to be over-hyped. While you can always find a good article on what it is and why you should use it (check out our overview on Big Data) there appears to be more limited information on where it’s being applied.

With this in mind, Kube Networks decided to create our own list of Big Data Use Cases (from our range of ‘small data’ sources and tweets over the last 12 months) – to inform and hopefully inspire your business. What we found is that Big Data is being used in a variety of ways across a wide range of industries. We would welcome your comments on (or any additions to) our list.

Our case examples below, illustrate that Big Data  can help your business or organisation answer almost any question you care to ask in almost any industry you care to mention:

Big Data and Retail

Sears NEWPerhaps unsurprisingly, many of the examples we found relate to the Retail Industry. North American companies like the department store Sears or electronic goods chains The Sourceand Charlie Brown are making real-time decisions based on the dynamic processing of sales data using Big Data tools [1, 24]. For Sears this has enabled some very detailed decisions on pricing as demand changes at a hyper-local level. Sears no longer talk about national or regional pricing strategies; pricing is now personal (adapted for each customer). For The Source and Charlie Brown, real-time demand data is influencing which products appear more prominently on their shelves.

For others, like shoe company Meat Pack, they are using Big Data to trigger targeted promotions. They have built a mobile app called “Hijack” to detect when a customer enters a competitor’s store. At which time, they offer an interesting promotion – “a discount countdown is displayed – starting at 99% and ticking down by 1% every second until the customer enters the Meat Pack store” [7]. Grocery store Target use Big Data in a similar way, analysing historical purchases to discern who the customer is – even if they might be pregnant [23].

Big Data and Financial Services

WongaThe loan company Wonga have shown Big Data to be a better predictor of credit worthiness (using a broad range of sources, including social media) than traditional credit scoring techniques [10]. Meanwhile a recentWarwick Business School study illustrates another exciting application of Big Data. They proved a causal link between specific Google search terms and the stock market – volumes of searches were shown to accurately predict movements in share price [6]. There is a huge opportunity for Big Data within Financial Services, particularly if one recent survey of credit risk professionals is to be believed – 54% view the use of Big Data to better understand consumer needs as a top priority [17].

Big Data and Health & Welfare

23andme_logo_blueResearchers within 23andMe, the Genetic Testing company, are already crunching the Big Genetic Data of the 180, 000 people that added their DNA samples to their database last year. They hope to make health improvements for millions of people [11]. Meanwhile, organisations like Nike (through the data they are capturing around the Nike+ set of products) are now sitting atop potential insights on everything from heart performance to trainer wear [12].

Big Data and The Airline Industry

While airlines like Air New Zealand are using Big Data to better understand their marketing (and the impact of campaigns and social media on purchases) [25] others are using it to better predict when the plane will touch down –  a big problem with big costs. Interestingly, the pilot is not as reliable as “crunching” weather patterns, congestion patterns and other airport information [5].

Big Data and The Automotive Industry

FordFord have been using Big Data for some time in order to improve their internal processes and with “the rise of sensors linked to an Internet of things” Ford are now gearing up for some 25 gigabytes of data per hour for each of their new Ford Energi cars. They are already discussing how they can make this data ‘open’ to third party developers [22].

Big Data and Telecommunications

switching-mobile-phone-providers1A recent BBC article discusses the use of Big Data by Mobile phone companies to provide “customer link analysis”. Essentially, this determines “an individual customer’s influence among his or her peers, friends and community” with obvious implications for marketing and customer service [19].

Big Data and The Media 

Similar to Air New Zealand, Sky are using Big Data in order to understand exactly how their marketing is working across multiple channels [15]. They are not the only media company switched on to Big Data, Guardian through their Open Platform have for some time been sharing their data to anyone and everyone that might use it or better still generate new insight from it.

Big Data and Food & Drink

cheesecake-factoryThe US restaurant chain, The Cheesecake Factory use Big Data to listen to conversations around their food – what are diners saying about their meatballs, mustard or indeed their cheesecake? The authors of this article note that this approach not only provides customer insight but could help prevent the next horse meat scandal [20].

Big Data and Sports Organisations

Big Data surely offers huge opportunities within different sports and around sporting events, as evidenced by the type of insight generated through monitoring the Twitter sentiment during a game between Manchester United and Chelsea [8].

Big Data and Government

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe UK Government are aware of the Big Data opportunity. Conservative think tank the Policy Exchange believes the public sector could save £33bn through wider and better use of big data analytics [18]. The City of Chicago is using Big Data to understand where the next garbage van might be stolen. They have already found a link between streetlight outages and the theft of their garbage trucks [4].

Big Data and Security Agencies

IMB-Piracy-Map-SomaliaPerhaps unsurprisingly the US Army is using Big Data to predict the future priorities around Defense [13]. They are not alone, other organisations including the United Nations are listening to local communities in war torn areas, such as Syria to identify ceasefire violations within a few minutes of them taking place  [9]. Meanwhile, The International Maritime Bureau have reported a 54% drop in piracy incidents during the first half of 2012 compared to the same period the year before thanks to the Big Data sharing by government and law enforcement that is preventing piracy before it happens [14]. One particular agency’s use of Big Data raises concerns. It is known that the CIA will collect and keep all its data in a $600 million Amazon cloud “to enable the intelligence agency – to connect the dots – in some unforeseen way” [21]. What exactly they are collecting is not known.

Issues raised by Big Data Uses 

It’s not just the CIA that creates concerns for freedom of speech advocates (and the wider population).

While Target now knows more about their customers through analysing their wider shopping habits, they also “knew about a teenage girl’s pregnancy before she could break the news to her own father”. An incident which asked questions around the legality of this type of data analysis [26]. Similarly, TomTom, the GPS manufacturer had provided Big Data to the Dutch police in order to set more efficient speed traps – leading to an embarrassing public apology [26]. Finally, Google was hit “with a $22.5 million fine for embedding software that bypassed privacy settings of millions of Apple devices” collecting data that  helped Google to target their adverts more effectively.

What does all of this tell us…

There are many flavours of Big Data and it would appear a growing range of use cases from well-known organisations that are now making informed decisions, building new customer, market and product insight and also addressing key challenges within their industry. Our list of use cases is undoubtedly the very ‘tip of the ice-berg’.

If Big Data can work for these organisations it can work for yours. The tools and technologies are no longer expensive nor particularly complex to use. However, whatever you do with Big Data you must remember to use it responsibly and always with the best interests of your customers in mind (and well within the realms of the law).

We hope that you have found these examples interesting and perhaps even inspiring. Please let us know in the comments of other Big Data use cases you are aware of or otherwise give your views in the usual way.

Source: Kube Networks –



[1] Digital Cream London (2013) Big Data Trends Briefing. e-Consultancy. [Online]. Available from here  [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[2] De Goes, J (2013) So What If You Have Big Data? Without Data-Driven Processes And Products, It’s Useless. Techcrunch. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[3] Wolfram, S (2013) Data Science of the Facebook World. Stephen Wolfram Blog. [Online]. Available from here  [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[4] Wheatley, M (2013) Chicago’s Cleaning Up the Streets with Big Data. Silicon Angle Web site. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[5] Jedras, J (2013) The big data battle in your organization is HiPPOs vs. Geeks. it World Canada. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[6] Pappas, S (2013) New Study Says You Can Predict The Stock Market With Google! Business Insider. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[7] Millman, N (2013) Every business is a digital business. Guardian Web site. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[8] Murdoch, J (2013) How does big data add to the experience of watching football? Guardian Blog. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[9] Marks, J (2013) Big Data Can Help Prevent Conflicts. Mashable Web site. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[10] Oram, P (2013) Does big data herald the end of consumer unpredictability? Fresh Networks Web site. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[11] Trim, H (2013) 23andMe and the tension between Big Data and privacy in healthcare. Fresh Networks Web site. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[12] Oram, P (2013) Would you like to make money from the personal data you share online? Fresh Networks Web site. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[13] Lim, D (2013) Can Twitter Predict the Future? Pentagon Says Maybe. Mashable Web site. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[14] Carlson, N & Love, D (2013) How To Fight Pirates (With Big Data). Business Insider Web site. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[15] Jenner, G (2012) How attribution data has informed the affiliate channel. Smart Insights Web site. [Online]. Available from here  [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[16] Ledbetter, M (2012) Go Big or Go Home: How Big Data Can Bring Big Sales. Retail info systems Web site. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[17] Rhodes, M (2012) Europe’s Bankers say understanding customer social media data is top 2013 priority. Fresh Networks Web site. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[18] Burn- Murdoch, J (2012) Government must improve big data strategy to realise savings of £33bn. Guardian Web site. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[19] Kent, P (2012) Viewpoint: Big data and big analytics means better business. BBC Web site. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[20] Farr, C (2013) IBM uses ‘big data’ tech to keep track of your meatballs. Venturebeat Web site. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[21] Grundvig, J (2013) Making Big Data Small (and Accessible): Interview With SiSense CEO Amit Bendov. Huffington Post. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[22] Kolakowski, N (2013) How Ford Uses Big Data to Run More Smoothly. Slashdot. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[23] Duhigg, C (2012) How Companies Learn Your Secrets. The New York Times. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[24] King, R (2012) How Sears Uses Big Data to Get a Handle on Pricing. CIO Journal. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[25] Moth, D (2013) How Air New Zealand used tag management for attribution. Econsultancy. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

[26] Boardman, A (2013) Do brands need a Big Data Ethicist?. Fresh Networks Web site. [Online]. Available from here [Accessed on: 01/05/13]

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