What is Big Data? Explained Using Examples & Applications

June 9, 2021 0 By admin
What is Big Data

Ever wondered how virtual personal assistants like Siri and Google Assistant gives you the right answers to your questions? If you ask them “What is the weather today ?”, it tracks your location, time, season and weather details, all by analyzing various data to give you an answer. 

The same goes for E-commerce websites like Amazon and Walmart. In the morning you searched for ‘pillow covers’ on the website. These websites track your user behaviour data such as the type of products you are searching and they recommend similar products for you to buy. That is why, you see the advertisement of pillow covers on your Google pages, social media and almost anywhere online. 

You might wonder how the secret convo between you and your husband is being known by Google and Facebook. There is no mystery behind this – it is all data analysis in action!

Yes, the data is the king here. And all these tools do is analysing multiple data to derive an answer or insight which will help you in multiple facets of decision making. By analysing data, potential decisions can be made in your business, lifestyle, health and many more, and this is what we call ‘Big Data Analysis’.

What is Big Data?

The term ‘Big Data’ means the large and complex volume of data (structured, semi-structured and non-structured) that is difficult to process using conventional methods. These data are generated, collected and processed by organisations to derive important information that will help them in decision making. The importance of Big Data is not in the volume of data, but in what we can do with these data. 

For example, we can find the root causes of failures and issues happening in your organization using Big Data. You can calculate the risks of starting a new project in minutes. You can also prevent fraudulent activities in your organization before it costs you a large fortune. All these are done by analysing the large volume of data which results in a meaningful conclusion. 

History & Advent of Big Data

The term ‘Big Data’ was coined for the first time in 2005 by Roger Mougalas from O’Reilly Media. However, the quest to analyse the data has been there for a long time. Way back in 1663, Joh Graunt analysed a large volume of data to learn about bubonic plaque, which was haunting Europe. He analysed the rate of mortality in London due to bubonic plaque to raise awareness. Graunt is said to be the first person who used statistical data analysis which is the basis of Big Data. 

In 1889, Herman Hollerith invented a computing system to organize census data, which is regarded as the beginning of modern data. In 1937, when Franklin D Roosevelt passed the Social Security Act in the United States of America, the government was in the need to track millions of Americans.  They contacted IBM to develop a punch card reading system, to analyse this extensive data.

The first data processing machine named ‘ Colossus’ was developed by the British to decipher Nazi codes in World War II. It analysed 5000 characters per second which reduced their workload to few days. 

In 2005, Yahoo created open-source Hadoop which is used by millions of businesses today to analyse a large volume of data. Big Data is ever-growing at a constant rate. 

Examples & Applications of Big Data

Where there is a huge amount of data, Big Data can be applied to derive meaningful insights. Let’s see how Big Data can be used in various sectors like healthcare to media, so as to get a fair idea of the usage of Big Data.

Understand Your Customers

Nowadays business is all about data analysis, and Big Data has been serving as a major milestone to understand the behaviours and interest of your customers. The data for customer analysis can be obtained from social media, browser logs etc, and these data are analysed to get a clear idea about your customers. Using this analysis using Big Data you can take an informed decision about your new product launch and predict the bestseller in your upcoming product range. 


Big Data is changing the face of politics. An incident to be noted is the second win of former American president Obama where the team used Big Data analytics to better understand the audience and thereby to take action to appeal to them. 

In the 2014 general election in India, the BJP party used Big Data to develop data-driven political campaigns and devised the best strategies to win the votes. India being the biggest democracy in the world, made use of Big Data to micro-target political campaigns to target one of the largest populations. Big Data can be used by politicians all over the world to predict big events such as elections. 


The Healthcare sector has a huge amount of data that can be used to enhance research and to gain meaningful insights about patients. The data can be organized from lab reports, pathology images and clinical notes, which helps healthcare practitioners to devise a personalized treatment plan. 

Big Data can also be used to detect the early onset of diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. A hospital named Beth Isreal used millions of data collected from the cell phone app to administer evidence-based medicine for patients. The University of Florida used public health data to analyse the spread of chronic health conditions. Big Data can also be used for new drug discovery and to provide a personalized healthcare experience for the patients. 

Media & Entertainment

Do you know that consumer behavioural data can be used to create specific contents for each target audience? The music recommendations you receive from Spotify is not a mere coincidence. Spotify uses Hadoop Big Data Analytics to analyse your preferences and behaviour, and this gives informed music recommendations. 

Be it Kindle books, Amazon Prime, Netflix or YouTube, all make use of Big Data to give you the ultimate entertainment experience. Big Data measures the performance of each content and recommends it to each user by analysing the individual preferences.


Ever searched for a YouTube tutorial about a particular subject and received an online ad from an organization offering course on the same subject? It is one of the applications of Big Data. For example, an Australian University named the University of Tasmania developed a Learning Management System (LMS) that tracks when a student logged into the system, the time spent and monitors the progress of the student over time. 

Big Data can be used to measure the performance of students, teachers and even the newly introduced course so as to make informed decisions. Education institutes can use Big Data to get insights about student outcome thereby reducing the number of dropouts. In the coming years, the educational industry can be revolutionized using Big Data.  

Wrap Up

It is not just businesses, the government has also started using Big Data for the greater advantage. Over the past few centuries, Big Data has taken up a greater momentum and utilized it to solve issues in various sectors. Although some major downsides like data privacy are questioned, the benefits of Big Data has to be encouraged. It is all about how we use a particular technology and Big Data is predicted to grow in all sectors of society.