How Data is Changing the World as We Know It

Big data is very much an industry buzzword, a hot topic of digital marketing in 2014. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as ‘data sets that are too large and complex to manipulate or interrogate with standard methods or tools.’ Processing huge amounts of data has resulted in opportunity, and businesses everywhere are benefiting from this invaluable resource.

We're often talking about how big data is changing digital advertising for the better, but I want to look at how it’s effecting the world around us​. This blog post aims to show you the change big data is bringing to different industries, how it’s been instrumental to some major technological developments and is encouraging innovation.

How is data helping us protect ourselves from natural disaster and extreme weather?

Understory, a startup based in Boston has recently been awarded additional funding to implement their weather forecasting stations in the real world. The network of stations will operate at ground level and measure a multitude of weather conditions including wind, rain, hail, heat and pressure. The data collected from the sensors integrated with historical and forecasted weather events will generate datasets and actionable information in real-time. It is estimated that 10,000 people die each year from hurricanes and tropical storms, could Understory’s technology and data cut this number dramatically?

An Understory weather station in production (image via

How is data helping us to improve our health services?

Flatiron health, a big data company providing data to the health sector have just secured $130 million in new funding. This is great news for the medical health industry as data can massively affect the quality of healthcare we receive. Flatiron use a wide variety of medical data such as genomic data, patient outcomes and doctors notes allowing the current 500-1000 medical professionals who use it to gain a better understanding of previous outcomes and approaches. The extra funding will be used to acquire Altos Solutions which will allow doctors to enter and update patients’ medical records throughout the treatment process.

How is data helping us to preserve our environment?

Scientists at The University of Maryland have created the first high definition map of the world’s rainforests. The map shows changes in rainforest cover over the last 12 years allowing scientists to analyze changes in the world’s forest. Whether the changes are man-made or of natural causes, visualizing the information in this way shows scientists where action needs to be taken. The map was created from Landsat satellite images of the Earth’s surface from the U.S Geological Survey and the vast catalogue of Google Maps data.

Screenshot of the HD rainforest map- The areas of dense forestation appear in red while the areas of deforestation appearing in blue (Image courtesy of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory via
These are only a tiny segment of examples that allow us to scratch the surface of the big data boom. If you’re still struggling to put into perspective the scale of big data in 2014, get your mind around this stat we picked up from The Big Data Week Conference in May.
'Every 2 days we now collect the same amount of data as we did from the start of human life up until 2003'
There is evidently a mass of information out there and it’s exciting to see new inovations and tech springing up on a daily basis that use this data in a profound way to make meaningful changes in our environments and our daily lives. As the data counter continues to tick over, we look to these technical innovations to interpret the figures and, evolve the understanding and implementation of data analysis.