Big data at work: 12 stories about reinvention

big data magnifying glass

Big data has become something of a buzzword. Everybody talks about it, but its impact can be elusive. How is big data really changing the way companies and other organizations function? These 12 stories highlight that transformation: from helping health insurers keep better tabs on patients, to changing how cars are made, to easing traffic congestion on busy freeways. These case studies show big data at work.


Getty Images

Getty Images

We’ve got the medicine to treat lots of ailments — the challenge is getting doctors and patients to focus on the the one or two intervention programs that would make a real difference to a person’s health. Aetna is using big data to try to achieve that.

–From How Aetna is using big data to improve patient health


Getty Images

Getty Images

When most people think about how cars are built, they think about assembly lines and manufacturing robots. But at Ford, big data is impacting the parts and features of those cars before they’re ever part of a design file.

–From How data is changing the car game at Ford

Presidential campaigns

Getty Images

Getty Images

Many people use Facebook to update their status, share photos, and “like” content. The Obama presidential campaign used all that data on the social network to not just find voters but to assemble an army of volunteers.

–From How Obama’s data scientists built a volunteer army on Facebook

Highway traffic



Anyone who has driven in Los Angeles has experienced the traffic nightmare. The goverment is using big data to keep traffic moving on the I-10 and I-110 freeways for drivers who are willing to pay for less congestion.

–From Hey, Los Angeles, Xerox thinks it can clear traffic on I-10

Pro basketball


Pro sports teams collect vast amounts of data, yet they’re struggling to make sense of it. Are there two or three things that will guarantee teams a win or at least tip the scale in their favor? That’s Krossover’s premise.

–From How to make your mark in professional basketball at 5? 9?


ipod 8gb


More than a decade ago, the music metadata company Gracenote received some cryptic advice from Apple to buy more servers. It did, Apple launched iTunes and the iPod, and Gracenote became a metadata empire.

–From Gracenote co-founder on ‘iPod day’ and better music through data

Social networking

Ghosh’s diagram of LinkedIn’s data architecture, with Hadoop plans laid out

Ghosh’s diagram of LinkedIn’s data architecture, with Hadoop plans laid out

Five years ago, LinkedIn was a shell of the technology company. Today, it’s an engineering powerhouse. Here’s how it got there.

–From How and why LinkedIn is becoming an engineering powerhouse


Metlife balloon

The insurance industry hasn’t exactly been a beacon of technological innovation. But MetLife has bet $300 million on a new system that for the first time puts everything it knows about its customers in one place.

–From The promise of better data has MetLife investing $300M in new tech


How RUWT might work on the TV.

How RUWT might work on the TV.

For sports fans, keeping up with what’s on TV is a near impossibility. On many nights there are hundreds of events spread across 8,000-plus channels. One app tracks all that sports and rates games based on how exciting the action is — so you know what to tune into.

–From How one sports geek wants to save cable TV with data

Social change


One of India’s highest-rated TV shows aggregates and analyzes the millions of messages it receives from viewers on controversial issues like female feticide, caste discrimination and child abuse — and uses that data to push for political change.

–From How India’s favorite TV show uses data to change the world

Prescription drugs



While drug prices tend to dominate discussions about prescription drugs, we shouldn’t overlook the economic problems caused by abuse and misuse. One company is using sophisticated models to detect fraud and predict when people will stop taking medications on time.

–From Not taking your medication, or taking waaay too much? The data knows…



MailChimp’s core business is email — it sends about 35 billion emails a year on behalf of roughly 3 million users. But it’s what the company is doing with the data from all those emails that may represent its future.

–From How MailChimp learned to treat data like orange juice and rethink email in the process

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