Big data refers to huge data sets that are orders of magnitude larger (volume); more diverse, including structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data (variety); and arriving faster (velocity) than you or your organization has had to deal with before. This flood of data is generated by connected devices—from PCs and smart phones to sensors such as RFID readers and traffic cams. Plus, it’s heterogeneous and comes in many formats, including text, document, image, video, and more. The real value of big data is in the insights it produces when analyzed—discovered patterns, derived meaning, indicators for decisions, and ultimately the ability to respond to the world with greater intelligence. Big data analytics is a set of advanced technologies designed to work with large volumes of heterogeneous data. It uses sophisticated quantitative methods such as machine learning, neural networks, robotics, computational mathematics, and artificial intelligence to explore the data and to discover inter-relationships and patterns.

But how can big data be used in everyday life? Is it something targeted to big companies or even small and medium businesses take advantage of them? It is a common fact that patterns are everywhere around us. Locating patterns in large amount of data can help make meaningful assumptions in everyday life. The most compelling example is the one related to in store traffic and consumer analysis models. Big data is one of the most secure ways for a businessman to define the strategies needed in order to succeed in increasing annual turnover which results in higher profits. Inevitably, the obvious question arouses: how can big data be extracted so that consumer behavior can be studied and analyzed? Recently, new technologies have been introduced in this specific area. For instance, Apple Inc has presented the brand new ibeacon technology through which it is possible to extract this kind of data, in a secure, direct and high-speed way so that it can be used for later analysis and development.

But what is ibeacon and how can it change our everyday life?

The one-sentence summary is that you can think of iBeacon as like GPS for indoor locations, your phone able to pick up the iBeacon transmissions and work out where it is with a high degree of accuracy. You could, for example, drive into an iBeacon-equipped underground parking garage, park your car there and then have an iPhone app direct you back to your exact parking space when you’re done shopping. But the positioning side of things is really only half the story. The other half is that what gets triggered in your phone can be much more than a simple ‘You are here’ signal: it can be pretty much anything at all. So, you could be walking past a store and receive a discount coupon on your phone valid for that day.  Of course, it would be pretty annoying to get spammed by random offers as you’re walking down the street, but you’ll need to be running a corresponding app to trigger the offer. Things get a step more interesting with personalised offers. If you’re a member of that store’s loyalty program, it could know what you usually buy there and offer a discount tailored specifically to your tastes. Or a department store might know you’re a gadget addict and alert you to the arrival of the latest new toy, the app offering to direct you through the store to the exact location of the gizmo. When you get there, it may offer to show you a video on your phone of the device in use. Let’s get a little more sophisticated. You may be standing in a clothes store looking at suits. The system notes that you’ve been stood in front of one particular display for a couple of minutes, so it might offer to show you what the suit would look like on you. It directs you to what appears to be a mirror, which photographs you and then overlays an image of the suit on your photo. It offers to show you other colors and styles. You like the suit and decide to buy it. The entire transaction is tracked and analyzed by the ibeacon technology.

From all the above it is more than obvious that through ibeacon one can extract big data without absolutely any user interaction. The entire system is triggered automatically and data are stored silently into remote web servers for further analysis. Science fiction or just state of the art technology? Time will tell…