Brennan Whitfield | Jul 19, 2022

After the New York Times heralded the arrival of big data over a decade ago, what was once little more than a buzzy concept now significantly impacts how we live and work. As of 2022, in fact, approximately 97 percent of businesses are investing in big data’s growing power, even as privacy advocates decry its potential pitfalls

As analyst and author Doug Laney put it, big data is defined by three V’s: volume, velocity and variety. There’s lots of it flowing in at great speeds from numerous sources. And its impact is immense, regardless of industry.

Big Data Examples and Applications

  • Marketing
  • Transportation
  • Government and public administration
  • Business
  • Healthcare
  • Cybersecurity

Big data has made once-holistic concepts, such as “what consumers want,” more measurable. It has facilitated inductive reasoning, a controversial data-first inversion of the scientific method. At many companies, it has ushered in a “culture of analytics” in which even non-tech employees both input data and have access to data-driven insights.

Perhaps most significantly, nearly every industry uses big data for future planning by predicting how people will live and what they’ll buy. Still, it’s not a crystal ball. Certain types of data sets, such as those that span decades or centuries (a.k.a. “long data”), have far more predictive power than a similar volume of data from only one year. And when it comes to foreseeing sudden cultural shifts, like the rise of smartphones, even the most sterling data has limitations.

For example, big data can be used to uncover hidden patterns and trends, which is especially helpful for companies that want to know more about their user and customer behaviors. These insights can help companies find new directions for innovation and provide competitive advantages by being early to offer products and services not yet widely available.

At its best, though, big data grounds and enhances human intuition.

These 22 companies are using big data to shape industries from marketing to cybersecurity.


Big Data in Marketing 

Location: Los Angeles, California 

Getting more information on customers is a great way to discover their desires and how to meet them. Centerfield analyzes customer data to uncover new insights into customer behavior, which influences the marketing and sales techniques it recommends to clients. The company is able to use this information to discover new customers that fit the same patterns as existing customers.


Location: San Mateo, California

At 3Q/DEPT, big data underpins strategies that blend search engine, social, mobile and video marketing. The in-house Decision Sciences team perfects the mix of marketing channels by studying data on transactions, consumer behavior and more, using multi-touch attribution. This big data-informed technique allows analysts to distinguish between effective and ineffective ad impressions on a micro level.


Location: Glendale, California 

With insight help from big data, DISQO offers products for measuring brand and customer experience. The company specializes in research and marketing lift (sales) efforts, providing API and optimization software for tracking key performance and outcome metrics. Over 125 marketing firms utilize DISQO research tools, while over 300 firms utilize its lift tools.


Location: Seattle, Washington 

Like Facebook and Google, adtech’s “duopoly,” Amazon got sucked into the advertising business by the sheer amount of consumer data at its disposal. Since its founding in 1994, the company has collected reams of information on what millions of people buy, where those purchases are delivered and which credit cards they use. In recent years, Amazon has begun offering more and more companies — including marketing companies — access to its self-service ad portal, where they can buy ad campaigns and target them to ultra-specific demographics, including past purchasers.


Location: New York, New York 

Marketing Evolution pulls data from hundreds of online and offline sources to create detailed consumer profiles that encompass beliefs, location and purchasing habits as well as environmental data like current local weather conditions. Analysts then use a software stack dubbed the “ROI Brain” to craft targeted campaigns where every element, from the messaging itself to the channel it arrives through, reflects individual users’ preferences.


Big Data in Transportation 

Location: Chicago, Illinois 

FourKites’ platform uses GPS and a host of other location data sources to track packages in real time, whether they’re crossing oceans or traveling by rail. A predictive algorithm then factors in data on traffic, weather and other external factors to calculate the estimated times of arrival for packages, so FourKites clients can give customers advance warning about delays and early deliveries — while also avoiding fees.


Location: San Francisco, California 

As a rideshare company, Uber monitors its data in order to predict spikes in demand and variations in driver availability. That information allows the company to set the proper pricing of rides and provide incentives to drivers so the necessary number of vehicles are available to keep up with demand. Data analysis also forms the basis of Uber’s estimated times of arrival predictions, which goes a long way toward fulfilling customer satisfaction.


Location: Fairfield, Connecticut 

GE’s Flight Efficiency Services, adopted in 2015 by Southwest Airlines and used by airlines worldwide, can optimize fuel use, safety and more by analyzing the massive volumes of data airplanes generate. How massive? One transatlantic flight generates an average of 1,000 gigabytes. GE’s scalable aviation analytics takes it all in, crunching numbers on fuel efficiency, weather conditions, and passenger and cargo weights.


Location: Chicago, Illinois 

The experts at HERE Technologies leverage location data in several ways, most notably in the HD Live Map, which feeds self-driving cars the layered, location-specific data they need. The map pinpoints lane boundaries and senses a car’s surroundings. Thanks to data from intelligent sensors, the map can see around corners in a way the human eye can’t. And a perpetual stream of intel from fleets of roaming vehicles helps the map warn drivers about lane closures miles away.


Big Data in Government

Location: New York, New York

RapidSOS funnels emergency-relevant data to first responders out on 911 calls. Thanks to partnerships with Apple, Android providers and apps like Uber, the company can pull relevant data from patients’ phones and wearables in crisis situations. Free to public safety offices, Clearinghouse integrates into pre-existing call-taking and dispatch channels so the data — including GPS location data and real-time sensor data — reaches EMTs more reliably and securely.


Big Data Applications and Examples. | Video: Simplilearn


Big Data in Business

Location: San Francisco, California 

The PC-based Skupos platform pulls transaction data from 15,000 convenience stores nationwide. Over the course of a year, that adds up to billions of transactions that can be dissected using the platform’s business analytics tools. Store owners can use the insights to determine location-by-location bestsellers and set up predictive ordering. Distributors, meanwhile, can forecast demand, and brands can analyze a constant influx of product sales data.


Location: San Francisco, California 

Companies often scatter their data across various platforms, but Salesforce is all about cohesion. Their customer relationship management platform integrates data from various facets of a business, like marketing, sales, and services, into a comprehensive, single-screen overview. The platform’s Einstein analytics provide automatic AI-informed insights and predictions on metrics like sales and customer churn. Users can also connect Salesforce with outside data management tools rather than toggling between multiple windows.


Location: Los Gatos, California 

The premise of Netflix’s first original TV show — the David Fincher-directed political thriller House of Cards — had its roots in big data. Netflix invested $100 million in the first two seasons of the show, which premiered in 2013, because consumers who watched House of Cards also watched movies directed by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey. Executives correctly predicted that a series combining all three would be a hit. 

Now, nearly a decade later, big data impacts not only which series Netflix invests in, but how those series are presented to subscribers. Viewing histories, including the points at which users hit pause in any given show, reportedly influence everything from the thumbnails that appear on their homepages to the contents of the “Popular on Netflix” section


Big Data in Healthcare

Location: Chicago, Illinois 

Tempus’ tablet-based tool has made file cabinets of medical records portable and accessible in real time. Designed to inform physicians’ decisions during appointments, Tempus trawls huge digital archives of clinical notes, genomic data, radiology scans and more to turn out data-driven treatment recommendations. These recommendations are personalized, too, though — based on data from past cases in which patients had similar demographic traits, genetic profiles and cancer types.


Location: Boston, Massachusetts 

SOPHiA GENETICS provides data solutions for healthcare professionals based on big data metrics, with specializations in oncology, inherited diseases and biopharmacy. The company’s SOPHiA DDM platform provides multimodal insights from clinical, biological, genomics and radiomics datasets for screening and diagnosis purposes. Sophia Genetics’ technology has analyzed over one million genomic profiles, and intends to provide future insight support for data relating to proteomics, metabolomics and more.


Location: Madison, Wisconsin

Propeller Health reimagined the inhaler as an IoT gadget. Widely used for the treatment of asthma and other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, the sensor-equipped inhalers export data to a smartphone app that tracks inhaler use, as well as environmental factors like humidity and air quality. Over time, in-app analytics can help identify possible flare-up triggers and produce reports that patients can share with their doctors.


Location: Eschborn, Hessen, Germany and San Francisco, California

Innoplexus’ Ontosight life sciences data library, featuring search tools rooted in AI and blockchain technology, was compiled to help pharmaceutical researchers sift more quickly through relevant data and streamline drug development. A truly massive repository, it includes everything from unpublished PhD dissertations to gene profiles to a whopping 26 million pharmaceutical patents.


Big Data in Cybersecurity

Location: Foster City, California

Cyberattacks are being so sophisticated and prevalent that it’s hard for the research into prevention to catch up. Luckily, big data can provide some of the same insights by analyzing patterns in cyberattacks and recommending strategies for staying safe. Exabeam analyzes data from companies that have suffered attacks to help companies build models of what common attacks look like and how to detect and deter them before they are successful.


Location: San Francisco, California 

Splunk’s Security Operations Suite relies on big data to identify and respond to cybersecurity threats and fraud. Systemwide data flows through Splunk’s analytics tools in real time, allowing it to pinpoint anomalies with machine learning algorithms. Splunk’s data-driven insights also help it prioritize concurrent breaches, map out multipart attacks and identify potential root causes of security issues.


Location: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 

OwnBackup is a cloud-based platform for data security, backup, archiving and sandbox seeding. Using big data insights, the software provides automated backups and security risk metrics for Salesforce, Microsoft and ServiceNow data environments. OwnBackup has partnered with AWS, nCino and Veeva to provide data protection and compliance services for businesses across the country.


Location: Santa Clara, California

Awake Security’s system works a bit like the human brain. Sensors scan data where it’s stored, whether in the cloud or embedded in an IoT device. Much as our nerves relay information back to our brain, Awake’s sensors port key findings back to the Awake Hub, a centralized deep-learning center that can detect threats and parse the intent behind unusual data. 

Like a brain, the Hub also needs occasional outside input to determine the best approach. In certain cases, it’s used in collaboration with a network of human cybersecurity experts who are up to date on the latest cyberattack techniques and industry-specific protocols


Location: Lindon, Utah

How it’s using big data: The company’s Forensic Toolkit, or FTK, stores enterprise-scale data in a straightforward database structure, processing and indexing it up front. In an emergency situation, that allows for quicker searches that are further accelerated through the use of distributed processing across an array of computers. FTK makes full use of its hardware resources, focusing all of its available processing power on extracting evidence that clients can leverage in civil and criminal cases. 


Tammy Xu contributed reporting to this story.

Great Companies Need Great People. That's Where We Come In.

Recruit With Us