Cattle, Fraud and Integration: Big Data for the Rest of Us

Loraine Lawson
Slide Show

Eight Big-Name Options for Big Data

When was the last time you saw a cloud offering based on heads of cattle served?


Never, right? That's because, by and large, technology doesn't target farms.


Enter Farmeron - a SaaS solution that lets farmers track all types of information about the farm's performance. It targets large, modern cattle farms, which, it turns out, create all sorts of unused data on performance, the company's CEO Matija Kopic, told GigaOm. But this is exactly the type of situation where SaaS can shine, particularly when it's connected with Big Data analytics.


Farmeron only deals with cattle farms thus far, charging 25-45 cents a head, depending on farm size. The potential is huge when you consider that the beef industry in the U.S. alone is worth $79 billion, with more than 100 million head of cattle across North America alone.


That's a lot of beef steak, methane and data.


It's less unusual, but this Government Health IT article looks at how Big Data tools could be used in a very practical way with far-reaching impact by finding fraud in health care claims and billing. It lists nine examples - including finding billing for unlikely services, patients who travel large distances for controlled substances, and up-coding - of areas where crunching the numbers could tag potential abuse.


Lately, I've been keeping an eye out for stories like this. It doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to figure out how huge, multi-national companies, the government or health care will use Big Data or cloud, but sometimes it's hard to imagine other use cases. I guess I'm searching for more pieces on Big Data for the rest of us.


Although, to be completely honest, I recognize I may be the only one who's wondering about Regular Joe use cases. A recent Informatica survey showed that 70 percent of organizations are now considering, planning or running Big Data projects. That's out of nearly 600 IT and business professionals queried worldwide. What do those organizations plan to do with Big Data? The survey found most said the most relevant aspect of Big Data for their organization is the management of growing transaction volumes.


There's also interest in how it can be applied to interaction data, such as social media (35 percent), mobile device data (31 percent) and machine-generated data (22 percent).


So business leaders are ready to move on Big Data, but IT still has some work to do to prepare, according to a recent opinion piece written by Mark Beyer, a research vice president at Gartner, and David Cearley, a vice president and Gartner Fellow.


Beyer and Cearley say Big Data will impact IT in four major impact areas:


1. Integration. IT and business will need to re-evaluate how they select data to integrate. It's trickier than it sounds, since Big Data opens up the floodgates on what's useful and what's not. Data that may have no clear value may become meaningful in a larger context.


2. Big Data silos. That's right: Having learned nothing from the past 40 years, businesses will start individual Big Data projects, and then ask IT to continue support and broaden the scope. Not only will this cause problems with scaling these projects enterprise-wide, but IT will also be challenged to find funding for expanding and supporting these projects. To deal with this unfortunate reality, Gartner recommends you start allocating staff and budget now for integration of these end-user deployments, and plan to kill projects that aren't used by at least three business units.


3. Data warehouse overhauls. If your data warehouse is a repository-only style, then you might as well plan now to decommission it, because that's not going to cut it in the "age of Big Data," warns Gartner. Instead, move toward a logical data warehouse, which takes a more "architectural approach to sharing and accessing data."


4. Beware the Ides of Algorithms. Yes, sure, advanced algorithms and Big Data may make it easier to customize what you sell to customers, ideally providing them with better options and service in real time. But beware: Customers may be put off by some Big Data tactics and turn on companies that they feel use personal data in an inappropriate way. One possible option for fending off brand assassinations? Gartner suggests you use pilot projects to test how customers will react to context-aware, personalized campaigns.


So, clearly, Big Data is moving into the mainstream and being embraced by more traditional organizations. CIOs should take heed, because as Gartner points out, you don't want to be playing catch-up on this trend.

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