As we go about our daily lives, there is always someone who knows our whereabouts. In the era of information technology, using electronic gadgets is second nature. But while you’re browsing information, searching a location on Google Maps, or posting updates on social network platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, your secrets and the places you visit remain as electronic codes inside the network server. The detective is BIG DATA.
Smartphones are actually mobile computers. While we use computers to surf the internet, IP addresses locate your computer. It is then easy to figure out the user’s identity by checking the name registration for private computer users, or checking CCTV for public computer users.
Similarly, your current location can be determined if you turn on the global positioning system on your smartphone. In other words, smartphones are actually sensors that upload your information to a centralised database, i.e. a server.
Think about when you are ready to post your photo or update your status on Facebook or Instagram; you are required to log in to your personal account in advance. By those means, you are captured by the code and your information is stored inside the server of a corresponding company such as Facebook or Google.
The accumulated codes collected from smartphone users is the detective – BIG DATA.
You may ask whether quietly collecting our secrets has a purpose. Firstly, consider the traditional methods of collecting customer feedback, by phone interviews, forms, and so on. Those methods may not be very effective since many customers refuse to fill out the forms. However, coding can easily identify user preferences. If we can collect a complete list of browsing history from all users, we can identity consumer behaviour, which is useful for planning marketing strategies.
From an engineering management perspective, the optimisation of resources and time to meet product demand is a key area. To minimise production and storage costs, we need to have a better understanding of the context of both demand (from the customer side) and supply (from the manufacturing process to the retailer). Then we can predict future demand by analysing patterns and trends using the statistics of past demand. From the supply side, we can record all the data in the process of manufacturing and transportation. We can make arrangements according to equipment capacity to achieve, if possible, maximum utilisation.
The detective is actually the one who collects all the data and helps us make decision making as efficient as possible.