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Aug 5, 2014

Before big data flooded the IT market, it used to be that you just woke up "on the wrong side of the bed." With modern devices like smartwatches and Google Glass at our disposal, there's now a scientific feed of information that proves not only did you have a tough night's sleep, but that this is also a trend when you sleep on your back.

Integrating cloud computing into our everyday lives is just the first step in establishing the Internet of Things (IoT), or making big data feedback in one's private and professional life as normal as a Diet Coke at lunchtime. Here are just a few ways that technology-infused wearables can make the way you work more efficient than ever.

Test drive wearables at home
Many users begin their journey with wearables by buying a product like a smartwatch for their own personal needs, then later realize the practical purpose they have in an office environment. According to a recent editorial piece from Forbes contributor Jenny Dearborn, many users purchase their first gadget with their health in mind - the Polar wristband has become an incredibly popular consumer tool that tracks heart rate, distance run and other analytics to give runners feedback on their workout.

Before wearables are brought into the business and into the general cloud infrastructure, make sure that it's a user-friendly option that makes sense for the average worker. VentureBeat writer Ross Rubin wrote a recent piece detailing the convenience of wearables when used to inform and feed data across other platforms like desktop computers, tablets and cell phones. For companies that need feedback fast, big data tools may be the way to go.

Share wearables with your staff and customers
Dearborn warned project managers who hope to integrate the product into their office to form a viable plan for its uses before the first employee opens the box.

"Your employees are more likely to embrace tools that improve their safety or effectiveness vs. being monitored without purpose," she explained. "And create metrics for your metrics. An app that tracks informal social interactions within a work team sounds great, but if using it never results in improved productivity or morale, then move on to the next idea."

If wearables don't make sense for staffers, they may be put to better use as a way of collecting customer data, similar to the old practices of aggregating radio listening and television watching metrics. When a consumer's every move and habit are monitored by a smartwatch, glasses or other tool, a company can use big data to extract and analyze the information relevant to its product to make future decisions. Those willing to participate in the non-invasive study can be compensated or - even better - be allowed to keep the cool gadget that was keeping track of them in the first place.

As the general public continues to figure out where wearables fit into their daily lives, businesses can assess whether using big data on a small scale is best for their bottom line.

Jul 25, 2014

The very suggestion of the long, often fruitless search for a new home or apartment is enough to strike fear into the heart of any self-respecting person. For most, the process is deadening - from recruiting a reliable realtor, identifying a price range and ideal living area as well as working on leaving your last place of residency behind, the stressful situation often takes quite a long time. However, big data and cloud computing technology have sought to change this in recent years both to increase home buying convenience and yield higher profits for those selling real estate.

How realtors harness cloud infrastructure for profit
Real estate underwent an enormous revolution when the Internet dawned on the public when users were empowered to input their own preferences into a search engine and automatically be matched up with houses or apartments that meet those qualifications. This new tool meant that realtors needed to step up their game in order to remain relevant, or people would begin leasing directly from the building owners and companies themselves. Fortunately, the industry is still able to provide added value using big data technology.

Mashable contributor James O'Brien wrote a recent piece on how information analysis makes the home buying process easier, citing Web-based realty company Zillow and others like it as an example of productive progress. He interviewed Zillow's Chief Economist, Stand Humphries, about the company's cloud hosting strategy.

"We've moved from raw data to information and context, and finally to real, actionable insight," Humphries told the source. "We not only want to create complete transparency but also analytics products."

Essentially, these services are designed not only to give their users homes with the speculations they request, but use their own information to customize a report for them. This added personal touch has made Zillow and some of their competitors successful.

Your home, designed by big data
Once a home is selected and the lease or mortgage is official, the role of big data in the day-to-day of the home doesn't stop. According to Forbes contributor Adam Ozimek, the emerging popularity of "smart house" appliances that use data analysis to develop useful tools make maintenance easier for homeowners.

A great, rudimentary example was the craze about the robotic Roomba vacuum. A recent thermostat device, Nest, was acquired by Google as an intuitive program that remembers where people spend more time in the home, and bring additional power to that area while saving energy in others. From here, Ozimek predicted that tech companies will use big data and observational analytics to develop even more products.

"Robot vacuums will know the dimension of every room in the house, the kind of flooring in each, and maybe even the quality and age of the flooring," he speculated. "Smart TVs will know which room is the living room; Nest knows which room is the kitchen, which are the bedrooms, and how energy efficient the home is."

Whether you're purchasing or filling your new home, the cloud infrastructure will likely play a bigger role in it than you bargained for.

Jul 23, 2014

Big data is an expected element in scientific and clinical endeavors like health care and weather prediction, but many would be surprised to hear that this cloud computing technology can dictate the trends of tomorrow. The fashion industry has begun to take its cues from the mass aggregation of information, which can monitor consumer information, demographics and spending habits and determine what the next major trends are. While these decisions used to be left to leaders in the industry, data analysis can now have a major role in what's hot next season.

The art of trend forecasting
In true fashion to the industry of the same name, bloggers and media alike have coined a different term for big data meeting beauty - "trend forecasting" is the term Wall Street Journal contributor Kathy Gordon used to describe information analysis. 

"The forecasting companies offer analysis of fashion shows, data on the current market offerings and - for an added fee - bespoke research and consultancy services," Gordon explained. "The data are generated by teams of staff employed to trawl art exhibitions, events, restaurants and even scientific journals."

According to a study conducted by the Worth Global Style Network, this trend in ingratiating cloud hosting into the catwalk has shown increased sales and customer satisfaction for the past three years. While these studies can't be used to decide whether navy or robin's egg blue will be the hottest hue next season, they're intended to indicate to designers and retailers that they're "on the same page" with the industry regarding what's on the horizon. The practice has existed for the years preceding the cloud infrastructure, but the use of technology has made predictions more informed and added value for those investing.

Big data as a customer behavior tool
Industry blog Business of Fashion conducted a recent interview with Kenneth Cukier, data editor at The Economist, and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University, about what techniques would be used to make big data a big part of trend prediction.

"As we collect and analyze far more data about people's interactions, individual preferences will become much better known, more comprehensively and in greater detail than ever before," Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier stated. "That provides valuable insights for the fashion industry, from what products might perform best, in general, down to what will likely sell well in which store locations, what products are successful when placed next to each other and how to optimize retail experiences."

Big data is extremely useful in a marketing capacity, using information like customer demographics and spending habits, in terms of how much they spend, on what and where. In addition to these habits, companies that invest in cloud computing studies can monitor how their existing marketing strategies are working - eye scanning data can be analyzed to see the effectiveness of billboards and other visual advertising.

Though there's no substitute for intuition in a creative industry, big data certainly has its place in steering young designers and major fashion houses alike in the right direction for their next big show.

Jul 16, 2014

Headlines have swept through the nation in the past number of days condemning big data versus the age-old technique of "going with your gut" when it comes to making a major decision, with some controversial results.

According to a recent study by business-to-business research firm Gyro, 62 percent of the 720 business leaders surveyed said they would follow their intuition before basing a decision on "hard analytics" alone, and 61 percent agreed that real-world experience was a better decision measurement than big data services. Media outlets have shared this revelation as bad news for those who vend cloud infrastructures, but such couldn't be further from the truth - when it comes down to it, the two can coexist in perfect harmony if a business plays its cards right.

Big data is a measurement of real-life experience
Does this study mean the end of big data's positive relationship with big business? Christoph Becker, the CEO at Gyro, explained the results to Mashable contributor T.L. Stanley.

"Any big decision can't be made in a vacuum of analytics," he elaborated. "It's underscored by a rational structure, but emotion has to lead."

With Becker's comments in mind, it's easy to see that the takeaway of the study isn't that big data is doomed, but rather that those who use it need to adjust their mindset on how it factors into the business decision-making process. The cloud computing tool is able to provide a wide spread of data depending on what a vested statistic would be for any given business, and should be used to support or raise potential concerns with the gut feeling that an executive wants to run with.

As with any other tool, the cloud server can't make a smart choice for you, but it can provide information that will show evidence about consumer trends that can make your next move clear. If one's intuition and the raw data happen to match up, all the better - if not, it's an important discussion to have.

The value to trusting your gut
While the value of intuition may be baffling to some, its often uncanny accuracy has some serious science backing it up. Though a "gut instinct" sounds like a made-up element, intuition is based in the brain. Psychotogy Today contributor Kelly Turner explained further in a recent piece, labeling two parts of the brain involved in decision-making.

"System 1 is our quick, instinctual, and often subconscious way of operating - it is controlled by our right brain and by other parts of our brain that have been around since prehistoric times, known as the "limbic" and reptilian" parts of our brain," Turner stated. "System 2 is our slower, more analytical, and conscious way of operating - it is controlled by our left brain."

Big data, while highly intelligent and informative, doesn't have the intrinsic, reactionary functions that the human brain does, and should be seen as a companion in the process of making choices.

For savvy businessmen, it's never a decision between using big data and their own experience and intuition - it's a balancing act, and the two elements can feed off of each other to make an intelligent, informed choice for a company.

Jul 1, 2014

The advantages of big data are often discussed at length - this information is changing the way we conduct mass research and how products are marketed to a number of demographics and can actually save a company a fair amount of money when used effectively. In a country with a national debt that exceeds $17 billion, the value of a saved dollar here and there can't be overestimated for businesses in the public and private sectors alike, especially when taking on cloud hosting pushes an organization a step closer to what is thought to be the next major leap in tech. For those looking for that latest motivation to welcome the server cloud into your business, here's how it's changing the day-to-day and transforming the bottom line of some of the country's most important operations.

Studies indicate that big data is beneficial for the public sector
The TechAmerica foundation conducted a study earlier in 2014 that indicated nothing but clear skies for a public sector that is hoping to move toward big data. The real-time analytics nature of the technology that has made it so popular is projected to save as much as 10 percent of federal budget each year if fully implemented, which would add up to about $1200 per American citizen. This is nothing short of impressive, but the country as a whole has taken on big data with calculated slowness to ensure that data is not just generated but secured in a reliable manner every step of the way.

"Real-time big data is helping the government improve the quality of citizens' lives, according to 75 percent of federal IT officials," the report continued. "For example, by gaining insight into huge volumes of data across agencies, the government can provide improved, personalized services to citizens."

This is another area in which money can be saved by the government sector - though there are up-front costs associated with taking on a hosting company and fully training a department on all necessary components of the groundbreaking software, being able to better predict developments in medicine and other major cost factors can save the administration millions once the system is fully in place.

Benefits individualized for smaller, private businesses
Though your business may not have quite as much riding on it as the American government, big data can still cut down on long-term costs within a company when it's deployed in a targeted manner. The technology is best used when an organization identifies a specific problem, then synthesizes the information collected to make a decision that will reduce internal spending. According to Vipal Monga of the Wall Street Journal, any company can make big data work to its benefit.

"Planet Fitness Corp., for instance, has analyzed how much its treadmills are used, based on their proximity to dressing rooms, the front door and other high-traffic areas of its health clubs," he explained. "The information allows managers to rotate the machines to even out wear and tear, trimming the company's capital spending."

Whether you're monitoring the health of a nation or the treadmill usage of a concentrated group, there's no doubt that big data is the key to developing your fiscal plan next year.

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