Big Data Analytics: Advertising

The concept of marketing and advertising has changed drastically over the past 30 years. Businesses run marketing campaigns differently because of big data analytics. This post aims to do a cursory compare and contrast analysis the marketing methods of the 1980s with the digital marketing methods of today that use big data analytics.

Advertising went from focusing on sales to a consumer focus, to social media advertising, to now trying to establish a relationship with consumers.  In the late 1990s and early 2000s, third party cookies were used on consumers to help deliver information to the company and based on the priority level of those cookies banner ads will appear selling targeted products on other websites (sometimes unrelated to the current search).  Sometimes you don’t even have to click on the banner for the cookies to be stored (McNurlin, Sprague, & Bui, 2008).  McNurlin et al. (2008) then talk about how current consumer shopping data was collected by loyalty cards, through BlockBuster, Publix, Winn-Dixie, etc.

Before all of this in the 1980s-today, company credit cards like a SEARS Master Card could have captured all this data, even though they had a load of other data that was collected that may not have helped them with selling/advertising a particular product mix that they carry.  They would help influence the buyer with giving them store discounts if the card was used in their location to drive more consumption.  Then they could target ads/flyers/sales based on the data they have gathered through each swipe of the card.

Now, in today’s world we can see online profiling coming into existence.  Online profiling is using a person’s online identity to collect information about them, their behaviors, their interactions, their tastes, etc. to drive a targeted advertising (McNurlin et al., 2008).  Online profiling straddles the point of becoming useful, annoying, or “Big Brother is watching” (Pophal, 2014).  Profiling began as third party cookies and have evolved with the times to include 40 different variables that could be sent off from your mobile device when the consumer uses it while they shop (Pophal, 2014).  This online profiling now allows for marketers to send personalized and “perfect” advertisements to the consumer, instantly.  However, as society switches from device to device, marketers must find the best way to continue the consumer’s buying experience without becoming too annoying, which can turn the consumer away from using the app and even buying the product (Pophal, 2014).  The best way to describe this is through this quote by a modern marketer in Phophal (2014): “So if I’m in L.A., and it’s a pretty warm day here-85 degrees-you shouldn’t be showing me an ad for hot coffee; you should be showing me a cool drink.” Marketers are now aiming to build a relationship with the consumers, by trying to provide perceived value to the customer, using these types of techniques.

Amazon tries a different approach, as items get attached to the shopping cart and before purchases, they use aggregate big data to find out what other items this consumer would purchase (Pophal, 2014) and say “Others who purchased X also bought Y, Z, and A.”  This quote, almost implies that these items are a set and will enhance your overall experience, buy some more.



Big Data Analytics: Privacy & HIPAA

Although the use of big data offers many advantages in the health care field, it also poses many concerns with regard to privacy and compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This post discusses concerns about big data analytics with regard to privacy and HIPAA compliance.

Since its inception 25 years ago, the human genome project has been sequenced many 3B base pair of the human genomes (Green, Watson, & Collins, 2015).  This project has given rise of a new program, the Ethical, Legal and Social Implication (ELSI) project.  ELSI got 5% of the National Institute of Health Budget, to study ethical implications of this data, opening up a new field of study (Green et al., 2015 & O’Driscoll, Daugelaite, & Sleator, 2013).  Data sharing must occur, to leverage the benefits of the genome projects and others like it.  Poldrak and Gorgolewski (2014) stated that the goals of sharing data help out with the advancement of the field in a few ways: maximizing the contribution of research subjects, enabling responses to new questions, enabling the generation of new questions, enhance research results reproducibility (especially when the data and software used are combined), test bed for new big data analysis methods, improving research practices (development of a standard of ethics), reducing the cost of doing the science (what is feasible for one scientist to do), and protecting valuable scientific resources (via indirectly creating a redundant backup for disaster recovery).  Allowing for data sharing of genomic data can present ethical challenges, yet allow for multiple countries and disciplines to come together and analyze data sets to come up with new insights (Green et al., 2015).

Richards and King (2014), state that concerning privacy, we must think of it regarding the flow of personal information.  Privacy cannot be thought of as a binary, as data is private and public, but within a spectrum.  Richards and Kings (2014) argue that the data as exchanged between two people has a certain level of expectation of privacy and that data can remain confidential, but there is never a case were data is in absolute private or public.  Not everyone in the world would know or care about every single data point, nor will any data point be kept permanently secret if it is uttered out loud from the source.  Thus, Richards and Kings (2014) stated that transparency can help prevent abuse of the data flow.  That is why McEwen, Boyer, and Sun (2013) discussed that there could exist options for open-consent (your data can be used for any other future research project), broad-consent (describe various ways the data could be used, but it is not universal), or an opt-out-consent (where participants can say what their data shouldn’t be used for).

Attempts are being made through the enactment of Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) to protect identifying data for fears that it can be used to discriminate against a person with a certain type of genomic indicator (McEwen et al., 2013).  Internal Review Boards and Common Rules, with the Office of Human Research Protection (OHRP), have guidance on information flow that is de-identified.  De-identified information can be shared and is valid under current Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act of 1996 (HIPAA) rules (McEwen et al, 2013).  However, fear of loss of data flow control comes from increase advances in technological decryption and de-anonymisation techniques (O’Driscoll et al., 2013 and McEwen et al., 2013).

Data must be seen and recognized as a person’s identity, which can be defined as the “ability of individuals to define who they are” (Richards & Kings, 2014). Thus, the assertion made in O’Driscoll et al. (2013) about how the ability to protect medical data, with respects to bid data and changing concept, definitional and legal landscape of privacy is valid.  Thanks to HIPAA, cloud computing, is currently on a watch list. Cloud computing can provide a lot of opportunity for cost savings. However, Amazon cloud computing is not HIPAA compliant, hybrid clouds could become HIPAA, and commercial cloud options like GenomeQuest and DNANexus are HIPAA compliant (O’Driscoll et al., 2013).

However, ethical issues extend beyond privacy and compliance.  McEwen et al. (2013) warn that data has been collected for 25 years, and what if data from 20 years ago provides data that a participant can suffer an adverse health condition that could be preventable.  What is the duty of the researchers today to that participant?  How far back in years should that go through?

Other ethical issues to consider: When it comes to data sharing, how should the researchers who collected the data, but didn’t analyze it should be positively incentivized?  One way is to make them co-author of any publication revolving their data, but then that makes it incompatible with standards of authorships (Poldrack & Gorgolewski, 2013).



  • Green, E. D., Watson, J. D., & Collins, F. S. (2015). Twenty-five years of big biology. Nature, 526.
  • McEwen, J. E., Boyer, J. T., & Sun, K. Y. (2013). Evolving approaches to the ethical management of genomic data. Trends in Genetics, 29(6), 375-382.
  • Poldrack, R. A., & Gorgolewski, K. J. (2014). Making big data open: data sharing in neuroimaging. Nature Neuroscience, 17(11), 1510-1517
  • O’Driscoll, A., Daugelaite, J., & Sleator, R. D. (2013). ‘Big data,’ Hadoop and cloud computing in genomics. Journal of biomedical informatics, 46(5), 774-781.
  • Richards, N. M., & King, J. H. (2014). Big data ethics. Wake Forest L. Rev., 49, 393.


Big Data Analytics: Health Care Industry

Big data has influenced many industries. One area that has been greatly influenced is the health care industry. This post describes how big data is influencing personal genomics in the health care industry. This post also evaluates how analyzing an individual’s genomes can aid in the foundation of predictive and preventive medicine.

Since its inception 25 years ago, the human genome project has been trying to sequence its first 3B base pair of the human genome over a 13 year period (Green, Watson, & Collins, 2015).  This 3B base pair is about 100 GB uncompressed and by 2011, 13 quadrillion bases were sequenced (O’Driscoll, Daugelaite, & Sleator, 2013).  With the advancement in technology and software as a service, the cost of sequencing a human genome has been drastically cut from $1M to $1K in 2012 (Green et al., 2015 and O’Driscoll et al., 2013).  It is so cheap now that 23andMe and others were formed as a consumer drove genetic testing industry that has been developed (McEwen, Boyer, & Sun, 2013).  At the beginning of this project, the researcher was wondering what insights the sequencing could bring to understanding decease, to the now explosion of research dealing with studying millions of other genomes from biological pathways, cancerous tumors, microbiomes, etc. (Green et al., 2015 and O’Driscoll et al., 2013).  Storing 1M genomes will exceed 1 Exabyte (O’Driscoll et al., 2013).  Based on the definition of Volume (size like 1 EB), Variety (different types of genomes), and Velocity (processing huge amounts of genomic data), we can classify that the whole genomic project in the health care industry as big data.

This project has paved the way for other projects like sharing MRI data from 511 participants, (exceeding 18 TB) to be shared and analyzed (Poldrak & Gorgolewski, 2014).  Green et al. (2015) have stated that the genome project has led to huge innovation in tangent fields, not directly related to biology, like chemistry, physics, robotics, computer science, etc.  It was due to this type of research that a capillary-based DNA sequencing instruments were invented to be used for sequencing genomes (Green et al., 2015).  The Ethical, legal and Social Implication project, got 5% of the National Institute of Health Budget, to study ethical implications of this data, opening up a new field of study (Green et al., 2015 & O’Driscoll et al., 2013).  O’Driscoll et al. (2013), suggested that solutions like Hadoop’s MapReduce would greatly advance this field.  However, he argues that current java intensive knowledge is needed, which can be a bottleneck on the biologist.   Luckily, this field is helping to provide a need to create a Guided User Interface, which will allow scientist to conduct research and not learn to program.  O’Driscoll et al. (2013), also state that the biggest drawback of using Hadoop MapReduce function is that it reduces data line by line, whereas genomic data needs to be reduced in groups.  This project, should, with time improve the service offering of Hadoop to other fields outside of biomedical research.

In the medical field, cancer diagnosis and treatments will now be possible due to this project (Green et al., 2015).  Green et al. (2015) also predict that a maturation of the microbiome science, routine use of stem-cell therapies could result from this.  These predictions are not far from becoming reality and are the foundation of predictive and preventative medicine.  This is not so far into the future that McEwen et al. (2013) have stated what are the ethical issues, for people who have submitted their genomic data 25 years ago, and they found data that could help the participants take preventative measures for adverse health conditions.  Mostly because clinical versions of this data are starting to become available like from companies like 23andMe. This information so far has yield genealogy data, a few predictive medical measures (to a certain confidence interval).  Predictive and preventative medical advances are still primary and currently in the research phase (McEwen et al., 2013).  Finally, genomics research will pave the way for metagenomics, which is the study of microbiome data of as many of the ~4-6* 10^30 bacterial cells (O’Driscoll et al., 2013).

From this discussion, there is no doubt that genomic data can fall under the classification of big data.  The analysis of this data has yielded advances in the medical fields and other tangential fields.  Future work, to expanding the predictive and preventative medicine is still needed; it is only in research studies, where the participants can learn about their genomic indicators that may lead them to certain types of adverse health conditions.


  • Green, E. D., Watson, J. D., & Collins, F. S. (2015). Twenty-five years of big biology. Nature, 526.
  • McEwen, J. E., Boyer, J. T., & Sun, K. Y. (2013). Evolving approaches to the ethical management of genomic data. Trends in Genetics, 29(6), 375-382.
  • O’Driscoll, A., Daugelaite, J., & Sleator, R. D. (2013). ‘Big data,’ Hadoop and cloud computing in genomics. Journal of biomedical informatics, 46(5), 774-781.
  • Poldrack, R. A., & Gorgolewski, K. J. (2014). Making big data open: data sharing in neuroimaging. Nature neuroscience, 17(11), 1510-1517.


Big Data Analytics: Pizza Industry

The ability to evaluate structured and unstructured data will provide an organization with a competitive edge. This post would explain just one example of how big data analytics can be used by these organizations to gain a competitive advantage.

Pizza, pizza! A competitive analysis was completed on Dominos, Pizza Hut, and Papa Johns.  Competitive analysis is gathering external data that is available freely, i.e. social media like Twitter tweets and Facebook posts.  That is what He, Zha, and Li (2013) studied, approximately 307 total tweets (266 from Dominos, 24 from Papa John, 17 from Pizza Hut) and 135 wall post (63 from Dominos, 37 from Papa Johns, 35 from Pizza Hut), for the month October 2011(He et al, 2013).  It should be noted that these are the big three pizza chain controlling 23% of the total market share (7.6% from Dominos, 4.23% from Papa Johns, 11.65% from Pizza Hut)(He et al., 2013) (He et al., 2013). Posts and tweets contain text data, videos, and pictures.  All the data collected was text-based data and collected manually, and SPSS Clementine tool was used to discover themes in their text (He et al., 2013).

He et al. (2013), found that Domino’s Pizza was using social media to engage their customers the most.  Domino’s Pizza did the most to reply to as many tweets and posts.  The types of posts in all three companies varied from the promotion to marketing to polling (i.e. “What is your favorite topping?”), facts about pizza, Halloween-themed posts, baseball themed posts, etc. (He et al., 2013).  Results from the text mining of all three companies: Ordering and delivery was key (customers shared the experience and feelings about their experience), Pizza Quality (taste & quality), Feedback on customers’ purchase decisions, Casual socialization posts (i.e. Happy Halloween, Happy Friday), and Marketing tweets (posts on current deals, promotions and advertisement) (He et al, 2013).  Besides text mining, there was also content analysis on each of their sites (367 pictures & 67 videos from Dominos, 196 pictures & 40 videos from Papa Johns, and 106 pictures and 42 videos from Pizza Hut), which showed that the big three were trying to drive customer engagement (He et al., 2013).

He et al. (2013) lists the theory that with higher positive customer engagement, customers can become brand advocates, which increases their brand loyalty and push referrals to their friends, and approximately 1/3 people followed a friend’s referral if done through social media.  Thus, evaluating the structure and unstructured data provided to an organization about their own product and theirs of their competitors, they could use it to help increase their customer services, driving improvements in their own products, and driving more customers to their products (He et al., 2013).  Key lessons from this study, which would help any organization gain an advantage in the market are to (1) Constantly monitor your social media and those of your competitors, (2) Establish a benchmark of how many posts, likes, shares, etc. between you and your competitors, (3) Mine the conversational data for content and context, and (4) analyze the impact of your social media footprint to your own business (when prices rise or fall what is the response, etc.) (He et al, 2013).


  • He, W., Zha, S., & Li, L. (2013). Social media competitive analysis and text mining: A case study in the pizza industry. International Journal of Information Management, 33(3), 464-472.


What is Big Data Analytics?

Answering what makes big data different from conventional data that you use every day and identifying a few public sites that provide free access to big data sets.


What makes big data different from conventional data that you use every day?
The differentiation exists where big data and conventional deals with data storage and data analysis. Big data is complex, challenging, and significant (Ward & Barker, 2013). Ward and Barker (2013) traced back the definition of Volume, Velocity, and Variety from Gartner. They then compare its definition to Oracle’s, which is data to mean the value derived from merging relational database with unstructured data that can vary in size, structure, format, etc. Finally, the authors state that Intel big data definition is a company generating about 300 TB weekly, and typically it can come from transactions, documents, emails, sensor data, social media, etc. They use all of this information to state that the true definition should lie with the size of the data, a complexity of the data, and the technologies used to analyze the data. This is how you can differentiate it from conventional data.

Davenport, Barth, and Bean (2012), stated that IT companies define big data as “more insightful data analysis”, but if used properly companies can gain a competitive edge. Companies that use big data: are aware of data flows (customer-facing data, continuous process data, network relationships, which is dynamic and always changing in a continuous flow), rely on data scientists (upgraded data management skill, programing, math, stats, business acumen, and effective communication) and move away from IT functions (concerned with automation) into ops or prod functions (since its goals is to present information to the business first). Data in a continuous flow needs to have business processes set up for obtaining/gathering/capturing, storing, extracting, filtering, manipulating, structuring, monitoring, analyzing and interpreting, to help facilitate data-driven decisions.

Finally, Lazer, Kennedy, King, and Vespignani (2014), talked about big data hubris, where the assumption that big data can do it all and is a great substitute for conventional data analysis. They state that errors in measurement, validity, reliability and dependencies in the data cannot be ignored. Big data analysis can overfit its analysis to a small number of cases. Greater value to any big dataset is to marry it with other near-real-time data from different sources, but continuous evaluation and improvement should always be incorporated. Sources of errors in analysis can arise from measurement (is it stable and comparable across cases and over time, are there systematic errors), algorithm dynamics, search algorithms, and changes in the data-generating process. The authors finally state that transparency and replicability of data analysis (especially secondary or aggregate data, since there are fewer privacy concerns in that), could help improve the results of big data analysis. Without transparency and replicability, how will other scientist learn and build on the knowledge (thus destroying the accumulation of knowledge)?

There is a difference between big data and conventional data. But, no matter how big, fast, and different the data sets are, one cannot deny that because of big data, conventional data gathering, analysis, and techniques are not influenced either. Improvements have been made, to allow doctoral students to conduct surveys at a much faster rate, gather more unstructured data through interview processes, and transcription software used for audio files in big data can also be used in smaller conventional data. Though vastly different, and can come with their errors as we improve one, we inadvertently improve the other.

Public Sites that provide free access to big data sets:


  • Davenport, T. H., Barth, P., & Bean, R. (2012). How big data is different. MIT Sloan Management Review, 54(1), 43.
  • Lazer, D., Kennedy, R., King, G., & Vespignani, A. (2014). The parable of Google Flu: Traps in big data analysis. Science, 343(14 March).
  • Ward, J. S., & Barker, A. (2013). Undefined by data: a survey of big data definitions. arXiv preprint arXiv:1309.5821.