Who Benefits from Big Data?

“Big Data” and “Data Intelligence” are generally discussed in terms of what they can do for corporations with regard to acquiring and retaining customers. Corporations invest in data gathering technologies and data analytics to find profitable growth opportunities, develop new products, reach customers effectively and enable consistent customer experiences across business units. As consumers have begun to actively participate in this data collection, opportunities for consumers to benefit directly from “big data” and their particular slice of it are beginning to emerge.

Consider the property casualty insurance market where consumers are allowing monitoring devices to be placed in their cars to capture data on actual driving habits. This data is a boon to the insurance company as it allows direct collection of actual behavior. However, it also gives the consumer a real picture of their behavior, which might be quite different than their self-perception, and offers opportunities for lower insurance costs.

Another area where data sharing is changing perceptions is in the energy industry. Consumers who may have considered themselves “green” in their consumption behavior may find that they are less environmentally conscious than their neighbors based on actual usage reporting. ComEd provides a neighbor comparison as part of their monthly bill.

Energy Usage








In healthcare, mHealth applications also use personal monitoring technology to collect vital signs in real time, track behaviors like exercise or diet information in order to help patients avoid critical care situations or achieve specific health goals. This may also lead to savings on insurance coverage as products evolve to take advantage of mHealth technology.

Forrester Research published a report on Personal Identity Management in September 2011 in which they talk about four types of personal data:

  • Individual Identity Data such as name, birthdate, SSN, social media identifiers, etc.
  • Derived Data such as credit scores, influence scores
  • Self-identified Data such as propensity to buy, social media “likes,” user generated content
  • Behavioral Data such as purchase history, location based mobile app usage and data gathered from self-monitoring devices.

As data gathering moves from simply “who you are” and what others say about you to what you say about yourself and what you actually do, the resulting information should become much more valuable to both corporations and consumers. It can mean the difference between what customers think they want and what they actually need. Providing consumers with access to personal data along with the reporting and analytic tools to use that data has the power to influence positive behaviors and a healthier lifestyle. That same information in the hands of corporate marketers has the potential to do the opposite – incentivizing over spending, over eating and risky behavior.

The question remains open as to whether corporations can use the information gathered from consumers in ways that are mutual beneficial to themselves and their customers – or if they are going to keep marketing fast-food to diabetics.


Elizabeth Gooding

Elizabeth Gooding is the editor of the Insight Forums blog and president of Gooding Communications Group

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