Five areas of government contracting that can benefit from big data

Big data holds power to increase transparency, enhance public security, improve education and even combat poverty

13Jun

Some people view big data as a threat, while others claim it as a savior. Undoubtedly, if utilized properly, big data can become a historic driver of progress. Here are five ways big data holds the power to increase transparency, enhance public security and combat illness and poverty.

Security

Big data has the ability to explicate video surveillance and facial recognition databases to pursue suspects and prevent incidents. Manually reviewing footage for potential facial matches can prove time consuming and erroneous. However, electronic analysis facial recognition has become a quick and accurate tool that strengthens homeland security, making it far more effective in protecting the US and its residents.

Big data also helps to avoid cybersecurity threats. According to a US government survey conducted by MeriTalk, 90% of respondents saw a decline in security breaches and 84% used big data to help block attacks. Predictive models based on big data can not only alert IT managers to cyberattacks as soon as they occur, but can predict entry points for future attacks before they even occur.

Backed by machine learning and artificial intelligence, big data analytics give security to businesses and government contractors that their confidential information can be kept secure from cyber breaches and hacking.

Healthcare

Currently, the US healthcare system is reactionary, meaning patients seek treatment from their healthcare provider only after symptoms appear and begin to cause problems. However, with big data there will be a shift from treating illnesses to proactively maintaining our health and taking certain measure for preventative care. For example, Pixie Scientific developed Smart Pads to detect early signs of urinary tract infections, kidney disease or dehydration in babies and the elderly, so that healthcare providers can intervene before the symptoms appear.

Telemedicine is still in the early phases, but as it develops through big data analytics it will lower healthcare costs and increase the effectiveness of preventative healthcare. The combination of data, technology and healthcare has developed easy access to healthcare professionals.

DoctoronDemand, for example, gives individuals access to video chat with a certified physician or psychologist to answer health questions and write prescriptions, while Microsoft HealthVault stores up-to-date medical records and allows patients to share them with doctors. PingMD allows patients to check in with their doctors and send pictures through a secure HIPAA-complaint message. Doctors can also track their patients' symptoms, check on recovery progress and ask follow-up questions. Big data can alleviate the pressure on patients and staff further by improving chatbots which can advise patients on trivial maladies, reducing the need for patients to have access to human doctors at all.

Education

Big data helps government contractors understand educational needs on both the local and federal level to ensure youth across the US have access to education.

Education systems generate an immense amount of data about students and schools, such as attendance and attainment rates, as well as student performance and socioeconomic backgrounds. Big data opens up the field to understanding the needs of each district rather than evaluating standardized test results. With more data, the education sector can create customized plans to improve student results, reduce dropouts and better educate students. In Washington, Spokane Public Schools increased their graduation rate by 8% over three years by utilising data trends to identify early warning signs of dropouts among students.

Big data can also find trends and identify effective strategies on how students learn. No student is the same, and while teachers aim to accommodate different learning styles, some students will still fall through the cracks. However, with the collection of big data, schools can identify educational trends – as a hypothetical example, whether students perform better in math after exercise or comprehend history better in the morning. Therefore, administrators can adjust their schedules and activities according to their particular class. This gives schools the opportunity to develop innovative educational techniques to enhance childhood education.

Transportation

Big data can improve urban transportation problems such as lack of parking, congestion and long commutes. With the help of data analytics, government agencies can develop alternate routes to ease traffic. It can also find the causes of congestion and where drivers spend a lot of time looking for parking. Studying this data can make transportation move more quickly for everyone.

For example, shipping company US Xpress implemented more than 10,000 sensors on their fleet in order to monitor vehicle speed, performance and condition. The sensors also helped the company to assess transport routes and plan vehicle maintenance, saving them $6bn a year.

These examples show the ways in which big data can help government contractors reduce environmental impacts and increase safety. Government officials could, for example, use the data acquired through telematics to create more efficient public transportation routes that serve the masses stuck in traffic during rush hour. 

Insurance companies have involved themselves with similar projects, promoting safe driving by offering safe-driver discounts to customers who abide by the rules of the road. Selective Insurance, for example, offers a telematics device which not only monitors harsh driving, but is also able to detect distracted driving, such as when a user's smartphone is in use while the vehicle is moving.

Development

It may not be able to solve every problem, but big data can help alleviate the dangers of food scarcity. As Mark van Rijmenam, founder of Datafloq, explains: "Big data offers the possibility to predict food shortages by combining variables such as drought, weather conditions, migrations, market prices, seasonal variation and previous productions."

The amount of data each state collects is enough to target where locations are not doing well, but it can also be used to discover opportunities to encourage economic prosperity. Many developing countries utilize big data to discover trends in agriculture and public health. A $500m program funded by the UN aims to gather data on the 500m small-scale farmers living in poverty in the developing world, to assess the effectiveness of the UN's current efforts to reduce poverty in these areas. The program ultimately aims to promote rural development by assessing trends in income, seed varieties and untreated illness in livestock, among other factors.

Big data paves the future

By viewing big data for the good it offers, we can change the scope of government contracting from educational fronts to transportation hubs. It is time to embrace big data and the important role it can play.

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