big dataAccording to Wikipedia, Big Data is the term for a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using regular database management tools.  Many organisations are now using advanced methods to analyse large data sets in order to gain insights that can lead to innovations in products and services.

Parking meters in cities are uninteresting, unintelligent and unpopular.  They just collect money from unhappy drivers. The city of Los Angeles has recently completed a 12-month project with Xerox to analyse parking data and offer real-time pricing adjustments based on variables such as the time of day, season or public demand.  Xerox used algorithms to analyse the city’s big data from the project and found that demand for parking spaces varied by up to 50% across the week. It then compared this demand to the actual rates paid for the space and adjusted these accordingly.

This not only led to a 10% reduction in congested spaces during peak hours, it also reduced parking rates for 60% of spaces in the city, saw a 5% reduction in underutilised space and even more impressively a 2.4% increase in parking revenue for the city.  The Daily Telegraph reports that the project has proved so successful that Xerox has been commissioned to do the same for Washington DC and other cities.

“We’re on a mission to get rid of the pain in parking, and already have most of the components in place to do so. Sensors can guide people to empty spaces, dynamic parking rates can help reduce congestion, and mobile phone payments can eliminate fines or overpayment,” said Onno Zoeter, senior scientist at Xerox Research Centre Europe.

It is not just big companies that can benefit from big data. IdealSeat, a Seattle start-up company, collected location data about balls hit into the crowd during baseball matches.  These are called foul balls and are highly prized by spectators who are lucky enough to catch and keep them.  IdealSeat crunches all the data and builds a stadium heat map like the one to the right. The end result is a seating chart that shows fans the best place to sit if they want to increase their chances of catching a foul ball.  “We just want to help people find the best place to sit it in the sun, drink a cold beer and catch a foul ball,” says IdealSeat co-founder and CEO Joel Banslaben by by Paul Sloane read more