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Roundup of May news articles

Richard Jones Archive

With every passing month, public and private organizations alike become more adept in their use of big data to improve their everyday operations. From schools looking to better educate students to businesses aiming for greater profits, everyone has found a use for data analytics. By gathering information on the people around them and working to ensure data quality, there's no limit to the number of valuable lessons that corporate managers can learn.

May was a busy month, as a series of major discoveries in the big data world helped further advance technology and make the business world more competitive. Here's a look at a few storylines that were on everyone's minds this past month.

Robots can crunch data, too
It's not just humans that are working to process data anymore - robots are getting involved as well. Call Centre Clinic recently reported that Watson, the robot designed by IBM that won $1 million on "Jeopardy!" in 2011, is now being put to work as a customer service agent.

"We envision Watson to serve as cognitive assistant, adept and quick at making sense of big data, that can empower our regional bank advisors to better serve our two million wealth management clients across the region," ANZ Banking Group's Joyce Phillips said.

By making decisions based on big data in real time, computers can remove the potential for human error and make the customer service process more efficient.

Data boom helps schools retain students
Processing data can help schools solve important questions, such as how to retain students who are in danger of falling through the cracks. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported on one such story - a sophomore at Georgia State University was $500 behind on his tuition bill and in danger of being kicked out of school, but by using big data to analyze the student's performance and his finances, the financial aid department determined that the school should help the student graduate.

By analyzing student trends and finding individuals with good grades who deserve a little extra financial help, schools can retain their brightest minds and improve their students' futures. Big data helps in this endeavor.

Marketers work to prevent fraud
In the marketing sector, companies have begun using big data to prevent incidents of fraud. According to Practical E-Commerce, the cost of fraud for online retailers has reached a total of $3.5 billion per year, so this is a massive problem that needs to be addressed. There are three types of crime in question - credit card fraud, return fraud and identity theft - and data can be used to prevent all three. By monitoring individuals' spending habits and looking for any irregularities, companies can sniff out suspicious activity and prevent criminals from stealing excessive amounts of people's financial information.

Is people's privacy in jeopardy?
There is one downside to big data, though, as exposed this month by Information Week. All too often these days, companies are mining data from people's social media profiles and personal spending histories without the individuals' permission. The dilemma between preventing fraud and ensuring privacy has created a difficult balance for companies to maintain.

"If they want to, they can stop all fraud by declining every transaction," said Doug Clare, VP for fraud solutions at FICO. "Or they can prevent zero fraud by approving all of them."

Big data can be tremendously useful for companies, but IT officials must be careful to make sure their employees gather information fairly and ethically. Data mining can help everyone, from public educators to private corporate executives, but all organizations must proceed with caution into a new high-tech era.

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