Can big data save the world?


Possibly a slight overstatement 🙂  But the following news story via the BBC has a very interesting perspective on big data. The article includes some interesting and innovative use cases and shows us to think big when we talk about the potential uses of big data. 


Short summary: 

The world’s population is projected to grow to 9 billion by 2050, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations believes that food production will have to increase by 70% in the next 35 years to prevent widespread hunger. But the increasing use of farmland for biofuel production means that there is less land available for food, and about half – or two billion tonnes – of the food that is produced is wasted, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
The information stored on each e-Pill will be transmitted wirelessly to receivers as cows pass by, and then through the internet to Vital Herd’s cloud-based herd management software. This will collate and interpret the data about each animal so it can be viewed by farm managers.
Mr Walsh believes that more productivity benefits will be realised by analysing historical data from a wide range of cattle. “If we can aggregate data from customers in different regions we could do industry benchmarking and studies to link productivity to vital sign data and genetics,” he says.
For example, the Climate Corporation, a company founded by two ex-Google employees and acquired by agriculture giant Monsanto in 2013, operates a cloud-based farming information system that takes account of weather measurements from 2.5 million locations every day.
The system also uses daily weather data from the past few months to provide farmers with yield estimates for their crops in individual fields, and it allows them to explore historical data from the last thirty growing seasons to provide an accurate estimate of the value of fields they may be considering buying. But even if crops, dairy products and meat can be produced more efficiently by making use of big data, it’s a major undertaking to get it from the farm or abattoir to the dining room table.
Tech Mahindra, an IT service company based in Bangalore, India, offers a system called Farm-to-Fork which aims to monitor containers centrally, sending alerts out whenever the conditions in a container deviate from their ideal ones.
If automatic adjustment isn’t possible, humans can intervene. “For a ship on the high seas, an alert message goes to a technician to see what action can be taken,” Mr Vasudevanallur says. “With a truck, a driver can go to the nearest depot to get things fixed rather than driving on to his final destination.”


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