Big Data is a buzzword which has been floating around for years and, to the average Joe, it’s probably a scary one too, considering the amount of data leaks in the past year from social media giants. While it gets a bad rap, the sheer amount of information that is being collected from us is proving to be an important asset to organisations around New Zealand in technology solutions. 

To save its reputation, here are three awesome ways in which Big Data is being used to make New Zealand a better place:

Phone Activity is Helping to Reduce Traffic

If you live in Auckland like I do, you’ll understand the traffic woes if you're wanting to commute anywhere from 3-6pm. Customer data from Google, mobile operators and GPS providers are stripped of identifiers and sold to government agencies to understand the way New Zealanders commute. 

From there, data is used to deliver real-time information, estimate volume of travelers and evaluate performance. In the future, this data could pave the way cities are designed, how funding is allocated, events that are planned and even improve emergency procedures by understanding where people are concentrated. 

The Ministry of Transport has already hinted that inter-regional ground travel data from cellphones is being explored in planning for New Zealand's travel projects. 

Tourist Attractions are Adapting to Visitor Data

Museums and other local attractions are also taking advantage of user data. Kiwi start-up company Dexibit are using visitor experience and exhibit performance to improve the way cultural attractions attract new visitors and generate revenue - a strategy which could improve New Zealand’s tourist industry and ensure tax dollars are spent in the right places. 

Signals from your phone while visiting attractions are tracked and collected in combination with social media traffic to predict visitor attendance based on a number of factors - from cruise ship docking to the weather - with accuracy upwards of 90%. This technology is already being in partnership with organisations around New Zealand, such as Wellington's Te Papa Tongarewa, which averages 1.8 million visitors per year.

Hospitals are reducing waiting times using real-time data

Miya Precision, a software platform which uses real-time patient information, has gone live for the first time anywhere in the world, launching in Palmerston North Hospital and Horowhenua Health Centre. The software integrates existing clinical information systems and allows detailed data on patients to be more accessible to clinicians from iPads at work stations. 

MidCentral District Health Board (MDHB) has taken this data a step further with patient safety algorithms and artificial intelligence solutions which are revolutionizing New Zealand hospitals. Data analysis predicts clinical risk and the amount of care each patient will need by measuring ward occupancy and capacity against expected length of stay - preventing blockages in the system. MDHB staff have already reported improvements to bed allocation and wait times, efficient patient flow, and better allocation of hospital resources.

The way our data is handled in upcoming years will have huge consequences in the way our society works - but there will always be a debate surrounding privacy and who has ownership of our data.

What do you think: are you okay with your data being used for improve the greater good or should there be more protection in place?