This article is published in collaboration with Smart Data Collective

We find ourselves in the midst of a surge in big data use. The number of businesses, organizations, and institutions now utilizing big data solutions has exploded in recent years, as has the amount of data collected. Some estimates put the total amount of data generated each day at 2.5 quintillion bytes! Such a number is hard to comprehend let alone make use of, and yet organizations have been eagerly adopting big data analytics for their ambitious goals. As a result, significant changes are happening — some are obvious while others are below the surface. We’re only just starting to see how revolutionary big data can be, and as it truly takes off, we can expect even more changes on the horizon.

1. New Business Opportunities

Enterprises were among the first to see the enormous potential of big data analytics. The use of big data in business is clear though not always easily implemented. Improvements that come about through big data usually happen in the form of more efficient operations, better understanding of consumer behavior, improved management, and — most importantly for customers — new innovative products. We can already see the results of big data adoption among companies in certain use cases. For example, Macy’s uses adjusted pricing in real-time as a way to provide consumers with products, while Walmart has improved the online shopping experience with a search engine driven by machine learning and text analysis.

2. New Careers and Occupations

The more organizations use big data, the more they need the right personnel that understands it. Data scientists are a relatively new career field, and companies want only the best for their organizations. The demand for data scientists is high, in part because there is a shortage of big data talent. That high demands has led to some high salaries for data scientists — a median salary of $150,000 to be more precise. Harvard Business Review has even called the data scientist the sexiest job of the century. Big data has basically allowed a whole new career to flourish.

3. Health Breakthroughs

Big data isn’t all about business. Many doctors and health professionals see how the same type of information used for sales data could also be used for health data. The end goal would be to provide personalized healthcare in much the same way that businesses approach individual customers through targeted marketing. This personalized healthcare approach leads to better treatment for each patient, along with detailed data that can be transferred from doctor to doctor, making sure they have all the information they need to help each person.

4. Fighting Poverty

Besides health, big data can also play a role in improving the living conditions of people all around the world. By taking data from developing nations, non-profit organizations are able to find areas where people can benefit the most from having access to better education, financial services, developed infrastructure, and health services. Having this information on hand can aid in efforts to get help for areas that are struck by natural disasters or health catastrophes. Big data may also help developing nations fight government corruption, which can cause extreme levels of poverty and impede relief efforts.

5. Improved Security and Law Enforcement

Security remains one of the top concerns for businesses and organizations. Considering the number of data breaches each year, there’s plenty of reason for the concern. Big data can help in preventing data breaches from occurring and minimizing the damage from those that still manage to get through. At the same time, law enforcement can get a lot of help from big data analytics. When utilized effectively, big data can predict where crimes are likely to happen at any given moment, allowing law enforcement agencies to have officers there in advance. Agencies that have adopted this tactic have seen large reductions in burglaries and violent crimes.

When it comes to technology, change is always happening. Big data is certainly no exception to this rule. The ability to use big data has become easier with the increase in the number of big data vendorsout there. This coincides with the explosion in big data generation. We now live in the era of big data, with breakthroughs and revolutionary changes happening at regular intervals. The above examples are only snapshot of some of the changes we can expect as big data continues to grow.

Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Jonathan Buckley is a Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur with a career focus on bringing highly disruptive B2B technologies to market in the enterprise data and security-related spaces.

Image: A visitor stands in front of QR-codes information panels during a ceremony to open an information showroom. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov.