Following is the second part in five-part series on Big Data that will discuss Big Data’s uses in government, government policies and compliance rules and Big Data’s future.

In my last article, I took a high level approach to Big Data, offering a brief history and then explaining how the concept is continually expanding. As I already noted, the term Big Data effectively fulfills the definition and is, in fact, BIG DATA.

But, to truly get the most comprehensive understanding about what Big Data can be used for, it's probably best to highlight real-world use cases. In this way, you'll get to see it in action and start to come up with your own ideas on how to make it work for you and your organization.

Big Data and Weather Forecasting

Weather companies have sensors strewn out across the landscape that capture environment information to help to provide better forecasts and even up-to-the-minute storm reporting. The data collected from these sensors is very much part of Big Data, but truly even with this fantastic technology, weather forecasting is still very much guesswork. Things have definitely gotten better, but it's not perfect.

Do you realize how often general Internet patrons talk about the weather? If you watch social networks like Twitter and Facebook, some of the first and last comments of the day are about the weather. And, even during the day, you'll see announcements that "it's raining" or "wow, what a nice sunny day!"

But combining weather sensor information with real-time, community-sourced commenting, weather companies are hoping to turn weather forecasting into a highly accurate discipline.

Big Data and Healthcare

There's so much health information that has been, and still is, collected about each and every person on the planet. From the time a person is born on through adulthood and even death, when an individual visits a hospital, doctor, or dentist, information is gathered and stored – somewhere. As I talked about in the last article in this series, the unfortunate thing is that a lot of times this information is stored in different locations and in different formats.

By using analytics with Big Data, the healthcare industry hopes to provide better, more informed services for everyone. By keeping healthcare history on tap and accessible at a moment's notice, patients can be served quicker.

In addition, by combining healthcare information with community-sourced content (Twitter/Facebook), healthcare organizations such as the CDC can accurately identify and predict outbreaks (think Ebola).

Big Data and Retail

The retail industry is looking to harness Big Data analytics for a number of reasons. By combining location sales information with personal information, retail outlets can guarantee the proper stocking levels to ensure just the right amount of product is available. Additionally, this allow the business to save money from over-stocking.

Another area important to retail businesses that can be solved by Big Data is to accurately track shopping habits to make the shopping experience more personal, improve customer satisfaction and retain loyal customers.

But, even more important is tracking customer sentiment. If the customer is happy, the company knows its actions are on track. If customer sentiment is low, the company can immediately change course and improve conditions.

Again, by combining known forms of data storage with social network activity, retail companies can become highly agile. The retail sector is one of the most competitive industries and the companies that can effectively take full advantage of Big Data analytics will have the competitive edge.

These are just a few areas where expertise in Big Data is being sought now, but should give you some concrete ideas on the potential for this industry. Big Data will touch just about every industry and in every industry sector in the next few years.

In next week’s article, I'll focus solely on Big Data in Government, covering policies, mandates, and potential.

Rod Trent is the Engagement Director for the Penton Technology Group and the Managing Editor for American City & County sister brands, Windows IT Pro, SQL Server Pro, SharePoint Pro, Dev Pro, Power IT Pro, WinSuperSite and myITforum.com. He is a leading expert on Microsoft System Center and Cloud technologies and has more than 25 years of IT experience. Rod has written many books, thousands of articles, and speaks at various conferences and user groups. His professional focus is evangelizing technical community on the web and in person. Rod was a Microsoft MVP for 10 years and is a charter member of the Dell TechCenter Rockstar program.