Data Analytics Is Not Magic

And the connected cow will show you why


“Big Data”, “Data Science” and “Analytics” have become painfully overused terms in the business world. At this point they’ve lost any specific meaning they might have had to the layman. Marketeers are slapping these words onto any product they can to raise eyebrows and attract customers. With no understanding of these vague phrases, those outside the world of data science must think it’s magic! Unfortunately data scientists are not wizards and data analytics is not what you may be lead to believe. A lot of the time data science reveals key structures and evaluates strategic metrics for real world business environments. In its best forms, it’s elegant solutions to simple problems that can radically improve firms’ production.

In its best forms it’s elegant solutions to simple problems that can radically improve firms’ production.

The O’Reilly Strata+Hadoop World Conference took place earlier this year in San Jose. The who’s who of data science were there to share their thoughts, experiences and the impacts they’re making in their industries. Among them was Micrsoft’s Joseph Sirosh (@josephsirosh) who gave a talk entitled “Connected Cows?”.

Joseph tells the story of a dairy farmer in Japan who uses pedometers to count the steps of all their cows. By doing this they can predict when a cow will go into heat with over 90% confidence. Furthermore they can even influence what sex the calf will be! This automated monitoring system improved yields by up to 30%!

While this all seems so advanced, the applied science is remarkably uncomplicated. This the perfect example of how simple and clever data analysis can lead to incredible improvements in an industry instantly. This is what data science applied to the real world is supposed to be. In Sirosh’s own words:

“A little bit of ingenuity can transform even
some of the oldest industries in the world”