The power of government big data: It's all in the use cases

A use case shows how big data can be used, what business need can be met through that use and what needs to happen in order to make that use case a reality.

As more people join the discussion about big data, and as they continue to evaluate what the concept means for government IT, chances are you will see the phrase "big data use case."

Understanding what is meant by a use case, and how use cases have a broader impact on government systems, is key when it comes to understanding why big data is different than traditional government data collection and processing.

Let's start with what the phrase “use case” itself. The phrase has earned a place in software engineering vernacular over the past 20 years. Originally use cases served as a way to examine whether an IT system design met the real-world conditions for business steps and information flow.

A good example of a big data use case is the influx of sensor data collected by smart city applications, or by Defense Department perimeter sensors, surveillance videos and more. What do you do with all these new types of data? Think of a use case as a thought experiment detailing how data can be used, what business need can be met through that use and what needs to happen in order to make that use case a reality.

One major difference with big data use cases is that big data is often held in a central repository where it is made available to multiple applications. And in today’s third platform era, where big data, cloud mobile and social merge, a business case may extend across multiple applications.

diagram of big data use cases

As the illustration shows, a government office might have several concurrent big data use cases operating at once. Such use cases could include anything from running a large financial report to evaluating the efficiency of ongoing procurement efforts. The business processes associated with each use case can interact with one of more applications, and the individual applications could call to the same universal big data set that is available across the enterprise.

Some typical big data use cases are listed below.

Sensors: The National Weather Service collects terabytes of data from monitoring systems around the globe through the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), which monitors environmental conditions, and the associated JPSS Common Ground System (JPSS CGS), which draws data from sensors and satellites.

This data is available through a central repository. Ongoing weather predictions could be one use case, and another could be long-term crop forecasts.

Entity analytics: Entity analytics looks for connections between entities, which can be a person, place, thing, location, transaction or one of many other data points. By sifting through billions of data points, analysts can tell if a house where suspicious activity is taking place is also the mailing address for a credit card that has been used to purchase suspicious items. Many connections can be made through applications that have access to the central collection of data entities. Different applications can support police reports, connection maps and fraud analytics.

Compliance records and national resource controls: Managing national resources means measuring and evaluating large volumes of data related to land, water, soil, plants and animals. One good big data use case is the EPA's ECHO website, which provides integrated compliance and enforcement information for about 800,000 regulated facilities nationwide. With the data in ECHO, environmental managers can get a snapshot of a facility’s compliance record. Each of these types of reports may come from a different business application, but they can pull data from a central repository.

Health services: Data from hospitals, accident reports, disease control efforts and social service case files can quickly show which geographic areas or socioeconomic levels are over served or under served by current health efforts. The real power of big data comes when this information can be cross tabbed with the environmental data. Health-related cause and effect correlations are easier to hypothesize when relevant data is accessible.

These are a few examples of big data use cases that extend beyond the realm of stand alone applications. Big data can mean big changes for the way government conducts its research and its ongoing business. But in order to make that leap, understanding use cases can help IT managers look beyond their silos and their dedicated applications. Working groups are dedicated to this effort. NIST is even collecting examples of government big data use cases.

It's a big, increasingly interactive world out there for government IT. (And we have the big data to prove it.)

NEXT STORY: NASCIO: Open data efforts maturing

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.