What is Data Mining? Computers Prevent Information Overload

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Although the term evokes a mental image of construction equipment, data mining actually refers to the process of 'mining' vast piles of disassociated pieces of data to find information that's important to you or to others. Image by Decoded Science

Although the term evokes a mental image of construction equipment, data mining actually refers to the process of ‘mining’ vast piles of disassociated pieces of data to find information that’s important to you or to others. Image by Decoded Science

Data mining – it sounds boring, but our information-age society is built on this artificial intelligence tool.

Data mining is a process by which we analyze raw data to pick out pertinent and useful bits of information, depending on what we’re looking for. The computer programs we use for data mining employ various types of criteria to ‘decide’ which information is important, then sort through to show us trends. This can be useful for public health, as well as for business and science, and virtually every other area of society.

Health Information and The Internet

Google data mines the search data provided by Internet-wide Google queries and other indicators to isolate popular flu-related terms, and uses that information to create the Google’s Flu Trends map. This map offered help during flu season, showing the spread and current severity of the flu, both during the Swine flu pandemic and this year’s epidemic flu season. Researchers have found social media, including Twitter to be extremely effective as well when it comes to tracking other health issues, such as cholera in Haiti.

Data Mining and Business

Data mining is an essential tool in today’s business world, allowing managers to understand trends, capitalize on trends, and even to target individual customers based on previous behavior. How does this work?

  • Analyzing Sales by Date: A business may use data mining to maximize sales by increasing the availability of products that sell more during certain days of the week on the applicable days.
  • Analyzing Website Traffic: Website owners analyze website traffic patterns to determine which advertisements are more effective.
  • Targeting customers based on previous purchases: As outlined in If It Wasn’t the Pregnancy Tests, Why *Did* Baby Catalogs Start Arriving at Our House? – Your information, including everything you purchase using a credit card, may end up in a marketer’s database, allowing them to compile a consumer profile on your household.

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