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Big data usage in mobile app dev presents challenges, opportunities

Look around and it's easy to see that mobile devices have virtually become many people's fifth appendage. The result is a huge flow of data from smartphones and tablets to organizations, which are struggling to manage and utilize that information.

"Lots of companies don't even know how to use their little data yet," said Stephanie Woerner, research scientist at MIT's Center for Information Systems Research. For example, she has heard of different departments within an organization creating applications that don't have correct data standards and cannot communicate with each other.

Lots of companies don't even know how to use their little data yet.
Stephanie Woernerresearch scientist, MIT

From a developer's standpoint, mobile app dev and big data usage vary depending on whether the application is for internal or external customers. "When we look at enterprises that are building applications, one of the things that they're really interested in learning more about is who uses the app and when," said Sravish Sridhar, CEO of Kinvey. "If it's a consumer app, they want to know what would drive more engagement with the customer."

If the application is designed for internal use, organizations want to ensure it is compliant. In such cases, Sridhar said organizations often run big data algorithms to determine how an application is being used.

Proper big data usage

While big data can present some obstacles for software professionals, it's important not to overlook the opportunities the vast quantities of data present. "One of the great things about mobile is that you can start to build applications that actually understand how users work with that information and start to provide advice and recommendations," said David Keane, founder and CEO of bigtincan.

Even though some industries are lagging behind in regards to big data usage in mobile app dev, some have already dappled with it. Vikki Kolbe, principal technology strategist at Hurwitz & Associates, cites banking as a vertical market successfully using big data.

Check fraud was basically eliminated at one point because banks could monitor paper flow, Kolbe noted. With the ability to make deposits via a mobile device, fraud is on the upswing as criminals have learned how to beat the system. "By having grid technology with big data implications, you can in real time assess is this a real transaction, does it fall within the rules?" she said.

Kolbe's example highlights the value behind big data usage that combines information with rules in order to determine whether action needs to be taken, something a number of organizations have yet to do. While some companies have been able to use big data to become more efficient, Woerner isn't sure it's being applied to wireless technology at this point. "This is all going to fit in with mobile apps, I just don't know that with mobile apps it's come into play yet," she said.

Maxine Giza is the associate site editor for SearchSOA and can be reached at

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Do you keep big data usage in mind when developing mobile apps?