Which Sectors Will Big Data Have the Biggest Impact on in 2021?January 7, 2021
The digital transformation of the economy accelerated in 2020. Now, in 2021, we’re likely to see digital tech, like big data, have a massive impact on a variety of sectors across the economy — like agriculture, logistics and online retail.
By Emily Newton
Of all the new digital technologies to disrupt the economy over the past few years, big data analytics has likely been one of the most important.
This technology, which allows companies to extract insights from vast stores of traditional and non-traditional data, has pushed businesses across the economy to collect new information and search for hidden patterns in company data.
Now, the tech is likely to continue reshaping the economy in 2021 — especially as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down and economic recovery begins in the later parts of the year.
In 2021, we’re likely to see big data have the biggest impact on these sectors.
Modern agriculture, despite major advances over the past few decades, remains highly unpredictable. When growing produce, many variables — like heat, humidity, soil pH and soil moisture — can impact how plants grow. Even small changes to environmental conditions can significantly alter yield or harvest timing.
Many businesses in the ag sector, looking to combat this uncertainty, have turned to big data.
John Deere, for example, was an early adopter of smart ag tech. The company began experimenting with big data analytics well before 2012, when Deere released its first digitally connected farm machines.
In the following years, other major farm equipment manufacturers were quick to embrace the tech as well. Now, it seems like the industry’s investments in the tech are starting to pay off.
These companies have collected massive stores of data that can help make agriculture less unpredictable. New, algorithm-driven machines and digital farm tools can use this data to adjust seed placement automatically or identify weeds and selectively spray them with pesticides.
At the same time, major tech companies are beginning to show serious interest in the growing agricultural big data industry. Alphabet, for example, announced last year that it would launch Mineral, a “Computational Agriculture Project” that will use big data and robotics to improve crop yields and fight global hunger.
Many farmers, however, aren’t on board just yet. It’s unclear how farm data will be used and stored after collection by major companies. Some fear local data could fall into the hands of competitor farms or be used by chemical companies to increase prices on seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.
Farmers, who have long battled with companies like Deere over the right to repair owned farm equipment, may also have some concerns about data ownership and analysis.
The supply chain is under greater pressure and scrutiny than ever. 2020 reaffirmed the extreme importance of logistics to the global economy. Now, companies in the supply chain face the challenge of keeping the supply chain stable, even when market conditions are highly unpredictable.
Big data can help improve forecasting for logistics companies. The tech may be able to offer even more as the industry begins to adopt new technologies that make data collection easier.
For example, businesses are increasingly demanding features like freight tracking, which helps them keep tabs on shipments and provide updates to stakeholders if needed — telling clients that shipments of goods and raw materials may be late or ahead of schedule. Some companies that provide real-time tracking do so with GPS sensors or similar technology.
These sensors, in addition to helping provide updates to clients, naturally generate large amounts of data. With enough data, GPS route tracking can show businesses where shipments seem to flow well along the supply chain and where goods may be getting held up.
E-Commerce and Retail
The adoption of e-commerce accelerated significantly in 2020. As a result, many experts believe the industry may also outperform predictions on the adoption of new tech, like big data analysis.
In e-commerce, big data is most useful for advertising and customer relationship management. Behavioral data, sales data, and marketing analytics can all combine to offer a better picture of what people need, how demand changes over time, and even potential snags in the sales funnel or in customer service processes.
In 2021, many e-commerce businesses using data analytics may benefit from big data, even if they don’t intentionally adopt the technology.
The developers of most major e-commerce and customer relationship management platforms — like SalesForce, Shopify or BigCommerce — are actively integrating new big data insights into their technology.
Over time, new features and platform capabilities may help small businesses create their own big data toolkit — even if they don’t seek out big data technology for e-commerce.
How Big Data Analytics Will Continue to Transform Business in 2021
Providers of e-commerce, agriculture, and logistics solutions invested heavily in big data in the 2010s. Now, we’re starting to see how those investments will pay off.
New telematics tech in logistics will make it easier for shipping companies to offer new features to customers — like real-time freight tracking — while also collecting better data. Better data means new insights that may help companies resolve snags in the supply chain.
In agriculture and e-commerce, end-users of current tech are likely to benefit from big data advances, even without active adoption of the technology. Over the next year, big data may help make both growing crops and securing sales a much more predictable business.
About the Author
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, where she covers industrial, engineering, and science topics.