Fast Data: What Is It and Where Is It Having an Impact?

With the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), raw data pours in from a myriad of sources: thermostats, smartphones, fitness trackers, home security systems and more. Among other things, this data allows businesses to more specifically target their messages to individual customers. The issue for many users with Big Data is lag time: Once the data is acquired, stored and processed, time was needed for its analysis and visualization. That’s where fast data comes in.

According to TechTarget, fast data is “the application of Big Data analytics to smaller data sets in near-real or real-time.”

With the use of self-service business intelligence, fast data allows users to integrate data quickly and to make decisions based on their own questions and analysis.

The result is data being acquired and analyzed as it is received, and actions based on that data being put into motion immediately. This allows businesses to be spontaneous, flexible and immediate. In an era when most consumer wishes are only a click away, the benefits of a company cutting its reaction time can’t be overstated.

According to Forbes, fast data has spread into a number of areas, particularly fields that thrive on a close and dynamic relationship between seller and consumer.


Professional sports organizations followed the lead of their virtual counterparts to increase customer engagement. The real-time interaction of e-sports has made online chats, real-time promotions and custom viewing experiences part of a natural progression. Professional sports teams and leagues adopted similar tactics, including trivia contests, Instagram promotions and online chats to engage fans both inside and outside the stadium. It’s a big boon for fans who can’t get enough statistics on their favorite players or teams. Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League all offer access to the kind of minutiae that fires up fans and fuels bar arguments. “A knowledgeable fan is an engaged fan,” the NBA’s Ken DeGennaro told Minnesota media outlet the Star Tribune.


When the consumer base is online, what’s hot in retail can change by the hour. Or less. Fast mining of trending social media data can alert a retailer when an item in their warehouse might be ready for its closeup, or when a spotlight item has passed its sell-by date. Viral trends can result in unexpected sales boosts and perhaps, more importantly, inspire consumer loyalty by establishing a retailer as “plugged-in” to the latest trends in fashion and entertainment.

Fast data also can be valuable in a crisis as well. When a fruit packing company warned Costco that some of its fruit might be contaminated with listeria, Costco was able to notify the customers who purchased those items, first by phone and then with a follow-up letter, according to The Denver Post.


Parcel delivery also provides plenty of opportunities for fast data innovation. UPS has utilized technology to find the most efficient routes for its drivers, and engages customers through its chatbot, UPS Bot, which fields questions about UPS locations, package tracking and shipping rates, and also can act on customer requests about where packages are to be left.

Amazon is pushing the envelope by delivering packages to customers’ car trunks. The Amazon Key In-Car app lets the delivery driver unlock the car’s trunk via the internet. It’s a godsend for urban consumers whose online purchases sometimes fall prey to “porch pirates” who help themselves to parcels left while homeowners are out. It’s also great for parents or anyone else who needs to have a gift delivered without the recipient seeing it.

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