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Big data ‘played key role in US election’

The rapid proliferation of digital data in recent years is having a substantial impact on a wide range of industries and sectors, including last years US election.

Internet activity is generating an estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes and analysts are increasingly turning to publicly-available information to enhance their understanding of global trends.

For example, the Washington Post has reported on the use of Twitter by US President Barack Obama and his campaign team in the lead-up to the election later this year.

"Rows of people manning computers that monitor sentiment about the candidates in key states" are being employed to analyze how the campaign is progressing.

The president has been promoting hashtags in his speeches, notably opposition to increases to student loan rates, with over 20,000 Tweets featuring #dontdoublemyrate posted within minutes of remarks made in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in which he urged people to use it.

Social media was to prove a key component of the 2012 US election, with Twitter becoming a battleground between Republicans and Democrats, as well as a strong measure of public opinion.

Data analytics technology could prove a major weapon in the arsenal of those planning the presidential campaigns or organizations watching the real-time development of the political race.

"Twitter has become the ultimate real-time engagement tool for our campaign," Mitt Romney's digital director Zac Moffatt told the news source.

Social media site Facebook is used by millions of people around the world and is growing rapidly, providing another barometer of public opinion, with LinkedIn rapidly gaining users.

Google, the world's most popular search engine, is collaborating with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine the spread of flu globally by examining search queries.

One industry that is witnessed the "transformative" power of the big data trend, is financial services, with Wall Street experts turning to the range of sources available to deliver information rapidly to traders.

The Washington Post outlines a range of ways in which online comment is being used, from Amazon reviews employed to forecast sales to job listings on Monster to provide employment predictions.

Aite research director Adam Honore suggested around 50 per cent of organizations are thought to be experimenting with the use of Twitter analysis and other unstructured, public data sources to enhance their competitiveness.