5 Surprising Applications of Data Science

applications of data science

Using Big Data in Real Life

  • Facial Recognition
  • Catastrophe Prediction
  • Child Welfare Programs
  • Steganography
  • Retail Management

Data science might surprise the average person in its every-day applications. The information gleaned from global sources about culture, attitudes and even the kind of breakfast treats people prefer affects the way people shop, communicate and surf the Internet, among other uses. Here are five surprising applications of data science.

Related Resource: 20 Best Data Science Certificate Programs

Facial Recognition

Anyone who watches television law enforcement dramas will have seen at least one program showing facial recognition. In fact, the data science application has been tested in Orlando for a year. The idea is that cameras that routinely scan crowds of people are placed in police departments and in public areas. The programs use the images to locate individuals wanted by law enforcement. The TSA has been experimenting with these programs to identify passengers that pose a risk and to expedite boarding and baggage retrieval. Even Facebook uses facial recognition to prompt users to “tag” friends when their stored images turn up in posts.

Catastrophe Prediction

Insurance companies have long used records of floods, wind events and other natural disasters to help them decide rates and benefits. What is new is the ability data science gives the industry to predict such events and even to quantify the indemnity level that will likely result. A company called KatRisk has software that uses global data to help insurance companies make timely decisions about underwriting policies anywhere in the world.

Child Welfare

A software called “Case Commons,” cited in the blog Domino Data Lab is using data science to predict outcomes for children or systems of people. Data collected about commonalities in childhood occurrences and in other things such as poverty or mental illness produce a “predicted path,” making it easier for social workers or program administrators to decide what kind of intervention will give the best outcome for the client. That can result in faster, more cost-effective and more appropriate responses.


Sounding more like something from a James Bond movie than an actual communications tool, this data science innovation is helping businesses and governments transfer sensitive information more securely. Information is encrypted and then hidden inside an image or a video. The information is invisible to anyone without the encryption key. This application ensures that no “third party” can capture the message or identify the sender or the recipient. For instance, the image of a scanned document can be securely embedded in the image of a tranquil forest, and no one but the intended recipient will even know it is hidden there.

Retail Management

Illustrating this use, an article in Forbes Magazine mentions how Walmart used data science during Hurricane Sandy to predict consumer demand. The retail chain knew it must stock emergency items in response to the impending storm threat. That included things like water, flashlights and other equipment. Looking at sales data as a whole instead of individual incidents, the company noted that in many other disasters there had been a rise in demand for strawberry Pop Tarts. The stores in the path of the hurricane stocked up on the pastries and they sold well.


New technology is found nearly every day, and people constantly find new uses for existing software. These five applications of data science to the world’s cultures and industries are only the technological iceberg’s tip.

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