While skimming an article in the current issue of Businessweek on the Weather Channel’s emerging use of big data for things other than predicting the weather, I saw the graphic at the right and immediately thought of the causality versus correlation debate. They have gotten hold of tons of data from Walmart and P&G, which they are putting together with local weather data. Then they make predictions like these.
I was intrigued enough to look at the text more closely and found this from an interview with Vikram Somaya, who seems to sit on top of their big data operations:
“We can tell you that on a January morning in Miami, if a set of weather conditions occurs, people will buy a certain brand of raspberry,” he says. Not just any fruit. Raspberries. When advertisers ask for an explanation—why raspberries?—Somaya can’t always provide a clear answer. “A lot of times we have to tell them to just trust us.
This from a company whose core business is predicting the weather. The world is changing faster than I have imagined.