2016 Revelations


Big data can be funny too…no…seriously! 


As the year draws to a close, and we treat ourselves to some well-earned merry making, here is a look back at some 2016 big data events that prove big data isn’t all dull and serious.

A World of How, What and Why


Google’s annual list of most googled terms are always revealing and this year’s is no different. Australia’s Top Ten “How to” searches in 2016 suggest that Australians are still concerned with the challenges of daily life: “How to tie a tie?” and “how to get rid of pimples?”

UK-based Googlers, on the other hand, were concerned with a somewhat more esoteric question: “How to make slime?”. Their Top Ten also included the more sadly philosophical: “How to accept myself for who I am?”.

Meanwhile, the “Why” question uppermost with Swedish Googlers in 2016 was “Why are eggs brown or white?”. Clearly, the world is still full of innocents.

 (Extra) Ordinary Gifts


This year’s Singles Day has been deemed Alibaba’s most successful yet. Sales this year reached USD 17.79 billion, compared to USD 14.3 billion last year. Unsurprisingly, top sellers were phones and appliances.

But everyday household items are also big hits on Singles Day. Hera BB cream from Korea and Laurier sanitary napkins from Japan are traditional favourites, as is milk.

Last year, one German supplier alone accounted for 2.35 million litres (USD14.3 million) of Singles Day sales of liquid milk. On the same auspicious day this year, an Australian manufacturer was able to shift 350,000 goat soap items worth over USD 1 million.

Deep Learners?


Alongside top trending searches, Google’s 2016 Breakout Searches (ie yoy searches that rose by 5,000% or more) were equally eye catching.

While “Severe Weather” featured in Germany’s list, “Nobel Prize” in Sweden, and “Melania Trump” in Slovenia, China’s list contained only two: “Deep Learning” and “Machine Learning”.

This presumably has something to do with ordinary people wanting to understand what organisations – from the government to corporates – are doing with their data. For example, e-retailer Shangpin.com has determined that Chinese consumers prefer to shop for underwear in the late evening. While it is still unclear how this will drive future marketing, the retailer says such “subtleties” provide valuable insights into the Chinese psyche.

 Better Restroom Service


2016 also provided some insight into Japanese restroom habits and preferences. A report by the Japan Times revealed that highway operator, Central Nippon Expressway Co. (NEXCO Central) had installed 3,000 sensors, including motion detectors for toilet bowls, in 51 restroom locations along the Shin-Tomei Expressway.

Analysis of the data collected suggest that cubicle use is gaining on urinals, and an average cubicle visit is four minutes and four seconds, up 35 seconds in seven years, which NEXCO puts down to the increased use of mobile phones in restrooms.

NEXCO expect this data to help it improve its service. For male commuters faced with long cubicle waiting times, this will be a relief.

Its Been Weird


Spotify dug deep into its data stores to come up with one of the year’s most interesting end-of-year campaigns. Displayed on billboards at select locations around the world, Spotify highlighted the behaviour of some of the site’s users, and their reaction to it.

Under a general tagline of “Thanks, 2016. Its been weird”, examples included:

  • Dear 3,749 people who streamed “Its The End Of The World As We Know It” the day of the Brexit vote. Hang on in there.
  • To the 1,235 guys who loved the Girls’ Night playlist this year. We Love You.
  • Dear person who played “Sorry” 42 times on Valentine’s Day. What did you do?

Developed by Spotify’s in-house team, Chief Marketing Officer, Seth Farbman said their data was inspiring and gave an insight into people’s emotions.

We agree – where can you detect more emotion than in a person’s playlist?.


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