NoSQL Databases: 4 Game-Changing Use Cases

January 13, 2016
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Sure, you’ve heard about NoSQL, but is it just another technology fad that’s all hype? What can you actually do with a NoSQL database? With the performance and scalability that NoSQL offers, the only limit is your imagination. 

Financial Services

Sure, you’ve heard about NoSQL, but is it just another technology fad that’s all hype? What can you actually do with a NoSQL database? With the performance and scalability that NoSQL offers, the only limit is your imagination. 

Financial Services

When you picture a trading firm or hedge fund, you might see a Gordon Gecko clone, clutching multiple phones, hunched over a Bloomberg terminal, barking orders to buy or sell. But in an increasing number of firms, the actual trading is carried out by sophisticated computer programs instead of human beings. Algorithmic trading is proving that computers can be more effective at picking stocks than human beings. A number of books, such as A Random Walk on Wall Street, urge people to invest in ETFs rather than playing the stock market themselves.

NoSQL’s flexibility in dealing with non-tabular data really shines. Stock trades are linear, with wide variations in prices—and any program needs a lot of data to make good decisions. A conventional relational database might be too slow for a program that needs to make important financial decisions quickly

Environmental Monitoring

The environment is a hot topic, and even NoSQL has the potential to play a meaningful role. A number of organizations and governments are depending on environmental monitoring to quite literally save the world. 

Perhaps the most common kind of environmental monitoring is the humble backyard weather station. Even a small weather station can capture a lot of data, from air pressure to temperature, wind speed, rainfall, and so on. If you wanted to connect even a small station to a database and produce high-resolution detail, you’d need a large storage capacity. Now try to imagine a network of a bunch of stations. You’ll need a big cluster—probably more than one—to handle all the data. 

Everyone likes to make fun of weather forecasters, but forecasting relies on sophisticated computer models like the Global Forecast System (GFS) and North American Mesoscale Model (NAM). These models only get better as more weather data is fed into them. With the backyard models, they can potentially be even more accurate. The Weather Channel has realized this, which is why they acquired Weather Underground for its network of personal weather stations.

It’s also possible to monitor pollution, such as particles in the air or water. Combined with the weather prediction, authorities can issue warnings for smog much more quickly.

Cell Network Monitoring

There’s nothing more annoying than a bad cellular connection, especially since many of us rely on our smartphones for just about everything. While, in the developing world, carriers can place towers for easy monitoring, they’re subject to NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard) from people who don’t want to live near towers. Faced with the conflicting goals of delivering performance and limiting obtrusive equipment, carriers are placing small cells in places like stadiums and shopping centers.

With a NoSQL database, carriers can monitor cells and look for network spikes, which means they need to ramp up capacity quickly. A bunch of people bringing their smartphones to a football game can easily overwhelm a network. But with proper monitoring, this can be prevented. 

Mobile use is only going to grow, and customers are going to demand more and more robust networks. NoSQL will help carriers keep up with the demand.

Building Customer Profiles

If you’re tired from a long day of stock trading, environmental monitoring, and cell network monitoring, you might be tempted to kick back and relax with a bowl of popcorn and your favorite streaming video service. Even then, there could be a NoSQL database at work. To keep you paying your hard-earned money for the subscription fees, streaming services want to make watching as frictionless as possible. That means they don’t want to keep you searching for something you might want to watch, but to suggest something it thinks you’ll like.

A service like Netflix has a lot of data on its customers’ habits. They probably need a large database storing data collected over a long period of time. Sounds like a job for a NoSQL database. This is the kind of operation that would be unwieldy on an RDBMS but is well-suited to NoSQL. By comparing habits of similar users, the service can suggest things to watch, and update it with each new episode or movie the user chooses.

These are just a few of the ways that NoSQL can change the world. With NoSQL, the impossible becomes reality. Learn how Hadoop software is changing how businesses and governments are storing and using data.