Big Data: European Stereotypes via Daily Routines?

Microsoft research investigates the fun side of big data

Big data is undoubtedly one of the biggest hype words in the business world, but its meaning and benefits outside the boardroom leave many shrugging their shoulders in confusion. Big data doesn’t always have to translate into a labyrinth of figures or complex business intelligence that raises more questions than answers to everyone apart from analysts. In fact, big data affects everyone and can offer real insights into the world around us, how humans behave alone or in groups, as well as predict the future – such as the Eurovision results or presidential elections. Taking a bit of a tongue-in-cheek attitude to big data can even translate into insights about European morning routines.

And this is exactly what we did.

With the summer nearing its end, workers and students across Europe are returning from their adventures to offices and classrooms. Inspired by the change of seasons, we decided to explore the fun factor of big data; digging deep into Bing traffic peaks to discover which European nations are first out of bed and online.

We found that the ever-efficient Germans welcome the new day earlier than any other nation, with Berliners getting an impressive 24 minute head start compared to any other capital we looked at. This adds up to an extra 104 hours a year! But, surprisingly, Berliners were not even close to the earliest of risers in Germany, easily beaten by citizens of Bonn who start typing their first searches at 7.40am.

By contrast, Madrid was the sleepiest capital city of the five European countries: be it the joys of the late night tapas or the colourful nightlife, citizens of Madrid woke up to Bing almost 40 minutes later than our friends in Berlin. To their credit, citizens of Seville beat any Berliner with flying colours, waking up at 7.49am.

It was the United Kingdom that was home to some of the earliest and latest risers. The Scots take their time in the morning, with residents of Edinburgh only logging on at 8.55am. But the Northern Irish are the slowest starters: people in Belfast welcome the day the last in Europe, getting online just one minute before 9am. It’s a different story in the south, with London’s city dwellers opening Bing at 8.30am – ranking second of the European searchers we examined. Parisians were not far off from the old rivals across the Channel, only waking up two minutes later than Londoners.

While delving into Bing’s search data can offer fun insights, it also shows how the vast amount of anonymised data millions of online searchers leave behind can be turned into something useful. By analysing user behaviour, for instance, it can offer crucial information to search marketers seeking to identify the best time to get their message out to their target audience. Big data means big change in terms of how businesses operate, but it will increasingly drip into the lives of everyone – not only the marketer or e-retailer attempting to understand digital behaviour, but also the political journalist speculating the winner of the upcoming election or the Brit who just gets excited about beating the French at something, be it waking up and getting online two minutes earlier on average.

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By Dave Coplin who is Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft UK