Big data in the real world isn't so easy

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General Motors' OnStar service, which provides drivers with remote vehicle diagnostics and responds to emergencies, already manages as much as 3 petabytes of data annually. OnStar CIO Jeffrey Liedel knows there is so much more that can be done to exploit that data-for the benefit of drivers and GM's business.

For example, GM is pilot-testing a mobile app for its Chevrolet Volt electric car that would help drivers monitor their vehicle batteries and remotely manage charging them.

Competitors, including Nissan and Ford, offer similar capabilities to monitor electric vehicles, or they plan to. Drivers want manufacturers to alleviate their "range anxiety," or worry about whether an electric vehicle is about to run out of juice. But that's not all. "There's something about the electric vehicle --you want to be connected to it," Liedel says. "The customer is more interested in analytics: How well am I driving, driving patterns, what's my fuel economy." (The Volt can also run on gasoline.)

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