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Big Data Projects With Big Potential

March 9, 2016, 11:30 AM UTC
Photograph by Brad Wenner for Fortune

So far, successful applications of data analytics have been few and minor enough to leave many skeptics unconvinced. But some of Palantir’s early projects—the ones it will talk about, at least—hint at big data’s promise. (For more, read our feature story “Palantir Connects the Dots With Big Data.”)

Study your customers …
Number crunching can help companies in retail see how product placement affects sales. Palantir helped Hershey (HSY) figure out, for example, that sales rose when the chocolate was placed next to marshmallows.

… and find more of them
Insightics, a joint project of Palantir and payment processor First Data (FDC), analyzes customer info for small businesses. Among its products: heat maps, based on credit card data, that show businesses where customers live and help them decide—whether (and where) to expand.

Set the right price
Insurers’ profits often rise or fall on “mispricing risk”: essentially charging too little for insurance policies relative to the losses they incur. Palantir says its analytics software lets insurers price policies more accurately; Zurich Insurance is one of its key clients.

Spot financial crooks
Palantir originated as an antifraud tool at online payment processor PayPal (PYPL). Intuit (INTU) (maker of TurboTax) has used its pattern-recognition software to spot fraudulent tax returns, and financial institutions, including the U.K. division of Santander Bank, rely on it to spot customers with possible criminal histories.

For more on big data, watch this Fortune video:

A version of this article appears in the March 15, 2016 issue of Fortune with the headline “What Business Can Do With Big Data.”