Businesses in all areas are growing increasingly familiar with the concept of “big data”. While often seen as a buzzword, the trend towards using huge amounts of information to predict future patterns or better inform procedures and operations is clearly gaining ground.

While some may doubt the accuracy of this process, some businesses are using their data in different and fascinating ways. Shazam, the smartphone app which identifies music by recording snippits of songs, has just released a list of the artists it believes will be most popular in 2014.

It bases this information on the millions of music recordings users have recorded during the past year. Last year, the app predicted some artists would reach success and they’ve done just that.

While Shazam may not be sharing information about business procedures, it nevertheless demonstrates how harnessing user data can not only bring insightful observations, but predict future patterns. If businesses want to get ahead – especially retailers and those operating sites which can easily track traffic and user behaviour – they should start putting that data to better use.

Already job experts are predicting data scientists to be one of the most sought after jobs in the next century.

Tracking big data is one thing, but analysing it and finding the gold nuggets of information within will separate successful digital businesses from the pack during the next decade.

The sharing economy goes corporate

The last few years have seen the rise of the sharing economy. Through businesses scuh as accommodation site AirBNB, consumers are growing used to the idea of renting products that are not necessarily owned – just shared. Access is valued higher than ownership.

Now, this trend is breaking out of start-ups and is heading into larger corporations.

A new venture in the United States, Crowd Companies, has signed up several large businesses including Toyota, Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Whole Foods. The organisation intends to invite these companies to hear ideas about introducing sharing-economy principles into their own businesses.

While the sharing economy is still young, there are plenty of successful examples – both AirBNB and car-sharing service Uber are valued at several billion dollars collectively, if early reports are to be believed.

“Just like any other significant transition in an industry, there’s going to be those that embrace the change and those that push it away,” Crowd Companies founder Jeremiah Owyang told Wired. “The smart will embrace the trend and find ways for it to positively impact their business.”

While sharing economy principles may not necessarily integrate with existing business models, clearly businesses and start-ups are developing new ways of profitable sharing. While the rise of sharing-based businesses may not yet be hitting the highs of eBay and Amazon in the 1990s, this is a clearly a trend businesses can no longer ignore.

The real benefit of these models is empowering the consumer. By providing a way for users to make money, AirBNB creates the persona of working alongside customers rather than simply profiting from their purchase. All digital businesses will need to keep this in mind during the next decade and start thinking about how this can impact – or provide an opportunity – for their own models.