In all the buzz over the benefits of big data, there are fears that a mini-tech market bubble is being fomented, and big data's hype far outweighs its economic might.
A recent article in The New York Times joined the naysayers by featuring a group of economists dismissing the big data wave as no match for the Internet or gasoline engine in terms of innovations that have defined economic revolutions. And when companies from retail giants to professional sports franchises talk about implementing big data solutions, the conversation often involves analyzing tweets and posts rather than true cutting-edge meta data analytics.
Hunt down Osama Bin Laden with the help of the CIA-funded company Palantir Technologies? Big data. Root out fledgling pandemics by monitoring massive amounts of social chatter from the Third World? Big data. Use more computer cores than ever before to teach an artificial intelligence program to reach the level of "deep learning"? Big data. And in each of these cases, without any direct revenue implication for any one company.
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When you ask the world's big money makers in typical big brand consumer businesses to discuss how they are making money from big data, though, the message can be about as hard to decipher for the average individual as combing through Internet chatter from Pakistan.
Take NASCAR, among the most popular spectator sports in the U.S. It's partnered with Hewlett Packard on an "engagement center"—a glass-encased 600-square-foot room on the eighth floor of NASCAR Plaza in Charlotte, N.C.—which the group's chief marketing officer Steve Phelps said is "an enormously powerful tool."
"It takes big data and brings it down to something that is actionable," Phelps said on CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday morning.
Here is how it works for NASCAR: Within the glass-enclosed "Fan and Media Engagement Center," NASCAR can gauge through tweets and social media posts whether fans are confused about something occurring in a race, or confused by a promotional campaign of a sponsor, and NASCAR can react in real time. "We can have the broadcast partner make a change and retell the story in real time," Phelps said.
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