Being ahead of the curve has always been essential for serious investors, but the spread of big data has made it easier than ever to find value in the data hidden in plain sight.
From companies' internal analytics to satellite photos, scraped website data to tracking consumers' locations, hedge funds and institutional investors are always looking for creative ways to get the edge in investments.
Behind a lot of this is Tammer Kamel and his company Quandl, a 6-year-old Canadian firm specializing in buying and selling data. The company finds data sets — either by partnering with a "domain expert" or scraping the web itself — and sells them to hedge funds for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"We live in a world where if you connect to the right database, you could know anything you want about the economy," Kamel told CNBC. (Watch the full interview below.) "We're going out to places Wall Street has never explored before and finding data that is highly relevant to professional traders."
"Every time someone buys a new car, what's the next thing they do?" Kamel said. "They buy an insurance policy. If you're counting those insurance policies, you're inherently counting new car sales."
So to get a jump on that data, Quandl partners with a car insurance company: Data included in new policies give insight into the health of the auto market, and before the companies report it to investors. That's everything from make and model to body color and the owner's demographics.