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Tools that offer new ways to interpret your business data

28 May 2021

Professionally and personally we have all become data creators – and data hoarders.

In the last two years alone, we've generated 90% of the data in the world according to the IORG.

We create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. That's 2.5 followed by 18 zeros. This includes everything from internet searches and social media to the connected world of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Yet we only ever see or use a fraction of this data. Just think of all those photos on your phone that you never look at — or years’ worth of instant messaging history. While there might not be a need to revisit this personal content, from a business perspective unused data is a missed opportunity. So much so, it even has a name: dark data. Consider the 24x7 warehouse video footage that’s never reviewed or the IoT data amassed from on-site devices – these could provide vital insights into warehouse efficiency or the performance of equipment – and predict likely failure.

Lighting up dark data

Research company Gartner defines dark data as “the information assets organisations collect, process and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes.” This includes unused data to support decision making and competitive insights.

It’s over two decades since the arrival of Business Intelligence tools that collect and process large amounts of structured and unstructured data from internal and external systems, and present it back to users through reports, charts and dashboards.  

So why are businesses still failing to make the most of this data? Providing people with the right information isn’t just about timing and relevance. It's about presenting it in an understandable and easy-to-use way.

Video analytics is improving public safety

Video analytics, for example, is a way to automatically analyse video to detect and understand events as they occur.  It’s used in many areas including transport, safety and security.  Unleash live is an AI-powered video analytics platform built to automate real-time visual oversight and alerts for cities, enterprises and infrastructure.

With the arrival of COVID-19, the public transport industry faced challenges in managing passenger flow and ensuring adherence to mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines. Through Edge Computing and cloud analytics, the Unleash live platform was able to gather real-time insights at the edge of the 5G network, including live streaming from cameras at ticket gates for entry and exit, and use those insights to improve passenger safety.

The platform tracks passenger numbers and detects if commuters are wearing face masks and monitors social distancing around stations. Real-time analysis of this data can provide operational insights that might – in the interests of passenger safety – trigger announcements, alerts or passenger rerouting around stations. Transport personnel can receive data on any device and it's presented to them in a simple, easy-to-use way.

Visualising data in new ways

Video analytics can work hand-in-hand with data visualisation tools. These tools find ways to represent information graphically, highlighting patterns and trends to help people quickly understand the bigger picture — and make it far easier to turn data into action.

From heat maps to tree maps, scatter plots and geographic overlays, interactive visualisation can help companies unlock far more value from these increasingly large data pools. At the 2018 MTV music week in Madrid, organisers proactively managed crowd flow by using temperature and flow sensors and Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) across the entire venue. People attending the event could also see which venues were busy and find the shortest queues for food and drink – all in real time via a custom-built app.

Tracking COVID-19 with heat maps

In Italy, for example, the Vodafone Analytics platform has provided Lombardy’s regional government with heat maps showing how population movements changed before and after local lockdown events. Across Europe, similar insights have provided greater visibility of the continent.

Separately, Vodafone has also helped authorities to better predict the impact of public policy decisions on the future spread of the virus, thereby hopefully minimising the time that the measures must be in place. Leveraging our experience of tracking the spread of infectious diseases like Malaria in Africa using big data and artificial intelligence techniques, Vodafone and the University of Southampton created a dashboard enabling governments to model how COVID-19 might spread in different scenarios.

Managing in real-time

Businesses need to turn data hoards into real business value – and that requires a simple and visual way to understand what has happened, where and why.

For more information about the power of using data to unlock business value, find out how to collect, communicate and use data effectively, here.

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