Tag Archives: BI

Building Apps Incorporating the AI Power of IBM Watson’s Cognative Computing Cloud

IBM Watson’s APIs are available today so teams may ramp up quickly and use IBM’s cognitive computing engine.  From IBM Watson’s site, it seems like anyone may build against their cognitive computing platform.  In addition,  your team may submit to be ‘Featured’ in their application Gallery.  Explore the library of featured applications produced by this partnership.  At the time of this writing, there were 14 applications.
Several of these apps have been created by IBM to showcase their technology.  IBM Watson APIs are categorized into ‘Services’ used:
  • Dialog
  • Natural Language Classifier
  • AlchemyData News
  • Personality Insights
  • Tradeoff Analytics
  • Speech to Text
  • Language Translation
  • Text to Speech
  • Visual Recognition
  • Concept Insights
  • Relationship Extraction

They sound like AI,BI comprehensive services, but in full disclosure, I’ve not read though the API docs available by IBM.  It can be found here, grouped by IBM Watson’s Cognitive Services.

One of the applications powered by IBM Watson in their gallery is a “News Explorer”, which leverages the Service ‘AlchemyData News’.
The app runs in a browser, and consists of 5 main User Interface components.  The centrally placed, “News Network” widget similar to a mind map, correlates articles, companies, organizations, and people.  Visually it displays these components and their relationships in groupings similar to a relationship tree.
 News Network
The left side of the screen has a table called ‘Details’, one column with short descriptions of the stories.  From the UI perspective, it enables users to follow the data from left to right, from details to graphical representations.
Details
The right most side of the screen contains a world map leveraged as a heat map in which all the News is derived.
Locations
Right under the ‘Locations’ widget, there is a ‘Topics’ tag cloud.
TopicsTags
I encourage you to check out the News application, click here.
In addition to UI drill down within the widgets, there is a comprehensive search capacity.
Are you ready to compete with Siri, or Cortana, or build your own Expert solution?  Looks like IBM is empowering you to do so!

Companies Turn Toward “Data Sifters” & “Data Banks” to Commoditize on ‘Smart Object’ Data

Anyone who is anti “Big Brother”, this may not be the article for you, in fact skip it. 🙂
In the not so distant future, “Data Sifter” companies consisting of Subject Matter Experts (SME) across all verticals,  may process your data feeds collected from ‘smart objects’.   Consumers will be encouraged to submit their Smart data to ‘data sifters’ who will offer incentives such as a reduction of insurance premiums.
Everything from activity trackers, home automation, to vehicular automation data may be captured and aggregated.    The data collected can then be sliced and diced to provide macro and micro views of the information.    On the abstract, or macro level the information may allow for demographic, statistical correlations, which may contribute to corporate strategy.
On a granular view, the data will provide “data sifters” the opportunity to sift through ‘smart’ object data to perform analysis, and correlations that lead to actionable information.
Is it secure?  Do you care if a hacker steals your weight loss information?  In fact, you might feel more nervous if only the intended parties are allowed to collect the information. Collected ‘Smart Object’ data enables SMEs to correlate the data into:
  • Canned, ‘intelligent’ reports targeted to specific subject matter, or across silos of data
  • ‘Universes’ (i.e.  Business Objects) of data that may be ‘mined’ by consumer approved, ‘trusted’ third party companies, e.g. your insurance companies.
  • Actionable information based on AI subject matter rules engines

Consumers, people, may have the option of sharing their personal data with specific companies  by proxy, through a ‘data bank’ down to the data point collected   The sharing of personal data or information:

  1. may lower [or raise] your insurance premiums
  2. provide discounts on preventive health care products and services, e.g. vitamins to yoga classes
  3. Targeted, affordable,  medicine that may redirect the choice of the doctor to an alternate.  The MD would be contacted to validate the alternate.

The ‘smart object’ data collected may be harnessed by thousands of affinity groups to provide very discrete products and services.  The power of this collected ‘smart data’ and correlated information stretches beyond any consumer relationship experienced today.

At some point, health insurance companies may require you to wear a tracker to increase or slash premiums.  Auto Insurance companies may offer discounts for access to car smart data to make sure suggested maintenance guidelines for service are met.

You may approve your “data bank” to give access to specific soliciting government agencies or private research firms looking to analyze data for their studies. You may qualify based on the demographic, abstracted data points collected.   Incentives provided may be tax credits, or paying studies.

‘Smart Object’ Adoption and Affordability

If ‘Smart Objects’, Internet of Things (IoT) enabled, are cost inhibiting.  here are a few ways to increase their adoption:
  1.  [US] tax coupons to enable the buyer, at the time of purchase, to save money.  For example, a 100 USD discount applied at the time of purchase of an Activity Tracker, with the stipulation that you may agree,  at some point, to participate in a study.
  2. Government subsidies: the cost of ‘Smart Objects’ through annual tax deductions.  Today, tax incentives may allow you to purchase a ‘Smart Object’ if the cost is an itemized medical tax deduction, such as an Activity Tracker that monitors your heart rate, if your medical condition requires it.
  3. Auto, Life, Homeowners, and Health policy holders may qualify for additional insurance deductions
  4. Affinity branded ‘Smart Objects’ , such as American Lung Association may sell a logo branded Activity Tracker.  People may sponsor the owner of the tracking pedometer to raise funds for the cause.
The World Bank has a repository of data, World DataBank, which seems to store a large depth of information:
World Bank Open Data: free and open access to data about development in countries around the globe.”
Here is the article that inspired me to write this article:
Smart Object Data Ecosystem
Smart Object Data Ecosystem

Yahoo’s Opportunity for Success: Entertainment & News Streams

Taking on Tumblir, showing top tweets, trends currently active, is Yahoo going to provide Business Intelligence (BI) for entertainment and news?  I see a paradigm emerging where there are one of several BI widgets to express a visual depliction of real time news and entertainment streams from several sources including active searches, and the popular tags of the moment.

It’s possible Yahoo becomes a dashboard of BI news and entertainment widgets allowing drilling into a deeper level.  One widget might be a pie chart, showing a dynamic view of categories of tags for feeds, e.g. world news.  Then the user can click and drill into that category showing by regional news.  Cloud tags could be another graphical representation deplicting entertainment categories by the celebrity name or topic.

Other BI widgets such as a stop light or rpm speedometer may show hot topics, such as immediate news where the threshold of tweets, searches, posts, exceeds a certain level, the odometer goes from green to red on alert news, tornado warning in your area, or hot topics of any kind. Yahoo needs to evolve their old jump page, and instead of a hogpog of old and new paradigms, proceed with a news and entertainment business intelligence dashboard, default and configurable.

In addition, BI widget streams may be customized based upon a user’s subscription feeds.

BI Applied to YouTube Yields Value for Advertising, Marketing, & Sales

Google has scanned and indexed books, and showed the most commonly used words, and added meta data, based on book publishing year, genre, and so on.  It would be great to see that functionality come to YouTube.  Business Intelligence (BI) applied to video libraries yields profit for advertising, sales, and marketing.

Every video, in a batch process, gets analyzed for words used, as well as a word count per word, and there is meta data regarding the video, such as genre, and any other user provided information.  Then as videos get processed, a tag bubble cloud as the high level view shows dynamically the most commonly used words get bigger, and the relatively less appearing / said in the view get smaller.  Someone can then click on that word, and drill down to other information about the word, in a sense business intelligence about the word.  Advertisers, for example, may target certain classes, or word tags for their advertisements to appear.  Another profitable model may be to use this business intelligence for business presentations to understand what are the most frequently used words in business speeches, or presentations, based on a current time period, x and y dates, to track what are the buzz words, and even more granular, the business current buzz words of a specific sector, and global region.

Even the music industry can get into the act by getting ‘current phrases’ and incorporate them into their songs.

Our Mind’s Eye Stream for Sale: Who will Own those Portals?

As we approach a brave new world of our Mind’s Eye for Sale, who will own that portal, or jump page to other view’s or other perspectives?  It gets more and more expensive to see the world, and harder to travel.  Sound like Total Recall, the movie, not far off from the path we’re already on without even realizing.  Portals to other people’s perspectives, such as Instagram, seeing life from other people’s interpretations of the world, it is fascinating and alluring to us.

Once the Genie is out of the bottle, it’s hard to turn back.  In all sincerity, a lightweight version of Google’s Android OS for Glass may even be downloadable, and free as it is based on open source.  The Glass is super stylish, but super expensive.  If you’re in the main stream you can afford the glass, if not, you can build your own.  Not that difficult relatively speaking, a kit from Texas Instruments perhaps, such as we’ve seen in the PC world, where they now offer small computer kits for building small computers with Android, and Linux.  If you wanted to build your own Google Glass, how fast will there be imitations, I imagine, faster than you can blink an eye, pun intended.

Google will make it popular and sexy, after that, there could be a flood of imitations.  After all, today we can all build knock off Google Glass, a tiny web cam, a lightweight OS, and Bluetooth integrated with your smartphone for two way interaction, streaming, and communications.  The lightweight OS could today be Linux, but the champion for this effort , Red Hat? No, they are a support and solutions group for a blend of Unix.   No, there are a few hurdles that Google must and have taken, in some cases, partnered with Verizon, who had their own blend of HUD at the 2013 CES conference.  Today, we might mock and jeer people who wore glasses with a mini cam on their glasses.  It might be clunky, the idea is to make it alluring to the masses, as well as going through iterations to make it an acceptable medium to the public.  Once Google, the trailblazer in this endeavor burns through the problems, it will pave the way for a massive wave of alternate choices, become a commodity.  It’s not just the issue with the UI, there are legal battles to be fought, privacy for example, is it safe to drive with them on, and so on.  There needs to be mainstream platforms, so people take advantage, and are lured to independent platforms.  Many other companies might follow, such as Amazon or other cloud based companies.  Maybe even independent sites, web sites, mobile apps, and others joining and integrating with APIs.

Microsoft Business Intelligence Whiteboard Prototype Potential

I just read an interesting article in BBC News – Microsoft unveils self-sketching whiteboard prototype, progressing Microsoft Business Intelligence, and I must concur and disagree with Brian Blau, a consultant analyst at Gartner, and is quoted in the article:

“The metrics have to be tailored for each one of these circumstances and companies are still likely to need experts in their own business to be able to run something like this if it’s to be useful.”

There are already Business Intelligence (BI) Analysts in most mid size to large firms across almost all sectors. These analysts already are creating custom reports using business intelligence tools, and then displaying these reports on multiple mediums.  The prototype, it seems, Microsoft is proposing should expand BI to C suite executives, and also enhance the existing abilities of BI analysts, that is the hope.  It does not seem the article is suggesting the removal of the Business Analysts; however, the hope in the BI world has been to try to get more executives to create dynamic reports, and visualizations.  Although, typically C Suite executives ask their BI Analysts to generate `canned`, defined reports executives can export to their Powerpoint presentations. If this new prototype medium is similar to the intuitiveness Microsoft has recently brought to the table with the Surface, it`s possible we may see more adventurous executives trying to create reports; however, that may create new problems.

Business Analysis typically use a language called SQL, or Structured Query Language, although some BI tools try to abstract that layer, and provide the senior BI analysts or execs the layer of abstraction they can use, and more easily understand.  Unfortunately, in many cases, a performance degredation occurs in generating the reports for any number of reasons, e.g. the executes create reports, which are well-meaning, but the non skilled execs not familiar with the intricacies of analytics, may create non-sensical reports, ie, ask the wrong questions, wastes database, or data warehouse resources, and eventually they get an answer to a question, which they didn`t mean to ask.

So in regards to Brian Blau`s quote, I would tend to agree with him after all, although the question C-Suite executives ask typically: I have all this information and technology, why can`t I access it directly.  Answer: the way the data is stored is typically in a way which requires SQL,  a skill set the C-Suite executives may not have or be very skilled at using.  It`s not the sexyness of the medium that will eventually make this work, although it will make the execs salivate, it`s a layer of abstraction from the complexity of the data, which is easy for anyone to use, and is extremely efficient.  Additionally, are advances in data warehouses which are making the analytical processing faster. We may be there, only time will tell.

Digital Media Platforms: BI Competitive Edge for Businesses & Consumers

This post applies to any digital media platform that distributes news articles, books, music, movies, and more.

As I was looking online at a New York Times article, when I scrolled to the bottom of the screen, a popup appeared and told me I had 9 of 10 free articles left for the month, and I thought that was brilliant.  As digital media becomes more competitive, and the content on the platform varies, regardless if it’s the pay as you go model; trial, with unlimited after trial;  or free until max per month or week as the lure; all companies need to allow their clients or potential clients to see how they are using the digital media platform’s products.

As an example, I would like to see what percentage of Technology articles I am viewing per day, week, or month verses Business articles for a certain periodical, and then I can make an informed decision regarding which periodicals I choose to subscribe to for business and also for Technology.  Maybe digital media companies will evolve to have mixed business models, such as, pay per consumption option for all articles after free until max, then for select sections, such as Business or Technology, they may offer unlimited option for the Business, and eventually even a particular editor of Op-Ed pieces.  It could be a price that is significantly less then getting the whole periodical, but at least you are able to attract consumers that have been less willing to go for the full paper, and don’t want the hassle of a pay per go, or monthly chargeback per use model.

If I want to choose a magazine for photography, and I am into archeology from a specific region, as a perspective buyer, I might want to know from the publisher’s entire content, and not just what I have read, a drill down pie chart of subject matters for all photos, and then after I selected Archeology, what percentage of those articles are from a particular region, a subject, and then a photographer.  This is also a powerful business intelligence tool for existing consumers, and may give you a competitive edge.  Also, alliances, that are able to partner for other content, index, and transform that content, say using NewsMLG2, and then perform sharing margin and chargeback.  The lure to their portal would be the driver for the competition as well as the vast of content, and partnerships.

A Note for Advertisers

There are other forms of Business Intelligence for your digital medial consumption that can be offered, such as indexed content, text, images, and video.  You can not only capture image descriptions, and objects within a video to be indexed, which can be used for advertisers to see what the demographics of consumers are watching videos with the most  sneakers, or smartphones, and descriptions that may include dancing clowns.  This may assist the small to mid side startup digital advertiser to understand the consumers in their target markets, and abstract the data.

Business Intelligence, Analogies, and Articulation of Data on Mediums

As I was reading the article from the New York Times, As Boom Lures App Creators, Tough Part Is Making a Living, the typical doom and gloom story about the get rich quick with creation of applications on Tablets is true of any start-up company, may it be a restaurant, clothing shop, or other.  You have idea, Sally has an idea, and so does Fred, and the likely hood everyone will be elated about every bar, restaurant, clothing store or application is ridiculous.   Simple economics, and opportunity cost, you cannot go to every restaurant in parallel every night.  One USD trades off an opportunity to spend it somewhere else.  One area I would suspect has massive opportunities in the coming weeks, months, and years is Business Intelligence, Analogies, and Articulation of Data on a Tablet medium.  Yes, it is true, there are established players in the marketplace, but being established also makes you less nimble for change.  Being able to look at a clients Data Warehouse, and create mediums for analogies expressing where there customers have been spending their money, why, and help predict trends in a KISS fashion to any level of a business organization is key.  That is why the innate talents of user interface, user interface engineering, or way back it was called industrial design.  In short, part of the appetite for corporate spending will always come from how do I make more money with the product I just bought, Return on Investment (ROI).  Business Intelligence is one area I have been studying for years, and as all people know, we all find it difficult to express, or analogize thoughts, and specifically, dive into ‘data’ and turn it into information a CEO, or business analyst can understand and turn that ‘information’ into a new marketing campaign, hence, business intelligence.  Until we can all read minds, and transfer like for like information, BI, and improving upon this space will be an area to derive income.

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PostgreSQL / local database and SOA, mid tier for cloud solutions to improve performance

In an article I read from the NY Times, Salesforce.com may be making a play to banish Oracle as a supported platform. However, the system which might be interesting would be a PostgreSQL, or in memory database, acts as a local cache for the transaction based system, clears the local database records/cache after it uploads the ‘staged’ data from the local database to a cloud database where the data is ultimately stored. The activities on the local database should be fast, and the cloud database is a) data that may be transformed to any cloud based solution vendor(s), if necessary, if an SOA is built on top of the local database which communicates with the cloud via APIs. b) enables a local data-mart, if not transferred in real time, i.e. use a nightly transformation and have access to “day of” BI on a limited set of local data, c) again transaction performance and data segregation of the warehouse. This architecture is already in use at many firms, but I wanted to call it out. Another option is to use two cloud database solutions, one ‘local’ to your region, and one globally dispersed for performance and redundancy using an ETL, although I am not convinced this would be a great architecture.  The second cloud tier can be a transformation from the first for regulatory archiving, if required by law either for finance or DR (Disaster Recovery) policy.

Google is Going to be the Next Public and Private Data Warehouse

In an article I wrote a while back, Google to venture into Cloud, provide Open Source APIs, assist small businesses to be Cloud Solutions Integrators, I was talking in the abstract, but I saw on the Google site, buried way down their menus, under the ‘More’, and then select the ‘Even More’ option, and at the bottom left of the page you will see Innovation, Fusion Tables (Beta).  Google is advanced, ready to compete with the database vendors, with a user friendly UI, better than I thought.  They are currently providing a way to upload data to a Google Drive, then the user imports the data from the Google Drive, and using table views  and Business Intelligence tools, allows the user to manipulate and share the data.  The data allowed to be uploaded into tables seems limitless. Although, they state Google is still in Beta, and publicly are showing users can upload and link to Google data instead of allowing users to connect to external data sources, such as your sales transaction database, there may be an API in the works for 3rd parties to allow for integration using direct connections through drivers such as ODBC or a JDBC driver to integrate with transactional systems to stream data and not just uploaded Google data.  However, this may be their strategy, to host all of the data, and have a migration utility.  At this stage, they would like to house the data and have the cloud storage infrastructure, however, the strategic mid-term goal may be to allow you to house your RDBMS transaction data locally, and we could stream, and/or upload into their data warehouse to apply Business Intelligence to manipulate the data, and then publish it in multiple formats, e.g. they would display the data for public or private consumption, and I can also see you are able to then publish charts with commentary into your Google Plus stream with specific ‘Circles’.  Brilliant.  Hat’s off to you guys.  If Google allows streaming of the data, or what we call data transformations from your e.g. sales transaction system to the Google data warehouse, then they would be competing with IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft.

Update: 12/26/12
After all of that profound scoping, and keen insight, I was chatted by a developer that Google’s BigQuery does the job better.  I am curious why it has not taken off in the Marketplace?  Anti-Trust?  Also, why then create an abstraction layer like these other products like Fusion and call out explicitly Google Docs, maybe that would help them transition into the market space with a different level of user the consumer, or the target user would be different, such as the small business.
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