There are two types of data visualization: discovering data relationships and imaging known relationships. As engineers, scientists, analysts, etcetera, we are very familiar with exploring a new data set, a new space, and how visualizing that space helps us become familiar with it. Conversely, when we are already familiar with the inter-relationships of a class of data (e.g. measurement sets of something well understood), and thereby implicitly familiar with its indicative patterns, the challenge is rendering the data such that we become immersed in its space. This concept can be extended to the world around us; Imagine physics as simply the exchange of data between different actors. In this case we are very familiar with the data and its inter-relationships (gravity, chemistry, etc.), and we want its presentation to allow us to experience it as realistically as possible. Well, when we know what we want we usually want to go BIG, and when money is no object, enterprise solutions are as big as it gets.
Who wants to board the Enterprise and play on the HoloDeck? Who doesn't! Well, the HoloStation won't live up to Trekkie standards, but it's a quantum leap beyond my home setup. A primary goal of this setup for the oil & gas industry is to facilitate exploration of new resources. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is, they have to experience it for themselves, but imagine a room projecting 3D imagery (still need those glasses) where you can stand within the rock and seemingly touch it while walking the path you plan to drill. I wish my local arcade had this setup.
How much effort have you had to go through to find that one number you needed to make a decision? Has this ever limited the extent of data used in your decisions? In the energy industry, "Smart Grids" are collecting vast amounts of real-time data that must be understood and acted upon quickly. There is no time to analyze the asynchronous data in manual form, say a spreadsheet, and take action before catastrophic failures occur; Smart Grid data must be presented to the user such that they can quickly spot trends and anomalies. Some of the decisions to act can be automated, but ultimately we need "... consumable information for stakeholders to work with, analyze, discover and take action ..." (Pike Research). This article goes over the challenges of smart grid technology and how information is presented such that the grid can most efficiently be maintained. Looking from the bottom up, there are a number of smart grid solutions for the home that give us unprecedented insight and control. From either perspective, how we see the data determines how we act upon the data.
It's very convenient when machines produce data in well structured formats as it allows us to easily parse, chop, and present the data with simple routines. Unfortunately, people tend to express themselves in a variety of formats, and we can be limited by the speed with which our technology allows us to augment, splice, and present that information. Oblong, Inc., has developed a set of collaborative enterprise solutions that allow us to capture information however it's presented (white board, images, presentations, etc.) and organize that information into threads, capturing our stream of consciousness.
Frankly, their products are just cool. Remember the Nintendo's Power Glove back in the early 90's? Oblong's "Power Glove" lets you pull, pinch, fling, and place the images in a wrap around display with multi-touch table. As I played around ala Tony Stark, someone had to tap my shoulder to bring me back to this world.
Written by: Sean M. Gonzalez