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Dan Linstedt

Bill Inmon has given me this wonderful opportunity to blog on his behalf. I like to cover everything from DW2.0 to integration to data modeling, including ETL/ELT, SOA, Master Data Management, Unstructured Data, DW and BI. Currently I am working on ways to create dynamic data warehouses, push-button architectures, and automated generation of common data models. You can find me at Denver University where I participate on an academic advisory board for Masters Students in I.T. I can't wait to hear from you in the comments of my blog entries. Thank-you, and all the best; Dan Linstedt http://www.COBICC.com, danL@danLinstedt.com

About the author >

Cofounder of Genesee Academy, RapidACE, and BetterDataModel.com, Daniel Linstedt is an internationally known expert in data warehousing, business intelligence, analytics, very large data warehousing (VLDW), OLTP and performance and tuning. He has been the lead technical architect on enterprise-wide data warehouse projects and refinements for many Fortune 500 companies. Linstedt is an instructor of The Data Warehousing Institute and a featured speaker at industry events. He is a Certified DW2.0 Architect. He has worked with companies including: IBM, Informatica, Ipedo, X-Aware, Netezza, Microsoft, Oracle, Silver Creek Systems, and Teradata.  He is trained in SEI / CMMi Level 5, and is the inventor of The Matrix Methodology, and the Data Vault Data modeling architecture. He has built expert training courses, and trained hundreds of industry professionals, and is the voice of Bill Inmons' Blog on http://www.b-eye-network.com/blogs/linstedt/.

A couple of comments on an entry I made a while ago: "What does your Dashboard look like?" lead me to continue this dive into visualization. Some of the comments are interesting, and ask questions like: what's the business value of visualization? Is it really needed in our industry? It might be nice, but it might be a niche product too... In this entry we'll explore a few of these things, and see what kinds of answers (if any) we can dig up.

Is data visualization just another fad?
Well, I have to go back to quite a few articles over the past several years which mention that there is convergence afoot. There is convergence in Data Integration, Warehousing, BI, there is convergence across customers, finance, and sales. There is convergence with manufacturing, service brokers, and software. Most everywhere we look - things are converging.

There's even convergence across scientific areas and business in the form of nanotech. New standards are being born, and as one paradigm slowly tails off, new ones spring up. It's the ever changing nature of change. "What doesn't change - dies. What evolves - grows and adapts. The only thing constant is change."

In order to understand if Visualization is just a fad, we should look at the existing technologies and delivery mechanisms and ask, how have they changed in the past 10 years?
Bar, pie, and spreadsheets are indeed a valuable tool - if you want details and to drill into specifics. It is important not to belittle their significance or their contribution as a part of the "visualization" of data.

However, they haven't changed much since their inception. Businesses change, paradigms shift - albeit slowly. The way businesses view and review their data should also be changing, a natural extension of the current graphics is 3D landscapes, and interactive scenarios laid out in new ways. In other words, if I want to view my business in a new way, or force myself to think differently, I should be looking for different ways in which to experience my data. The real world is not made up of just 2D surfaces, or numbers (addresses on a mail box), it is made up of interactive experiences.

There have been many experiments conducted across many well respected institutions that show: experiential settings appear to be one of the better ways of learning new things and thinking in new manners. From this we arrive at 3D interactive graphics for new and different ways to visualize data. Again, I make the point: the BI vendors have made tremendous strides to make their engines solid, to bring the value proposition of their engines to the fore-front, to include data mining and other mechanisms of retrieving data, all I'm suggesting is that "visualization" include the next step, the next layer, the experiential 3D learning environment.

I don't think visualization is just a fad, I think it's a broad range of delivery mechanisms that include bar, pie, line-graphs, and Excel spreadsheets - but I think the next "change" is again, to include the new interactive means of examining data.

"If you don't change what you're doing, you're going to end-up right where you're headed."

Is this new visualization really needed in our industry?
Ok - so scientists, and biologists, and chemists really have a use for this technology, but what about CxO's, executive staff, senior management? Is the business really in tune with having a need to drive this technology?

I'm not so sure how to answer this question, but I do know that sometimes showing new ways of seeing and interacting with information can spur new ways of application. I also know that sharp business minds are already experimenting with this technology as a competitive advantage. So I hypothesize that it's a symbiotic need, both parties (technology and business) need to come to the table to really spur the movement. That sitting back on our laurels and waiting (on either side of the fence) won't get us anywhere.

I suppose I could go back to Oil & Gas exploration industry, they use land-maps and geological studies, and earth core samples to figure out where the best place is to house tank systems, drill for new oil, and run pipes on solid ground. In the financial sector, what if a representative model could be developed? Different levels of transactions representing different levels and strength of ground layers, different levels of revenue and aggregation points representing pipes and flow valves, different divisions representing different tanks. Then map this to "find the leak", or "see which tank isn't producing enough", what's the optimal or maximum flow capacity of our financials? It could raise some eyebrows.

It's funny, we say business needs to drive technology, true. But sometimes business doesn't know what's possible until technology says: Hey, look at me, this is a new way of thinking - do you have a use?
It's a symbiotic relationship - and a delicate dance, how does technology justify new creations and investment without a potential customer? How do potential customers know what they might be able to accomplish without knowing what technology can create? Hence market studies, what-if with trusted customers, beta production of ideas, seed money, and investment capital from VC's and angels.

Personally I believe interactive landscapes and 3D modeling are just an evolution of data visualization, because in a way - bar charts, pie graphs and even spreadsheets are visualization of information too.

Thoughts and comments are welcome.


Posted October 11, 2005 8:23 AM
Permalink | 2 Comments |

2 Comments

As a researcher who applies computer graphics techniques to produce effective visualizations, I would agree with your thoughts.

What I would like to add though is that visualization is affecting us more than we think. It is being used increasingly in the "Oil and Gas" industry to preview the regions before drilling them for oil. Precision and efficient drilling is facilitated using visualization.

In the financial world, smart companies (as you rightly point out) are already using research in the field of visualization to find trading patterns and visualize stock information. (Keith V. Nesbitt, Stephen Barrass. "Finding Trading Patterns in Stock Market Data," IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, vol. 24, no. 5, pp. 45-55, September/October, 2004).

In the medical field, a CT/MRI scan that used to take over an hour can now be completed in a few seconds. This data is visualized by doctors to
avoid invasive diagnostic techniques like colonoscopy. Virtual colonoscopy has become a reality now, where a scan is more than enough to allow doctors to diagnose patients for polyps. It has even received FDA approval now.
http://www.hoise.com/vmw/04/articles/vmw/LV-VM-05-04-26.html

The bottomline is that visualization techniques are out there (as you rightly point out about technology). They need to accepted and applied effectively to obtain insight and aid decision making.

Dan and Alark,

Thank you for excellent observations on current 3D scientific visualization status. I enjoyed to read this blog a lot.

We at ScienceGL Inc develop 3D graphics for various scientific applications. So, I would like to add some comments from our experience.

The main advantage of 3D visualization approach is that it makes you see what you cannot see by traditional 2D pie-charts, line-charts, bar, etc.

For example 4D and up dimensional data set typical in many applications is simply impossible to analyze with old fashioned vis tools. Also amount of data in 3D screen can be drastically increased, giving user fast perception of main features of interest.

The problem with 3D graphics is that it is much more complicated as compared to 2D plots. So, if one tries to make some kind of "Jack Of All Trades" graphics for all needs, he will end up with huge ineffective package that does not really work.

In our projects we try to produce exactly what user need:
-realistic 3D
-interactive touch_and_move objects with read back
-concrete solution for each application.
-virtual reality kind of navigation through the data.

We invite you to test our technology with your data sets. We will appreciate comments, collaboration, ideas exchange.


Thank you.

Nick

3D Graphics for Science and Technology


Please see some 3D visualization example images at
3D Visualization Gallery

Some more ideas can be found at blog
3D scientific visualization

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