Every second, a broad spectrum of powerful rays strikes our planet—life sustaining, yet quite dangerous in the extreme. The same type of effects can be seen in businesses around the world, as they are continually bombarded by giga-streams of data, some indispensible for success, much irrelevant, and others potentially fatal.
“Streaming data is going to be a reality for us from here on,” was how Gartner VP and distinguished analyst Ted Friedman underscored this point at last week’s Gartner Enterprise Information keynote at the Master Data Management Summit in London.
Big Data Isn’t Just About Size
As Friedman continued, it became apparent that Gartner’s prior attention to big data has shifted to include data timelines rather than just the size, speed, or complexity. Today, streaming data flows are being harnessed by thousands of companies in hundreds of vertical markets—from rail carriers monitoring thousands of elements each second in their network, to sports arenas that can now make real-time offers at games that are precisely calculated to fulfill each fan’s particular desires in the moment..
What had been loosely called a big data challenge, with ill-defined goals, is being refocused on Fast Data, which highlights real-time opportunities for global businesses and governments.
Using Hardware and Software to Accelerate Business
Swiss Rail, one example from the keynote, has achieved one of the highest levels of efficiency (96%) of all rail systems around the world, in large part due to its successful deployment of thousands of sensors in trains, tracks, signals, and stations. When combined with real-time event processing and messaging software from TIBCO, this operational data prevents train delays and saves tremendous energy and cost.
Swiss Federal Railways has the highest density of trains in all of Europe. With revenues topping $8 billion dollars in 2012, the carrier employs more than 29,000 and transports more than 350 million passengers a year. Switzerland has the largest population using public transportation in Europe and is second globally only to Japan.
To support more passengers, the carrier needed to improve efficiency, yet was hampered by the need for trains to often stop to allow other trains to safely pass. Every time a train has to make an unnecessary stop, it wastes energy and causes delays.
The railway realized that it could reduce the number of unnecessary stops if it could anticipate conflicts and direct one train to speed up, while directing another to slow down. But they didn’t have a system in place to accomplish that. Adding to the challenge was the dynamic nature of traffic and a mandate for safety. Without the ability to anticipate and monitor in real-time levels of traffic at peak hours and locations, the system could fall apart.
“The Swiss Rail control system has improved on-time performance and optimized loads on its network by correlating and analyzing it,” said Friedman. Swiss Rail estimates it has saved $10 million since implementation last year.
One constant theme throughout the Gartner keynote was the necessity for real-time solutions to capture valuable data, then integrate, distribute, and analyze it immediately to initiate actions. With constant streams of real-time data pouring in from multiple sources, this would have been categorized a year ago as yet another manifestation of the big data crisis plaguing businesses.
But with solid streaming data solutions deployed more and more frequently around the world, TIBCO’s Fast Data is rapidly gaining traction. Harnessing Fast Data for immediate positive outcomes is far more valuable to a corporate bottom line than simply triaging enormous amounts of data for further analysis at some time in the future.