Death of the Snapshot and the Birth of Streaming BI

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In the late 1800’s, Leland Stanford paid photographer Edward Muybridge to help him settle a bet that horses leave the ground as they run. It took years of failure and innovation, but Muybridge eventually created a technique using an array of cameras with tripwires to take high-speed snapshots of a horse as it ran by.

Indeed, his snapshots (#2 and #3, above) prove that horses do, in fact, leave the ground as they run. Stanford won his bet. But more importantly, over time, the Muybridge experiment led to the creation of something much more profound: motion pictures. Thanks in part to Stanford’s bet, anyone can enjoy the immersive experience of the full motion picture.

Today, the business intelligence (BI) field is experiencing a similar revolution. Thanks to a technology called continuous query processing, first born on Wall Street years ago in response to flash crashes and market automation, anyone can see what wasn’t visible before. The technology is so new that it doesn’t have a name yet; we call it Streaming Business Intelligence, or SBI for short.

An immersive experience for your real-time data in motion

Like a movie, SBI provides a live, immersive BI experience for data in motion. The system stitches snapshots of data together: sensor readings from the car, GPS readings of location, weather conditions, and others. Because the visualization is live, BI users can now experience analytics like we experience a movie. And hence, you can now examine your business intelligence in real-time data snapshots that you couldn’t do before.

For example, with SBI a car racing strategist can see what static snapshots could not previously

reveal. The race strategist can now answer questions like “Is the car taking a less than optimal arc on its way into a hairpin turn?” “Are the tires starting to show signs of wear?” “Are changing weather conditions causing the engine to labor?”

Like the Muybridge experiment, programmers still have the option to collect discreet data snapshots, put them in a database, and create a kind of a movie that can more easily answer their questions. But that would take a long time and lots of money. Worse, by the time they were done, the value of the insights would be gone – who cares if you learn how you could have won the race after it’s over?

Today, SBI is like a video camera that provides a real-time view of digital business: just turn it on and start acting on what you see.

Digital Business is Built on Data in Motion

You might be thinking: I don’t run a Formula One racing team; what would I use Streaming Business Intelligence for? Like a motion picture director, you need to  think differently than when you had a still-motion camera. Digital business is built on data in motion: mobile apps; driverless vehicles; robots; kiosks, websites. Like the evolving motion picture industry, digital business owners must now think differently and use real-time data in motion.

Some are already using SBI, but it’s been at great expense. Uber and Lyft have disrupted the transportation business with moving data. Their apps know where you are, where you’re going, and where drivers are. Algorithmic trading on Wall Street executes over 80% of the world’s trades by analyzing and acting on market data in real time.

But SBI is no longer just for the mega industry disruptors. It’s going mainstream now. And the possibilities are immense. For instance, imagine if retailers could provide intelligent customer engagement by understanding in real time how customers react to promotions, pricing, or even the weather. Imagine how FedEx could optimize operations by understanding where thousands of connected vehicles are at any moment, which packages they’re delivering, and where the customers are. Imagine how much faster emergency response teams in a Smart City could be if they could analyze data in real time and knew where traffic is congested, calculated the best route based on that data, and communicated it all in real time? The use cases are endless.

Business Intelligence with snapshots aren’t dead. Like the still photograph, they will always be essential to reporting, long-range forecasting, and machine learning based on historical data. But Streaming business intelligence, like the motion picture, democratizes the ability to see what wasn’t visible before, and will separate the digital innovators from the digital dinosaurs.

Which one are you?

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Mark has over twenty years of experience working in the financial technology industry, with expertise in algorithmic trading applications and automated trading architecture development. He has spoken at numerous industry events and is frequently quoted in leading publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, the Financial Times and CNBC. Under his leadership, StreamBase was honored by the World Economic Forum with one of the most prestigious awards in technology innovation –Technology Pioneers. In 2010 and 2011, Institutional Investor named Mark as one of “The Top Executives and Innovators in Financial Technology.” In 2005 he won an InfoWorld Innovator award and was named to the InfoWorld Media Group’s Innovators Hall of Fame for his achievement in event processing.