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June 14, 2011

Data Visualization Revolutionizing Business Intelligence

By Larry Walsh

If you ever seen a map of the Internet, you probably can’t distinguish it from a map of the universe. Such visualizations of the Internet are complex, interwoven webs of Class-A networks, domains and peering points. Discerning any meaningful information out this lattice is seemingly impossible for the untrained eye.

And yet, the goal of such depictions is simulation of data exploration and understanding.

Visualization is fast becoming the next big thing in business intelligence. By translating massive amounts of data into visual representations, business intelligence specialists believe users will gain deeper insights business operations and relationships between disparate bits of data. Visualization will also help more easily identify trends and groupings within data sets.

Data visualization is already being used in numerous industries, including astronomy, chemistry, telecommunications, and energy exploration, to name a few. Oil companies use complex 3D visualization applications that map the geographic composition of land to identify potential pockets of natural gas and crude oil reserves. But the same technology is now being used to identify communities within customer segments, fraud and criminal relationships and voting patterns.

Anyone on Facebook has seen representations of data visualization if they’ve used any of the apps to map their relationship to peers on the social network. In Facebook maps, people with a large number of friends will appear with larger circles with lines radiating to other people. By looking at such maps, Facebook users cannot only see who had bigger communities, but their relation to other people with large followings and their potential to influence others.

The data visualization market is dominated by companies such as Tableau Software, QlikTech and Spotfire. IBM is planning to enter the market with the release of Cognos 10, which will include next-generation data visualization capabilities. The continued growth in this market through available products and use cases shows business intelligence isn’t just about crunching numbers, but visualizing the data for deeper insights into relationships and trends that numbers alone don’t easily reveal.

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