As speculation about Apple's iWatch grows – will it be a snap bracelet? will it replace the iPhone? – it got me thinking about a watch (of all things) supporting the vision of real-time analytics. What sounds stupid at first (the notion of an old-fashioned personal device, around for 5 centuries with little to no innovation over such a long period, inspiring a 21st century topic such as real-time analytics) has some merits if you think about it twice.
First off, wearable computing devices are real business. According to tech analyst Juniper Research, the next-gen wearable devices market, including smart glasses, will be worth more than $1.5 billion by 2014, up from just $800 million this year.
While the majority of those devices are sold in the context of fitness and healthcare scenarios, there is applicability in modern enterprises. In fact any business process that can benefit from real-time analytics can leverage computing devices that are "at hand" and travel with us easily.
So what business processes can benefit from real-time analytics? Let's not argue over the definition of real-time, near-time or other academic definitions. Let's simply say it's "any information whose availability within a defined time window provides an opportunity to make a difference as the result of action being taken upon receiving it." Sound complicated? Well, let's agree on information having an expiration date or diminishing value over time. Fraud detection on credit card activities for instance requires immediate attention; if acted upon too late, the value of the information is zero. Think about a call center manager monitoring waiting time of incoming calls, knowing the current queue and KPIs on internal call handling in conjunction with customer expectations. Shifting resources swiftly can have a significant impact on customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty, but only if the information is used within a "window of action."
Here are some other examples in which real-time analytics can make a difference:
- Market news that may impact stock prices
- Marketers monitoring website traffic, improving content or reacting to anomalies
- Unusual pattern detection on network traffic to avoid security issues
- Directing waiting lines at airports or other transportation facilities
- Analytically modeled recommendation engines for shopping websites or TV subscribers
- Or, in combination with location awareness, optimizing travel routes can have significant impact (for instance, McKinsey estimates an astonishing global value of smart routing in the form of time and fuel savings of about $500 billion in 2020. This is the equivalent of saving drivers 20 billion hours on the road, or 10 to 15 hours every year for each traveler, and about $150 billion on fuel consumption. These savings translate into an estimated reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 380 million tons, or more than 5% per year.).
So what's iWatch got to do with it? Well, it magnifies the ubiquity of actionable information available to drive business benefits. It doesn't matter if the iWatch ever sees the light of day. Real-time analytics can reach us everywhere, all the time – and if Apple solves the battery challenge for such a device, maybe even on our watches.
We check the weather on our smartphones; why not check a financial metric on your watch? We run GPS on our phones to get directions; why not use BI data on your watch to help navigate a difficult decision? Plus, there's the added benefit of the data being real-time.
Gartner identifies real-time analytics as a trend for 2013, explaining that with the vast amount of information generated every minute and the reduced time-to-decision necessary at modern businesses, real-time intelligence is becoming a "must have for survival." Imagine a marketing executive running to a meeting and receiving a notification on her watch warning her about a sudden shift in social media sentiment that requires a swift response. Or a sales executive receiving an alert about a drop in production that could affect a deal he hopes to close. The use cases may not be much different than mobile BI's, but the delivery mechanism can have a great effect when it comes to the immediacy of response. Not everyone has a smartphone tethered to them during daylight hours, but a watch goes everywhere with you.
I'm thinking about this as arcplan prepares to release the next iteration of our BI platform, code-named arcplan Xenon. The real-time factor is inherent with our architecture and philosophy. By using HTML5 and responsive design, we're making it seamless to design BI apps once and deploy them on any device from your iPhone to your iPad, and you never know, maybe soon to your iWatch or even Google Glass. Not only does our innovative approach provide huge savings and shorten the time to market for developers – you don't need to know the next "big" form factor, as arcplan's responsive design approach will automatically support it – but it also enables users to choose their favorite delivery mechanisms, furthering the spread of analytics to everyone making it easy to use and delivered instantly where they want it.
What do you think about the wearable computing trend and my vision of bringing real-time analytics to everyone?