There’s something undeniably exciting about seeing live data streaming in, though it’s hard to describe exactly what’s so exciting about it. Is it seeing little blips move around a screen in real-time? Is it seeing the numbers change in a spreadsheet?

At VisualCue, we’ve had the opportunity to enter many businesses that had real-time, streaming data capabilities with no great way to visualize it. Every time we are brought in to implement a solution at one of these sites the thrill, for us anyway, is always the same. Seeing live data, for us anyway, makes it real. It’s easy to separate a static spreadsheet from anything tangible in the real world because, by it’s very nature, a static spreadsheet isn’t alive with data. As soon as the data stops coming in, it becomes a historical document.

But when you’ve got real-time, streaming data you are seeing exactly what’s happening in the moment, and that’s always exciting. Now you just need to do something with it. And that’s where we’ve learned a few things.

Data visualization for logistics

This is the one industry where we’ve had the most success in implementing real-time systems, and with good reason. Logistics is the perfect industry for streaming data: boxes are being prepared and loaded at facilities with active barcode scanners which are then loaded on to trucks with GPS tracking and pre-defined routes. When the boxes are delivered at their location they are scanned again. With each scan and mile various elements like delivery estimates, gas mileage and dozens of process steps are recorded and measured.

And that’s just in logistics companies that deliver goods. We’ve had implementations with real-time data in the time-share and customer service industries that had their own logistical nightmares.

So what have we learned from these experiences? Simple: to use real-time data effectively you need a real-time way of analyzing it.

Real-time data analysis

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But that’s the tricky part, because most of us aren’t data analysts and lack the ability to look at a spreadsheet and immediately spot any problems. To be perfectly honest most users have difficulty looking at a spreadsheet and finding the actionable intelligence even when the numbers aren’t constantly changing.

If you don’t have the right visual analytics to make that real-time data consumable here is the situation you are going to end up with (trust us- this is why we’re always called in to solve these sorts of problems): you generate reports not based off of what is happening right now, but off a snapshot of what was happening at a certain time of the day. Take enough data snapshots over the course of a few days and you might see a pattern. You then present that pattern to your boss or employees and then implement a solution.

You know what’s the worst part of that situation? The days you lost. If there were a way you could spot trends in data as fast as the data was coming in then you could make those same improvements in a fraction of the time.

That’s precisely what we’ve seen when companies took the time to implement data visualization solutions to get the most out of their real-time data. Robson Granero, CEO of Brazil’s largest logistics organization, said in a recent interview that “VisualCue takes data from three different systems and puts it all together in a web-based format.” It was all of their data, streaming in real-time, in one place. By just changing how they looked at data the managers at Ginter have said “Our meetings have become more productive as we are always looking to improve the way we manage our activities.”

Another manager at a large time-share implementation put it another way when he said “with VisualCue, it’s as if the data was alive.”

That’s the key- streaming data isn’t alive until you can interact with it and see the impact of your actions just as fast.

Until next time,

The VisualCrew