Big Data: Managing Wild Weather and Water
By Gaalen Engen and Marc Davis
A state of emergency was declared throughout Washington State in November in response to a series of savage storms that caused three deaths and hundreds of injuries. So catastrophic was the cumulative damage that the National Guard was called in.
The devastating impact led to power outages, road and rail closures and the cancellation of numerous flights and ferry sailings. It also triggered flooding, eroded slopes and stream banks, uprooted trees and produced landslides.
Timing is paramount in these situations. And information is king. Implementing a simple warning system – well before these events take place – could reduce the risk to people and property. In so doing, it would provide civilians and rescue operations ample forewarning via a broader use of real-time forecast data.
With big data solutions, the right decisions can be made in a timely fashion before a minor problem turns into a massive nightmare. What the public needs is reliable, real-time big data analytics and the proper back-end infrastructure to support it, thereby allowing potential weather hazards to be announced well in advance.
This is a good example of why making sense of big data is rapidly becoming a multi-billion dollar industry. However, the applications of big data solutions certainly extend far beyond preventing destruction due to perilous weather conditions.
Indeed, people are taking notice to the plethora of use-cases of big-data analytics. Accordingly, an enterprising vanguard of North American start-up companies is moving quickly to lock-in lucrative segments of this explosive market.
Carl Data Solutions Inc. (CSE:CRL) is one of these first movers. This Vancouver-based provider of big data collection, storage, and analysis has a powerful competitive edge. It offers corporate and technical decision makers an ‘all-in-one’ turnkey enterprise solution to make smart, accurate and time-sensitive decisions. This is referred to as ‘predictive analytics’, which allows for the effective modelling of business solutions.
Carl Data Solutions is already making quite a splash, with a growing list of blue chip clients in both the public and private sectors. They even include the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Boston Water and Sewer Commission.
To put matters in perspective, corporations and governments now have access to ever-increasing treasure troves of data to sift through before making informed decisions. But it’s becoming a daunting challenge for most of them to keep up with the surge of information all on their own.
Consider this: Around the world, we now record and transfer more information every week than we did for a whole year at the turn of the millennium. And this mind-boggling acceleration of data aggregation continues to grow exponentially.
In this overflow of information, terabytes of data are being generated in both structured and unstructured formats. Structured information is easy to quantifyand relate to other information in a database.
For example, this includes metrics like air temperature, air pressure, relative humidity, amount of rainfall and wind speed. Conversely, unstructured information can’t be so easily quantified. This includes things like images, streaming data from news feeds and weather reports, web pages, blogs, twitter feeds, etc.
For those involved in data management, the ongoing challenge is to implement an optimal way to interface these two categories of data to achieve a profound new level of data interpretation, termed as ‘deep insight’.
Carl Data Solutions CEO, Greg Johnston, says his company’s deep insight capabilities just came into sharper focus with a recent acquisition of FlowWorks Inc. – a Seattle-based developer of powerful web-based monitoring, analysis and reporting tools for the water utilities sector.
FlowWorks has become popular with municipalities that want to keep a trained eye on their water management systems. The company has been providing them with a one-stop-shop for water usage data collection, storage, and analysis.
Johnston explains the synergies of the merger: “Until recently, our branded ‘Extend-to-Social-Media’ big data referral marketing and analytics solution is expertly geared to handle the massive amounts of unstructured data you would find in the myriad of social media platforms we have today.”
“With ETS, we aim to give companies both standard campaign metrics in addition to advanced participation metrics,” he adds. “But as powerful as that is, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. That’s why I’m so excited by our recent acquisition of FlowWorks. Not only has it given us that same expert handling of structured data, but now we can append that structured information and make much more sense of it. This allows decision makers to better plan for the future.”
Being able to predict market trends, potential hazards, and future opportunities is vital for business, not to mention government bodies and non-profit organizations.
Johnston discusses how Carl Data Solutionsis geared-up to meet this growing imperative: “Again, this is why the FlowWorks acquisition was so important. It opened the door for us to enter the massive utilities market with an enhanced industry-leading product.”
“That expansion, in turn, has also opened the door to even more opportunities,” he says. “So what we’re trying to do is template an approach for data intensive verticals and roll out the same type of solution to multiple industries, like finance, health care and many others. The potential is staggering.”
“The real trick to great decision making is following the right metrics and knowing what signals to pay attention to and which to ignore,” Johnson adds.
However, with a sea of data, how could a CEO know exactly which pieces are relevant?
Johnson offers an example of the solution: “For instance, in water management, we have domain experts within the water management field who tell us exactly what an IDF curve is and why it is important to the people who will be examining the data.”
“The old relational database model where you had to know how all the information was going to look in the end before you designed the database is proving to be a less effective formula for data collection and storage in our rapidly growing world of information,”he adds.
More and more mid-size to large companies and organizations are realizing how important it is to maintain a competitive advantage by enthusiastically embracing big data. They’re also finding that it can be far more cost-efficient to recruit experts like Carl Data Solutions to use predictive analytics to best effect. This ultimately translates into smarter decision making, more efficient business practices, and stronger balance sheets.
Knowing that Johnston’s company is helping the business world become more insightful brings him a great sense of achievement. “We’re in the middle of a revolution in data management,” he says. “This is a very exciting time to be involved in this industry and I am very proud to be a part of it.”