Build Community With Digital Data

Brian Lee-Archer

Being the leader of a community and making decisions to address social and economic challenges may feel like you’re a gambler rolling the dice. You know you have to place bets with no control over how the dice will fall.

The gambler analogy represents the uncertainty facing community decision-makers. Uncertainty is a function of multiple factors, many of which are outside their direct control, such as macroeconomic conditions.

Of the many worthy ideas on the table, which will lead to a return on investment in terms of liveability (social capital) and/or economic value?

Which will serve as a catalyst for a virtuous circle of community growth?

Developing sustainable and resilient communities is not a game of chance; innovative proposals often require bold investment decisions that carry risk. There is renewed focus in public policy making for risk mitigation through an evidence-based approach.

Evidence-based practice, as proposed by the Netherlands-based Center for Evidence-Based Management (CEBM), is that “good-quality decisions should be based on a combination of critical thinking and the best available evidence.”

Access to “the best available evidence,” while relative, is an underlying principle of evidence-based management.

Community leaders are adept at making do with evidence that satisfies the best-available test. However, they should aim to expand these sources of evidence to increase reliability. This is why all communities need better access to the rapidly growing repositories of digital data.

A solid evidence base, according to the CEBM, is a combination of data from internal and external sources (customer data, transactional data), scientific data (academic reports, field studies), stakeholder data (community, business consultation, impact analysis), and professional expertise (the personal experience of decision-makers and community leaders).

Digital data is an evidence source that’s exploding in terms of volume, veracity, and velocity. It’s challenging to sift through raw data to make it usable to generate business insight.

As billions of Internet of Things (IoT) devices are deployed, sensing any imaginable activity, this unprecedented scaling up of digital data production is difficult to comprehend, let alone prepare for, to derive value.

While a smart city lays out infrastructure to collect data, intelligent communities will develop the capability to make productive use of it. Realizing data’s value requires a robust technology platform to enable simplicity in integration and analysis across multiple sources.

It’s not practical for every community to make the large-scale technology investments that major cities can undertake. However, this should not deny them the opportunity to enhance the evidence base they have for community-level decision making.

There are already large amounts of digital data, with more coming through smart city infrastructure investments made by larger communities and higher levels of government.

Data is a community asset to be valued and shared

Not every community leader should have to be a data scientist nor a technology infrastructure specialist. Intelligent communities will find ways to access these high-order technology and business skills to turn data into simple insights to use as evidence.

  • Government agencies with accountability for community-wide development can turn digital data into insight in order to build capacity and capability within communities.
  • Provisioning community-level data-management infrastructure would be a major step forward towards empowering communities to enhance their evidence base for community-based decision making.
  • Data analysis skills combined with easy-to-use technology platforms to gain insight from digital data are prerequisites for transformation to an intelligent community.
  • Digital shared services provisioned by cities and other larger communities can enable smaller communities and community ecosystems.

Innovation leading to competitive advantage and resilience comes from the insight of community leaders. Governments could be well served by building capacity and capability within communities for this to happen.

For insight on one smart government in action, see How the Port of Hamburg Doubled Capacity with Digitization.

This article was originally published on InnovationAus.com.

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Brian Lee-Archer

About Brian Lee-Archer

Brian Lee-Archer is director of the SAP Institute for Digital Government Global (SIDG). Launched in 2015, SIDG is a global think tank that aims to create value for government by leveraging digital capability to meet the needs of citizens and consumers of government services. In collaboration with government agencies, universities and partner organizations, SIDG facilitates innovation through digital technology for deeper policy insight and improved service delivery.

A “Run Live” Powerplay In The Rink And The Marketplace

Emma Reeve

In ice hockey, a “powerplay” is when a team has more players on the ice than its opponent. The extra-player advantage gives the team a greater chance to score — and win.

In business, every organization tries to create a power-play situation that gives it a competitive advantage in the marketplace. German hockey team Adler Mannheim is achieving its powerplay through Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, an industry-leading mobile app, and live data.

“Live data plays an important role for us today,” says Daniel Hopp, CEO of Adler Mannheim and the team’s home, SAP Arena. “And it will play an even more important role in the future.”

Live data for a competitive edge

Adler Mannheim is among the most beloved sports teams in Germany. It attracts 11,000 spectators to every game, including 7,000 season ticket holders, the most of any German ice-hockey team.

A key reason for that fan loyalty is the team’s on-the-ice success, with seven German Championship and two German Cup trophies in its trophy case. Hopp aims to sustain that record with the help of sports data processing and analytics, which enables the team to acquire and develop athletic talent and then rapidly evaluate and adapt players and coaching during training and games.

“We use the live data in all areas,” Hopp explains. “The coach can use it to adjust training plans according to the individual requirements of the players. … This is also very important data for our trainers, for the medical team.” Team staff use live data to personalize training programs to each athlete, evaluate the physical condition of players, and determine when an injured player can resume training.

The house that data built

Adler Mannheim’s home, SAP Arena, was purpose-built for the team in 2005. One of the largest arenas in Germany, with capacity for 15,000, the venue attracts 1 million visitors a year for sporting events, concerts, and conferences.

The connected stadium is populated with hundreds of IoT beacons that follow the movement of customers and send them alerts that optimize their visit. The goal is to create what Hopp calls “the perfect trip.” Fans who sign up for the service get automated notifications of which stadium gates aren’t busy, which bathrooms are closest, and which food stands have the shortest lines. In the future, they’ll get details such as train schedules and delays, highway congestion and alternate routes, and where they can book hotel rooms and meals.

The most loyal fans earn points toward super-exclusive offers, like the ability to travel on the team bus, stay at the team hotel, and be included in team photos. The idea is to offer extraordinary experiences that make fans feel like they’re truly part of the Adler Mannheim family.

There’s a fan app for that

This level of fan engagement is made possible through the team’s cutting-edge mobile app. “Producing the Adler fan app was a revolutionary step forward for us,” Hopp recalls.

The app optimizes the game experience by allowing fans to capture data such as player and puck speed, and track player performance. Outside the stadium, fans can track the history and status of new players, the status of injured players, when the next training will take place, when the team will sign autographs, and more.

“The Adler fan app is known throughout Germany, and it is a role model for many other sports clubs nationwide,” Hopp boasts. “That makes us very proud, and we will continue to lead the way in developing this fast and intensive communication with our fans.”

Learn more about how Adler Mannheim’s Daniel Hopp and other leaders are using SAP solutions to help their businesses run live. Watch our exclusive “Leaders Are Live” videos

This article originally appeared on SAP News Center.

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Emma Reeve

About Emma Reeve

Emma Reeve has 20 years of experience creating world-class marketing initiatives that focus on customer and audience experience for technology, finance and pharmaceutical industries. She is currently the Global VP of Storytelling for SAP driving customer experience through storytelling. Prior to SAP, she has led strategic audience engagement on both the corporate and agency side from interactive storytelling; brand communications; digital creative and gaming; advertising; sponsorships and partnerships; branded events; interactive media; e-commerce; and social media strategy. While integrating storytelling as a key tenant professionally, Reeve has also used it as a tool is raising awareness philanthropically. She tells personal stories of women in Rwanda and their path towards hope through skills training, education and community support, while inciting a movement that encourages people to get involved in being part of the change in the world. Reeve communicates strongly her passion that storytelling can engage anyone to empathize, take action, make decisions and more - but at its core it is at the center of making change.

Self-Driving Slippers And Other Autonomous Oddities That Will Amaze You

Tim Clark

In these heady days of digital disruption, you never know what oddball invention is lurking around the corner. Self-driving slippers? Check. Cat-shaped car vending machines? You betcha. A “snap together,” modular autonomous vehicle? Why not?

Yes, these amazing, autonomous oddities are real. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Car vending machine captivates China

Count me as one of the skeptical when I first heard the news that Alibaba launched a car vending machine. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. And hey, if there’s room for a caviar vending machine, why not one for cars? Alibaba’s ultimate goal is to make buying a car as simple as buying a can of Coke, and it plans to open dozens of additional outlets across China this year. While car vending machines aren’t a new concept, Alibaba’s interpretation (as portrayed below) could set a new standard.

Smart slippers: Nissan extends self-parking technology

Leave it to car giant Nissan to create a system for slippers to “park” themselves at the push of a button. At Japan’s ProPILOT Park Ryokan Inn, slippers are equipped with two tiny wheels, a motor, and sensors to “drive” across the wooden lobby floor using Nissan’s ProPilot Park technology. This self-driving system is also rigged into the hotel’s tables and floor pillows. When not in use, they automatically return to their designated spots at the push of a button. Nissan says the technology entertains guests and reduces staff workload.

Rinspeed Snap turns heads at Consumer Electronics Show

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) a new concept car, Rinspeed Snap, turned many heads. Is it a giant skateboard? A pod? A wild, self-driving ecosystem? It’s all of these things and more. Watch the video below and then download the report, “Rinspeed Snap and the Future of Mobility.”

Disruptive technologies need innovative power sources. See how renewable energy is going grid-scale in Next-Gen Batteries Will Define Our Future.

This story also appeared on the SAP Community. Get your self-driving slippers on and follow me @TClark01.

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Tim Clark

About Tim Clark

Tim Clark is the Head of Brand Journalism at SAP. He is responsible for evangelizing and implementing writing best practices that generate results across blog channels, integrated marketing plans and native advertising efforts.

More Than Noise: Digital Trends That Are Bigger Than You Think

By Maurizio Cattaneo, David Delaney, Volker Hildebrand, and Neal Ungerleider

In the tech world in 2017, several trends emerged as signals amid the noise, signifying much larger changes to come.

As we noted in last year’s More Than Noise list, things are changing—and the changes are occurring in ways that don’t necessarily fit into the prevailing narrative.

While many of 2017’s signals have a dark tint to them, perhaps reflecting the times we live in, we have sought out some rays of light to illuminate the way forward. The following signals differ considerably, but understanding them can help guide businesses in the right direction for 2018 and beyond.

When a team of psychologists, linguists, and software engineers created Woebot, an AI chatbot that helps people learn cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for managing mental health issues like anxiety and depression, they did something unusual, at least when it comes to chatbots: they submitted it for peer review.

Stanford University researchers recruited a sample group of 70 college-age participants on social media to take part in a randomized control study of Woebot. The researchers found that their creation was useful for improving anxiety and depression symptoms. A study of the user interaction with the bot was submitted for peer review and published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health in June 2017.

While Woebot may not revolutionize the field of psychology, it could change the way we view AI development. Well-known figures such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates have expressed concerns that artificial intelligence is essentially ungovernable. Peer review, such as with the Stanford study, is one way to approach this challenge and figure out how to properly evaluate and find a place for these software programs.

The healthcare community could be onto something. We’ve already seen instances where AI chatbots have spun out of control, such as when internet trolls trained Microsoft’s Tay to become a hate-spewing misanthrope. Bots are only as good as their design; making sure they stay on message and don’t act in unexpected ways is crucial.

This is especially true in healthcare. When chatbots are offering therapeutic services, they must be properly designed, vetted, and tested to maintain patient safety.

It may be prudent to apply the same level of caution to a business setting. By treating chatbots as if they’re akin to medicine or drugs, we have a model for thorough vetting that, while not perfect, is generally effective and time tested.

It may seem like overkill to think of chatbots that manage pizza orders or help resolve parking tickets as potential health threats. But it’s already clear that AI can have unintended side effects that could extend far beyond Tay’s loathsome behavior.

For example, in July, Facebook shut down an experiment where it challenged two AIs to negotiate with each other over a trade. When the experiment began, the two chatbots quickly went rogue, developing linguistic shortcuts to reduce negotiating time and leaving their creators unable to understand what they were saying.

Do we want AIs interacting in a secret language because designers didn’t fully understand what they were designing?

The implications are chilling. Do we want AIs interacting in a secret language because designers didn’t fully understand what they were designing?

In this context, the healthcare community’s conservative approach doesn’t seem so farfetched. Woebot could ultimately become an example of the kind of oversight that’s needed for all AIs.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that chatbots have great potential in healthcare—not just for treating mental health issues but for helping patients understand symptoms, build treatment regimens, and more. They could also help unclog barriers to healthcare, which is plagued worldwide by high prices, long wait times, and other challenges. While they are not a substitute for actual humans, chatbots can be used by anyone with a computer or smartphone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of financial status.

Finding the right governance for AI development won’t happen overnight. But peer review, extensive internal quality analysis, and other processes will go a long way to ensuring bots function as expected. Otherwise, companies and their customers could pay a big price.

Elon Musk is an expert at dominating the news cycle with his sci-fi premonitions about space travel and high-speed hyperloops. However, he captured media attention in Australia in April 2017 for something much more down to earth: how to deal with blackouts and power outages.

In 2016, a massive blackout hit the state of South Australia following a storm. Although power was restored quickly in Adelaide, the capital, people in the wide stretches of arid desert that surround it spent days waiting for the power to return. That hit South Australia’s wine and livestock industries especially hard.

South Australia’s electrical grid currently gets more than half of its energy from wind and solar, with coal and gas plants acting as backups for when the sun hides or the wind doesn’t blow, according to ABC News Australia. But this network is vulnerable to sudden loss of generation—which is exactly what happened in the storm that caused the 2016 blackout, when tornadoes ripped through some key transmission lines. Getting the system back on stable footing has been an issue ever since.

Displaying his usual talent for showmanship, Musk stepped in and promised to build the world’s largest battery to store backup energy for the network—and he pledged to complete it within 100 days of signing the contract or the battery would be free. Pen met paper with South Australia and French utility Neoen in September. As of press time in November, construction was underway.

For South Australia, the Tesla deal offers an easy and secure way to store renewable energy. Tesla’s 129 MWh battery will be the most powerful battery system in the world by 60% once completed, according to Gizmodo. The battery, which is stationed at a wind farm, will cover temporary drops in wind power and kick in to help conventional gas and coal plants balance generation with demand across the network. South Australian citizens and politicians largely support the project, which Tesla claims will be able to power 30,000 homes.

Until Musk made his bold promise, batteries did not figure much in renewable energy networks, mostly because they just aren’t that good. They have limited charges, are difficult to build, and are difficult to manage. Utilities also worry about relying on the same lithium-ion battery technology as cellphone makers like Samsung, whose Galaxy Note 7 had to be recalled in 2016 after some defective batteries burst into flames, according to CNET.

However, when made right, the batteries are safe. It’s just that they’ve traditionally been too expensive for large-scale uses such as renewable power storage. But battery innovations such as Tesla’s could radically change how we power the economy. According to a study that appeared this year in Nature, the continued drop in the cost of battery storage has made renewable energy price-competitive with traditional fossil fuels.

This is a massive shift. Or, as David Roberts of news site Vox puts it, “Batteries are soon going to disrupt power markets at all scales.” Furthermore, if the cost of batteries continues to drop, supply chains could experience radical energy cost savings. This could disrupt energy utilities, manufacturing, transportation, and construction, to name just a few, and create many opportunities while changing established business models. (For more on how renewable energy will affect business, read the feature “Tick Tock” in this issue.)

Battery research and development has become big business. Thanks to electric cars and powerful smartphones, there has been incredible pressure to make more powerful batteries that last longer between charges.

The proof of this is in the R&D funding pudding. A Brookings Institution report notes that both the Chinese and U.S. governments offer generous subsidies for lithium-ion battery advancement. Automakers such as Daimler and BMW have established divisions marketing residential and commercial energy storage products. Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and General Electric are all experimenting with various electric propulsion systems for aircraft—which means that hybrid airplanes are also a possibility.

Meanwhile, governments around the world are accelerating battery research investment by banning internal combustion vehicles. Britain, France, India, and Norway are seeking to go all electric as early as 2025 and by 2040 at the latest.

In the meantime, expect huge investment and new battery innovation from interested parties across industries that all share a stake in the outcome. This past September, for example, Volkswagen announced a €50 billion research investment in batteries to help bring 300 electric vehicle models to market by 2030.

At first, it sounds like a narrative device from a science fiction novel or a particularly bad urban legend.

Powerful cameras in several Chinese cities capture photographs of jaywalkers as they cross the street and, several minutes later, display their photograph, name, and home address on a large screen posted at the intersection. Several days later, a summons appears in the offender’s mailbox demanding payment of a fine or fulfillment of community service.

As Orwellian as it seems, this technology is very real for residents of Jinan and several other Chinese cities. According to a Xinhua interview with Li Yong of the Jinan traffic police, “Since the new technology has been adopted, the cases of jaywalking have been reduced from 200 to 20 each day at the major intersection of Jingshi and Shungeng roads.”

The sophisticated cameras and facial recognition systems already used in China—and their near–real-time public shaming—are an example of how machine learning, mobile phone surveillance, and internet activity tracking are being used to censor and control populations. Most worryingly, the prospect of real-time surveillance makes running surveillance states such as the former East Germany and current North Korea much more financially efficient.

According to a 2015 discussion paper by the Institute for the Study of Labor, a German research center, by the 1980s almost 0.5% of the East German population was directly employed by the Stasi, the country’s state security service and secret police—1 for every 166 citizens. An additional 1.1% of the population (1 for every 66 citizens) were working as unofficial informers, which represented a massive economic drain. Automated, real-time, algorithm-driven monitoring could potentially drive the cost of controlling the population down substantially in police states—and elsewhere.

We could see a radical new era of censorship that is much more manipulative than anything that has come before. Previously, dissidents were identified when investigators manually combed through photos, read writings, or listened in on phone calls. Real-time algorithmic monitoring means that acts of perceived defiance can be identified and deleted in the moment and their perpetrators marked for swift judgment before they can make an impression on others.

Businesses need to be aware of the wider trend toward real-time, automated censorship and how it might be used in both commercial and governmental settings. These tools can easily be used in countries with unstable political dynamics and could become a real concern for businesses that operate across borders. Businesses must learn to educate and protect employees when technology can censor and punish in real time.

Indeed, the technologies used for this kind of repression could be easily adapted from those that have already been developed for businesses. For instance, both Facebook and Google use near–real-time facial identification algorithms that automatically identify people in images uploaded by users—which helps the companies build out their social graphs and target users with profitable advertisements. Automated algorithms also flag Facebook posts that potentially violate the company’s terms of service.

China is already using these technologies to control its own people in ways that are largely hidden to outsiders.

According to a report by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, the popular Chinese social network WeChat operates under a policy its authors call “One App, Two Systems.” Users with Chinese phone numbers are subjected to dynamic keyword censorship that changes depending on current events and whether a user is in a private chat or in a group. Depending on the political winds, users are blocked from accessing a range of websites that report critically on China through WeChat’s internal browser. Non-Chinese users, however, are not subject to any of these restrictions.

The censorship is also designed to be invisible. Messages are blocked without any user notification, and China has intermittently blocked WhatsApp and other foreign social networks. As a result, Chinese users are steered toward national social networks, which are more compliant with government pressure.

China’s policies play into a larger global trend: the nationalization of the internet. China, Russia, the European Union, and the United States have all adopted different approaches to censorship, user privacy, and surveillance. Although there are social networks such as WeChat or Russia’s VKontakte that are popular in primarily one country, nationalizing the internet challenges users of multinational services such as Facebook and YouTube. These different approaches, which impact everything from data safe harbor laws to legal consequences for posting inflammatory material, have implications for businesses working in multiple countries, as well.

For instance, Twitter is legally obligated to hide Nazi and neo-fascist imagery and some tweets in Germany and France—but not elsewhere. YouTube was officially banned in Turkey for two years because of videos a Turkish court deemed “insulting to the memory of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,” father of modern Turkey. In Russia, Google must keep Russian users’ personal data on servers located inside Russia to comply with government policy.

While China is a pioneer in the field of instant censorship, tech companies in the United States are matching China’s progress, which could potentially have a chilling effect on democracy. In 2016, Apple applied for a patent on technology that censors audio streams in real time—automating the previously manual process of censoring curse words in streaming audio.

In March, after U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News, “I think maybe I wouldn’t be [president] if it wasn’t for Twitter,” Twitter founder Evan “Ev” Williams did something highly unusual for the creator of a massive social network.

He apologized.

Speaking with David Streitfeld of The New York Times, Williams said, “It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that. If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”

Entrepreneurs tend to be very proud of their innovations. Williams, however, offers a far more ambivalent response to his creation’s success. Much of the 2016 presidential election’s rancor was fueled by Twitter, and the instant gratification of Twitter attracts trolls, bullies, and bigots just as easily as it attracts politicians, celebrities, comedians, and sports fans.

Services such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are designed through a mix of look and feel, algorithmic wizardry, and psychological techniques to hang on to users for as long as possible—which helps the services sell more advertisements and make more money. Toxic political discourse and online harassment are unintended side effects of the economic-driven urge to keep users engaged no matter what.

Keeping users’ eyeballs on their screens requires endless hours of multivariate testing, user research, and algorithm refinement. For instance, Casey Newton of tech publication The Verge notes that Google Brain, Google’s AI division, plays a key part in generating YouTube’s video recommendations.

According to Jim McFadden, the technical lead for YouTube recommendations, “Before, if I watch this video from a comedian, our recommendations were pretty good at saying, here’s another one just like it,” he told Newton. “But the Google Brain model figures out other comedians who are similar but not exactly the same—even more adjacent relationships. It’s able to see patterns that are less obvious.”

A never-ending flow of content that is interesting without being repetitive is harder to resist. With users glued to online services, addiction and other behavioral problems occur to an unhealthy degree. According to a 2016 poll by nonprofit research company Common Sense Media, 50% of American teenagers believe they are addicted to their smartphones.

This pattern is extending into the workplace. Seventy-five percent of companies told research company Harris Poll in 2016 that two or more hours a day are lost in productivity because employees are distracted. The number one reason? Cellphones and texting, according to 55% of those companies surveyed. Another 41% pointed to the internet.

Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, argues that many product designers for online services try to exploit psychological vulnerabilities in a bid to keep users engaged for longer periods. Harris refers to an iPhone as “a slot machine in my pocket” and argues that user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers need to adopt something akin to a Hippocratic Oath to stop exploiting users’ psychological vulnerabilities.

In fact, there is an entire school of study devoted to “dark UX”—small design tweaks to increase profits. These can be as innocuous as a “Buy Now” button in a visually pleasing color or as controversial as when Facebook tweaked its algorithm in 2012 to show a randomly selected group of almost 700,000 users (who had not given their permission) newsfeeds that skewed more positive to some users and more negative to others to gauge the impact on their respective emotional states, according to an article in Wired.

As computers, smartphones, and televisions come ever closer to convergence, these issues matter increasingly to businesses. Some of the universal side effects of addiction are lost productivity at work and poor health. Businesses should offer training and help for employees who can’t stop checking their smartphones.

Mindfulness-centered mobile apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Forest offer one way to break the habit. Users can also choose to break internet addiction by going for a walk, turning their computers off, or using tools like StayFocusd or Freedom to block addictive websites or apps.

Most importantly, companies in the business of creating tech products need to design software and hardware that discourages addictive behavior. This means avoiding bad designs that emphasize engagement metrics over human health. A world of advertising preroll showing up on smart refrigerator touchscreens at 2 a.m. benefits no one.

According to a 2014 study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, approximately 6% of the world’s population suffers from internet addiction to one degree or another. As more users in emerging economies gain access to cheap data, smartphones, and laptops, that percentage will only increase. For businesses, getting a head start on stopping internet addiction will make employees happier and more productive. D!


About the Authors

Maurizio Cattaneo is Director, Delivery Execution, Energy, and Natural Resources, at SAP.

David Delaney is Global Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, SAP Health.

Volker Hildebrand is Global Vice President for SAP Hybris solutions.

Neal Ungerleider is a Los Angeles-based technology journalist and consultant.


Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

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The “Purpose” Of Data

Timo Elliott

I’ve always been passionate about the ability of data and analytics to transform the world.

It has always seemed to me to be the closest thing we have to modern-day magic, with its ability to conjure up benefits from thin air. Over the last quarter century, I’ve had the honor of working with thousands of “wizards” in organizations around the world, turning information into value in every aspect of our daily lives.

The projects have been as simple as Disney using real-time analytics to move staff from one store to another to keep lines to a minimum: shorter lines led to bigger profits (you’re more likely to buy that Winnie-the-Pooh bear if there’s only one person ahead of you), but also higher customer satisfaction and happier children.

Or they’ve been as complex as the Port of Hamburg: constrained by its urban location, it couldn’t expand to meet the growing volume of traffic. But better use of information meant it was able to dramatically increase throughput – while improving the life of city residents with reduced pollution (less truck idling) and fewer traffic jams (smart lighting that automatically adapts to bridge closures).

I’ve seen analytics used to figure out why cheese was curdling in Wisconsin; count the number of bubbles in Champagne; keep track of excessive fouls in Swiss soccer, track bear sightings in Canada; avoid flooding in Argentina; detect chewing-gum-blocked metro machines in Brussels; uncover networks of tax fraud in Australia; stop trains from being stranded in the middle of the Tuscan countryside; find air travelers exposed to radioactive substances; help abused pets find new homes; find the best people to respond to hurricanes and other disasters; and much, much more.

The reality is that there’s a lot of inefficiency in the world. Most of the time it’s invisible, or we take it for granted. But analytics can help us shine a light on what’s going on, expose the problems, and show us what we can do better – in almost every area of human endeavor.

Data is a powerful weapon. Analytics isn’t just an opportunity to reduce costs and increase profits – it’s an opportunity to make the world a better place.

So to paraphrase a famous world leader, next time you embark on a new project:

“Ask not what you can do with your data, ask what your data can do for the world.”

What are your favorite “magical” examples, where analytics helped create win/win/win situations?

Download our free eBook for more insight on How the Port of Hamburg Doubled Capacity with Digitization.

This article originally appeared on Digital Business & Business Analytics.

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Timo Elliott

About Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist for SAP and a passionate advocate of innovation, digital business, analytics, and artificial intelligence. He was the eighth employee of BusinessObjects and for the last 25 years he has worked closely with SAP customers around the world on new technology directions and their impact on real-world organizations. His articles have appeared in publications such as Harvard Business Review, Forbes, ZDNet, The Guardian, and Digitalist Magazine. He has worked in the UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Silicon Valley, and currently lives in Paris, France. He has a degree in Econometrics and a patent in mobile analytics.