Nowcasting: Big Data Predicts The Present

Irfan Khan

Big data is the key ingredient for predicting the present, or nowcasting, as it’s called. Conceptually, it seems silly to use resources to predict the present.

After all, we all live in the present and can see what’s happening around us. But it’s not silly at all. Nowcasting can save people’s lives and make companies money.

Nowcasting is a term used among meteorologists to forecast near-term weather conditions, particularly violent weather approaching a particular region, based on vast amounts of incoming data. Knowing that a tornado is minutes away from your neighborhood can be the difference in whether your family survives or not.

Thanks to the pervasiveness of big data, nowcasting is useful beyond weather. For example, the European Central Bank has published a paper on how it uses nowcasting of huge volumes of economic data to get an early jump on GDP estimates, which are critical to establishing short-term and long-term fiscal policy.

Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, suggests that nowcasting can be used to predict consumer behavior in specific regions. Varian and Google economist Hyunyoung Choi wrote in a paper that by using Google Trends data for a given geography, highly accurate predictions can be made for such major economic activities as car and home purchases. By modeling search data for, say, “real estate agents” in Texas, they are able to more accurately estimate home sale activity in the region.

Their research has been validated elsewhere. For example, economists in Hungary have followed Varian and Choi’s nowcasting methodology, and created extremely refined estimates of consumer activity in that country.

Nowcasting is becoming a valuable tool for anyone interested in economic and business conditions in the present. And knowing with better precision what’s happening now will give us a better understanding of what might be in store for the future.

Photo Source: Cea./Flickr


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13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


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Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


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What If Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho Could Be Proved Right In Medical Staff Row?

Mark Goad

Big Data and the Internet of Things brings new level of insight to sports medicine

With the 2015-16 European football (soccer) season underway, we are already seeing the impact of the huge pressure to succeed. In some cases, it is boiling over even this early on, with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho getting involved in a very public row with his medical staff over the treatment of Eden Hazard during a match. As the season builds momentum, all clubs know one of the most vital aspects of winning trophies is keeping the best players fit so they can play at the top of their game as often as possible.

Last season, just like in every season, we saw injuries that affected teams’ results and possibly their final standings at the end of the season, while other teams capitalized. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger blamed injuries for the team’s failed title bid, while Real Madrid suffered injuries to players like Gareth Bale and Luka Modric at a crucial stage of the season and lost the title to Barcelona.

There’s no doubt that football clubs, especially the bigger teams, employ first-rate medical staff – physiotherapists, doctors, sports scientists, and so on – but they can only do so much to keep players off the treatment table. Players are human, after all, and keeping them injury-free for such long and grueling campaigns is a big ask. This season again will see players on the end of crunching tackles, over-exerting their bodies, and over-stretching.

What’s less talked about than lost games and league titles when discussing injuries is the salaries paid to injured players. The estimated average cost of player injuries in the top four professional football leagues in 2015 was $12.4 million* per team. Remarkably, every year teams lose an equivalent of 15%-30%** of their player payroll to injuries.

As salaries continue to rise, injuries are becoming just as much of an off-the-pitch boardroom issue as they are an on-the-pitch issue. Consider that if Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, the world’s highest-paid player, spends just a week out injured, the club still has to pay his weekly salary of around $1 million. Not only that, but there’s the huge potential for lost revenue from missing out on UEFA Champions League progress or domestic success because key players are out.

Just as winning seems to mean more than ever, so does football as a business. So with the spotlight firmly on “sweating the assets” – extracting maximum value from the entire squad – clubs are looking to Big Data and Internet of Things technology to consider how player injuries can be prevented with new levels of insight.

Prevention is better than cure

In July this year we saw what could be a huge landmark in the potential of monitoring the risk of injuries, when football’s international governing body FIFA announced its approval of wearable electronic performance and tracking systems during matches. As well as collecting data on statistics like distance covered and heart rate to determine decisions like substitution timings, this also paves the way for wearable satellite devices that keep medical staff updated on the likelihood of a player picking up an injury from over-exertion.

Emerging injury-risk monitoring software uses the concepts of Big Data and wearable technology to pull in and apply mathematical formulas to an exhaustive range of relevant data about players: fitness levels, recent levels of exertion, opponents, age, technique, hydration, even weather. This could help medical staff predict the risk of future injuries with much greater accuracy, allowing them to run simulations and take corrective actions in real time. Imagine a seemingly non-injured key player being substituted during a tightly contested match, only to find out afterwards that monitoring software had indicated he was at a high risk of pulling a muscle. This could very much be a part of the future of professional football.

Going back to Jose Mourinho and his reaction to the Chelsea medical staff running onto the pitch to treat Eden Hazard, it’s interesting to consider how in the future this kind of technology could either support or discredit his position in the dispute. It could help managers work more closely with physiotherapists, as they can visualize the data that shows the risk of injury to players. Although the pressure to win will likely keep on rising, the risk of expensive players injuries could see a big reduction.

SAP’s own injury risk monitoring software is currently in the proof-of-concept phase and will be entering development in the near future. The goal is to build IRM on the SAP Sports One platform as an additional component, and to provide integration to the existing modules of SAP Sports One solution. SAP Sports One was launched earlier this year and is the first sports-specific cloud solution powered by the SAP HANA platform, providing a single, unified platform for team management and performance optimization.

*Statistic calulated using 2015 Global Sports Salaries Survey

**Bleacher Report “Inside the 2014 Numbers of Each MLB Team’s Regular-Season Injury Impact” and NBA Injury Analysis


Mark Goad

About Mark Goad

Mark Goad, Value Advisory Associate, SAP Canada, is an experienced business analyst with industry coverage spanning telecommunications & retail, with a focus on digital business models. He specializes in synthesizing industry trends with a detailed analysis of client-specific data to help customers build out high-impact business & IT strategies. Outside of work, Mark volunteers as a lead management consultant for Junior Achievement of Central Ontario and contributes to a range of thought leadership publications.


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5 Reasons You'll Embrace Digital Transformation In 2016

Dinesh Sharma

Without a doubt, the lives of everyone on this planet has been impacted by the digital economy. Approximately 2 billion of us don’t leave our homes without a smartphone in hand. We shop online for almost every conceivable product. And for the 57% who are still unconnected, they are benefiting from a growing social community that is exchanging ideas, influencing governments worldwide, inspiring change, creating awareness of injustice, and coordinating aid to those in need.

At the same time, a growing number of companies are extending the possibilities of hyperconnectivity. Kaeser Kompressoren is embedding sensors in its systems to predict potential breakdowns and generate revenue by tracking the volume of compressed air consumed by its customers. Haier Asia is doubling up its digital platform to get closer to its customers and give them exactly what they want. Even Europe’s second-largest port found a way to increase capacity by 150% without physically expanding its bustling facility.

For these companies, digital transformation is not just a strategic move – it’s a fundamental part of their survival and overall business model. In fact, a recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) revealed that 59% of executives view the failure to adapt to hyperconnectivity is their organization’s biggest threat.

2016: The year of real digital transformation

Despite all of this change, we have yet to scratch the surface of the possibilities the digital economy offers. Mark my words: 2016 will further prove the transformational power of the digital economy.

As we prepare to usher in a new year, here are my top predictions of how the digital economy will continue to revolutionize everything:

1. Digital masters will emerge – and win every time.

Companies that digitally transform everything they do and touch will further differentiate themselves from those that just dabble in digital services. Although the EIU reports that 19% of companies are radically changing their business model to seize the opportunities hyperconnectivity offers, they are becoming powerful brands.

Take Nike, for example. The well-known sports apparel company has transformed itself into a fitness and lifestyle brand. By actively engaging with customers through social media, mobile technology, and embedded sensors, it is fostering an empowered community. From tracking diet, activity, and fitness progress to sending reminders to get their customers moving, Nike is making sure that their customers have the support they need – whenever and wherever they need it. 

2. Digital Darwinism will become a significant threat.

Technology and society are evolving at a pace that is simply too difficult for many organizations to keep up with.  In fact, according to some predictions, 40% of the Fortune 500 are expected to no longer exist within 10 years if they do not evolve soon.

To survive, companies must be not only the strongest and the most intelligent, but they also must adapt to change.  We have all seen this firsthand as we spent the last 20 years saying goodbye to brand leaders that resisted the call and opportunity to digitize. So for the 81% that are not taking digital transformation seriously, make 2016 the year you start to get serious.

3. Digital transformation will be pervasive across every area of the business. 

To be truly transformed, companies must go beyond window dressing the customer experience, embedding a few sensors to monitor production, and monetizing a service with digital technology. They must reach deep into the bare bones of the company, going as far as human resources and finance and as high up as the executive boardroom.

Digital transformation is just the enabler – real change happens when the business culture, leadership, and processes of profit centers and cost centers embrace it and evolve with it. The cloud, mobile technology, networks, and analytics present every business area with a unique opportunity to gain greater efficiency, perform instant data analysis, and achieve better collaboration. Not only does digital transformation help companies modernize and become an attractive employer brand for younger talent, but it also creates a seamless customer experience, promotes more effective collaboration, and empowers the entire workforce.

One brand that shows the power of such an undertaking is Burberry. Famous for its digital retail experience online and in physical stores, the luxury retailer has taken its personalization strategy to its employees too. By making it easier for employees in all areas to sell the brand to customers, Burberry is experiencing increased engagement across its workforce. And in the end, that means a better customer experience – anytime, anywhere, and through any channel.

4. The sales funnel will disappear – for good.

For decades, the sales funnel has been used as a visual representation of separating qualified buyers from the rest of the prospect pool. However, thanks to the Internet and social network, the sales process has accelerated to the point where the funnel is no longer relevant.

CEB recently uncovered that the average buyer is 57% through the purchase decision process before their first interaction with a sales representative or channel. Plus, companies only have 12% of their customer’s mindshare through the buying experience.  As a result, customers tend to fall through the funnel undetected and without a defined journey.

Through digital transformation, sales and marketing can better address this issue by providing multiple touch points that can make the brand accessible to every existing and potential customer – no matter the path taken. Along the way, data should be collected, consolidated, and distributed across the enterprise to provide insight and power decisions at the moment of the interaction.

5. Cryptocurrency will pave the way for better data security. 

Bitcoin. Drones. Virtual reality. Cloud. All of these emerging technologies has drawn a fair amount of press lately. However, there are always naysayers fearful that these innovations will not measure up in terms of protection from cyberattacks and data breaches. And probably the most eyebrow-raising one of all is cryptocurrency. However, Bitcoin has included a level of security into its ecosystem: The blockchain.

Through redundancy, computational compliance, and high-speed processing, all transactions are logged on a publicly available general ledger and copied across thousands of servers. When a transaction is initiated, every one of those servers must agree that the information given is accurate. Should someone try to cheat or hack into the ecosystem, it will be rejected as soon as the new account identifier is detected to be unidentifiable.

Is it possible that someone can work faster than these servers? According to The Economist, it is nearly impossible to generate a new version of the blockchain quick enough to overtake more than half of the servers controlling it. As computing power and speed increases, so will the servers’ ability to process information faster than the most-competent blockchain miners.

What do you think of these predictions? Dust off your crystal ball and share how you foresee the digital economy evolving!

Learn more about what’s possible for your business in the digital economy. Check out these reports detailing the Economist Intelligence Unit’s research:



About Dinesh Sharma

As Vice President of Marketing, Internet of Things (IoT), Dinesh Sharma is charged with driving thought leadership, awareness and adoption of SAP’s solutions for IoT across industries and lines of business. He is responsible for go-to-market plans across the IoT portfolio, as well as providing detailed analysis of industry and market trends, customer needs, competitors, economic environment and emerging business opportunities. Prior to his current role, he was the global VP leading cloud and cloud platform marketing, where he successfully launched the industry’s first in-memory cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS), SAP HANA Cloud platform. Dinesh is senior technology executive with over 20 years experience in the industry: His domain experience spans from semiconductors, software design, product marketing and business strategy. He has managed worldwide business units for large technology companies and also has founded technology start-ups, including Dynamic Pictures, Inc., which he sold to 3Dlabs. While at ATI and AMD he drove an increase in market share from 12% to 47% in less than 2 years, while also delivering a 5X growth in revenue by delivering innovative products, driving direct sales engagement and marketing programs that reinvigorated enterprise sales. Prior to joining SAP he has been in leadership roles at startups in virtualization, big data and distributed computing with a heavy emphasis on building Cloud infrastructure and platforms. He has captured over $30MM in venture funding in his entrepreneurial career. Dinesh holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electronic Engineering from University of Liverpool, UK. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two small children.

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