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Mike Ferguson

Welcome to my blog on the UK Business Intelligence Network. I hope to help you stay in touch with hot topics and reality on the ground in the UK and European business intelligence markets and to provide content, opinion and expertise on business intelligence (BI) and its related technologies. I also would relish it if you too can share your own valuable experiences. Let's hear what's going on in BI in the UK.

About the author >

Mike Ferguson is Managing Director of Intelligent Business Strategies Limited, a leading information technology analyst and consulting company. As lead analyst and consultant, he specializes in enterprise business intelligence, enterprise business integration, and enterprise portals. He can be contacted at +44 1625 520700 or via e-mail at

Just over a week ago I spent a day at SensorExpo in Chicago to present on Complex Event Processing (CEP) discussing how CEP engines, Predictive Analytics, business rules can be used to analyse event data in-motion to facilitate business optimisation.  This was a very busy conference.  I estimated at least 2000-3000 people on the exhibition floor with maybe 400 on the conference.  I found around 100 vendors with all kinds of sensor devices on show exhibiting their products and services.  To my surprise however I had only heard of 2 of the vendors. IBM and Texas Instruments.  The floor was heaving with people looking to instrument their business operations to measure everything from movement, temperature, energy consumption, stress, heat, fluid volumes, pipeline flows and RFIDs.  There were analog devices and digital devices.  When taking to the vendors the big common denaominator was that they are all trying to collect the data from the sensor networks to analyse it.  Yet other than IBM there was not a single BI vendor in sight. Not even a single complex event processing (CEP) vendor in sight.   I was shocked because this market is clearly a booming.   What was even more surprising was that I could not find an IT professional anywhere. 99.9% of all delegates and speakers were engineers.

Attending some of the case studies I found some fantastic applications of the use of sensor networks and RFIDs.  Healthcare with sensors all over hospitals and equipments and patients all tagged with RFIDs.  The return on investment in this case was fraud prevention on equipment and process improvement for patients.  Another session I attended was one on monitoring stress in all the bridges in the US - over 700000 of them.  Some of the stats being quoted by the speakers were staggering.  "Well we are emitting, 3 events per minute from every sensor on a 7x24 hour basis. After 6 months operating like this we have over 20 PETABYTES of data.  You read it right 20 PETABYTES.   A lot of the technical focus at the conference was on energy harvesting to prolong sensor battery life,  but the business message was clear as a bell.  Process optimisation and cost reduction comes from instrumenting business operations.  Manufacturing production lines, supply chains, product distribution.  You name it, they're measuring it.

So I have to ask, where are all the BI vendors, the analytical DBMSs, CEP products, dashboards, predictive analytics.  The volume of data coming over the horizon from the adoption of sensor networks and RFIDs is nothing short of massive.  What is also clear is that this is already going on in enterprises and IT are blissfully unaware of it in the main.  Clearly IT BI professional have got to get in touch with their Engineering colleagues and engineers have got to be made aware of mainstream data integration, analytical database and BI platform technologies as well as CEP of course.  I don't think I have ever seen a chasm between IT and business not event explored never mind crossed.  Yet the value of CEP and mainstream DW/BI to this market is nothing short of enormous.   It is symptomatic that even though this market is heaving with engineers it has yet to tied into mainstream IT to exploit far more robust software than is being used on this data at present.  What an opportunity. What a huge opportunity.  It most certainly is going to re-define large databases for set up for analysis of historical event data.  CEP will obviously go there. It has to get out of just being in the financial markets and wake up to a ton of data in motion being emitted by the growing number of devices.  An article I read recently said that Sensors empower an Internet of Things.  Well, those things are coming over the horizon emitting a Tsunami of data. It is time CEP and DW/BI vendors woke up an smelt the coffee and became aware of this rapidly growing market.  CIOs had better take heed too because they are going to have to integrate it into mainstream IT.

Posted June 21, 2010 8:46 AM
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