Monday, December 18, 2017

Are you caught up with the real-time (r)evolution?

This post originally appeared on InfoWorld on December 1, 2017.

Are you caught up with the real-time (r)evolution?

Real-time analytics have been around since well before computers. Here's where the evolution of real time is headed in 2018

People often think of “real time” as a new concept, but the need for real-time notification and decisioning has been around forever. Gartner defines real-time analytics as “the discipline that applies logic and mathematics to data to provide insights for making better decisions quickly.” This definition has always held true, it is just the meaning and measurement of real time that has evolved. As we approach the end of 2017, it’s a good time to look at the evolution of real-time decision making and ask yourself—are you caught up?

Real time B.C. (before computers)

Before there were computers, people were finding ways to use real-time information. For instance, in 500 BC, Philippides ran 25 miles from Marathon to Athens, Greece, to alert the magistrates of the victory at the Battle at Marathon, and in 200 BC, smoke signals were used on the Great Wall of China to warn those further down the wall of enemy size and attack direction.

Fast-forward to 1775 when Paul Revere developed a real-time alerting system using lanterns. We all know the famous phrase “one if by land, two if by sea,” and after initiating this real-time alert, he rode on horseback to deliver the information to towns around Boston along with 40 other horseback riders to spread the word throughout eastern Massachusetts.

Real-time A.D. (after digital)

With the invention of computers, we upgraded from “human speed” to “machine speed.” For example, telephone call routing was initially executed by human switchboard operators, but by 1983, computers automated this process, enabling real-time voice communication for almost everyone.

People also began interacting with real-time systems, typically through an intermediary. The stock market is a good example—if you wanted to buy or sell securities, you had to make a phone call to your stockbroker who would execute the trade on your behalf using the real-time stock exchange trading software.

From an organizational standpoint, computers enabled companies to gather transactions into a database and produce monthly, weekly or even daily reports. At this early stage, nightly batch processing of data was generally viewed as “real-time data.”

Today in real time

Every day most of us interact with real-time systems and execute real-time decisions, possibly without even realizing it. For instance, going back to our stock example, trades can be executed in seconds by the consumer without a broker.

Take credit card fraud as another example. What was previously fraud detection has evolved into fraud prevention thanks to advancements in real-time technology, and preventing the unauthorized transaction from being processed can save corporations millions of dollars.

Smartphones have helped advance the capabilities of real-time processing thanks to the personalized data they can ingest. Tracking the location of consumers in real time allows companies to deliver personalized offers based on what they are close to. Mobile traffic applications like Waze provide real-time incident alerts and traffic updates to redirect drivers to the fastest route.

Tomorrow in real time

We are witnessing the commoditization of real-time information, alerts, and decisions, and these capabilities will proliferate across all application domains, including online gaming, casino gaming, financial compliance and risk, fraud prevention, digital ad technology, telecom policy and billing, and more.

As we look ahead to 2018, we’ll see real-time advancements in the following areas:

  • Self-driving cars will process data from countless sensors and ultimately get passengers to their destinations safely and efficiently, saving thousands of lives a year in the process.
  • Real-time threat detection and remedy for data security breaches and DDoS attacks will alert consumers as they occur.
  • Wearable health sensors (they already exist in your smartwatch) will not only monitor health statistics, but will also combine that telemetry with personal medical history to know when and how to notify doctors if necessary.
  • Augmented reality will become part of our everyday lives. When traveling in a foreign country, AR on cell phones and tablets will provide “live” translations of street signs and shops and integrate reviews, recommendations and advertisements on whatever signposts or buildings you scan.
The value of real time is the ability to make decisions as soon as possible based on the most readily available information. Information that used to take days to receive can now be ingested and analyzed in fractions of a second, and 2018 will only cut that time down even more, empowering companies to leverage real-time information to increase corporate profit, protect resources and even save lives.