Next week sees 8,500 of the most influential CIOs and IT professionals from around the world converge on the Swan and Dolphin hotel in Orlando for the 2013 edition of Gartner Symposium ITxpo. IBM is once again a Premier Sponsor, with senior IBM Software executives on-hand to present the latest innovations and provide their insights into the industry's most important trends. Here's a sampling of what you'll hear:
On Cloud: Cloud computing has changed the way we think about technology. It already offers new economics in IT, service delivery without boundaries, and stronger customer relationships. Now see how IBM SmartCloud® can keep your business in line with current demands.
On Big Data & Analytics: Data is on the rise. And any organization that mines this growing resource with analytics can outperform the competition. Moreover, with Smarter Analytics from IBM, you can turn information into insight, make better decisions faster, and enact changes to maintain your competitive edge.
On Mobile Enterprise: Mobile devices are facilitating greater interactions with employees, customers and partners, driving intelligent decisions and actions as a result. But they can also create management and security issues. Find out how IBM mobile services can guarantee secure performance.
On Social Business: Social is the next big movement in business. An interconnected and instrumented world has permanently altered the way people work, interact and make decisions. It's also shifted more power from the organization to the customer. Find out how you can capitalize on this evolving landscape.
We'll also be on-hand to discuss Smarter Leadership. As software moves ever closer to the forefront of business process, so too, does the CIO move closer to office of the CEO: By aligning IT with business objectives, forward-thinking decision-makers are building an innovation capability to support revenue-gaining initiatives.
The centerpiece of the IBM presence at Gartner Symposium will be a presentation by Steve Mills, SVP and Group Executive, IBM Software and Systems. It's called Cost-Effective IT Strategies to Lead in a Digital World." I've seen an early draft of the presentation and while I can't give away the details, I can share with you the five key points Mills will be conveying. Here they are:
Do not confuse price with cost
Budgeting and charge back techniques can cause false economics
Technology is a tool, not a religion …… insist on fact based analysis
TCO cannot be overlooked but neither can agility and effectiveness
IBM today unveiled IBM MobileFirst, the most comprehensive mobile portfolio that combines security, analytics and app development software, with cloud-based services and deep mobile expertise. Using IBM MobileFirst solutions, businesses can now streamline everything from the management of employee mobile devices, to the creation of a new mobile commerce app that will transform their entire business model.
Today�s move by IBM builds off of its experience helping nearly 1,000 customers become mobile enterprises, and takes advantage of its thousands of mobile experts and 270 patents in wireless innovations. Additionally, IBM has made 10 mobile-related acquisitions in the past four years alone.
IBM today is also announcing an expanded relationship with AT&T to provide developers with tools to create faster, richer mobile apps and services for customers. For instance, organizations can now quickly incorporate payment and messages into their apps.
�To date, mobile computing has been dominated by discussions of new smartphones, operating systems, games and apps,� said Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president, middleware software, IBM. �But enterprises have yet to tap into the potential of mobile business. Just as the Internet transformed the way we bank, book vacations and manage our healthcare, mobile computing is also transforming industries. As these devices become ingrained in everything that we do, businesses are now in the palms of their customers� hands. IBM MobileFirst is designed to make the transformation to becoming a mobile enterprise a reality.�
Through IBM MobileFirst, IBM is providing companies with the essential tools to take advantage of new business opportunities being enabled by mobile. To be successful in embracing mobile for driving revenue growth, clients must have an integrated strategy for mobile, cloud, big data, social business and security. Today�s announcements from IBM help clients harness these complex technologies to drive innovation and growth. Daegu Health College and the Dutch City of Eindhoven are prime examples of how IBM is helping clients transform using mobile.
IBM MobileFirst includes:
A Broad Portfolio of Mobile Solutions
IBM�s mobile solutions portfolio provides the key elements of an application and data platform with the management, security and analytics capabilities needed for the enterprise. In addition to meeting mobile-specific requirements, the portfolio provides for rapid integration between social and cloud services as well as back-end technologies that help secure and manage strategic business processes. Key aspects include:
� IBM MobileFirst Platform � New updates include expanded capabilities of IBM Worklight to simplify deployment. It also features single sign-on capabilities for multiple applications. A new beta of the Rational Test Workbench for mobile helps to improve the quality and reliability of mobile apps.
� IBM MobileFirst Security � IBM extends its context-based mobile access control solutions and expands mobile application vulnerability testing with support for Apple iOS apps with the latest release of AppScan.
� IBM MobileFirst Management � New updates to IBM Endpoint Manager include enhanced support for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs and increased security standards that are critical to governments and regulated environments.
� IBM MobileFirst Analytics � IBM is expanding its Tealeaf CX Mobile solution to give enterprises more visual insight into mobile behaviors so they can better understand where improvements are needed and create exceptional and consistent consumer experiences across mobile devices.
To provide organizations with maximum flexibility and accelerate their adoption of mobile computing, these solutions can also be delivered through cloud and managed services.
A Deep Set of Mobile Services for Clients
Enterprises are embracing the mobile revolution at a rapid pace. IBM has thousands of mobile experts to help clients understand how industries will be transformed in a mobile world, based on client engagements across more than a dozen industries. The IBM MobileFirst portfolio features several services to help clients establish mobile strategies, design and implement mobile projects. These include:
� IBM MobileFirst Strategy and Design Services � Clients can tap into IBM expertise to map out a mobile strategy for employees and customers, and key experience design skills from IBM Interactive to build compelling mobile experiences. IBM�s new Mobile Maturity Model can assess how a business is progressing towards becoming a mobile enterprise, while new Mobile Workshops help clients develop applications, architect infrastructure and accelerate their mobile progress.
� IBM MobileFirst Development and Integration Services � IBM offers services that help organizations roll out a mobile infrastructure and manage mobile application portfolios and BYOD environments. Enhanced Network Infrastructure Services for Mobile provide IT network strategy, optimization, integration and management. Mobile Enterprise Services for Managed Mobility help manage and secure smartphones, tablets and devices across a business. Mobile Application Platform Management helps speed deployment of mobile infrastructure to develop mobile applications more easily and quickly.
An Expansive Set of Mobile Resources and Programs for Business Partners, Developers and Academics
According to IBM�s recent Tech Trends Report, only one in 10 organizations has the skills needed to effectively apply advanced technologies such as mobile computing. To help overcome this skills gap, IBM is rolling out a series of resources to help its ecosystem of developers, partners and academics tap into the mobile opportunity and augment existing skills or develop new ones. For instance:
� Developers � IBM today is announcing a relationship with AT&T that will enable developers to enhance mobile apps by using IBM Worklight to access AT&T�s APIs in the cloud. Now, developers have another tool with AT&T to quickly and easily create apps with rich features such as speech recognition and rapid payment.
IBM is also rolling out new technical assets on developerWorks and CodeRally, a developer game community.
� Business Partners � With Ready for IBM MobileFirst, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) can also embed mobile technologies into their solutions and Software Value Plus now provides mobile certifications, workshops and incentives for resellers and systems integrators.
� Academics � To help train the next generation of mobile developers, IBM is offering new faculty grants for curricula development. IBM is also making IBM Worklight available, free of charge, for the classroom and via online training to teach both students and faculty to develop for mobile environments.
IBM Global Financing, the lending and leasing arm of IBM, can also help companies affordably transform into mobile enterprises. Credit-qualified clients can take advantage of simple, flexible lease and loan packages for the IBM MobileFirst portfolio � some starting at as low as 0% for 12 months with no up-front costs � allowing businesses to acquire essential technology and services while managing cash flow more effectively.
Join IBM�s 30 minute announcement broadcast on February 28 at 12 noon EST, live from Mobile World Congress. Sign up at ibm.com/mobile-enterprise/events.
About IBM MobileFirst
As the first new technology platform for business to emerge since the World Wide Web, mobile computing represents one of the greatest opportunities for organizations to expand their business. Based on nearly 1,000 customer engagements, 10 mobile-related acquisitions in the last four years, a team of thousands of mobile experts and 270 patents in wireless innovations, IBM MobileFirst offers an array of solutions that helps businesses connect, secure, manage and develop mobile networks, infrastructures and applications.
Big data played a big role on day 2 of IBM Connect 2013 (#ibmconnect). While much big data discussions focus on machine-generated and sensor-sourced data within the "Internet of Things," big data discussions in a social business context focus on the increasing volumes of interactions among and between people.
As more and more people share more and more things, these interactions create an increasingly complex web of relationships and patterns, both of which can be leveraged into new competitive value.
Concrete examples of this came courtesy of three IBM clients from three different industries:
Healthcare Dan Pelino, GM of Global Public Sector for IBM, and Bill Fandrich, the CIO at Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts (BCBS MA) tag teamed, focusing on the watershed event that shaped US healthcare and that will influence 2013. As the model for healthcare shifts from a traditional B-to-B space for health plans to a B-to-C space, it has become increasing important to have a relationship of value with the end-user -- their experience is critical for better care and controlling costs. No other industry has ever faced an immediate possibility of having 32M new customers engage at a single time. BCBS MA is a window to the future for US healthcare changes, and they are engaging the insured proactively using analytics, and providing customers access to important information through an IBM Portal.
Retail Maree Foti, HR Manager - Retention for David Jones, one of Australia's oldest retailers, talked about the importance of activating collaboration within their workforce using Connections. The results have been outstanding, driving fast adoption and sharing within their business. They are seeking 75% update rate and use of their workforce by mid 2013.
Government Jeffrey Rhoda, General Manager of Global Government and Education for IBM, said that although government is looked at as an 'Industry of Industries' -- a collection of industries like Police, Fire, Transportation and Roads -- it's an ideal space to optimize its workforce and improve citizen experiences by becoming more social. This was reinforced by Mike Van Milligen, City Manager of Dubuque, Iowa, who spoke passionately about his city and the value that Social Business and Big Data play in providing an exceptional city experience that provides real cost savings and value to residents.
IBM General Manager for Information Management Bob Picciano wrapped up the session pointing back to how Analytics, Big Data, Cloud and Social are a powerful combined punch that can lead to improved business results across many industries. He also announced the next generation of analytics � IBM Social Media Analytics. This offering allows our clients to apply social media analytics to key business questions � enabling organizations to create a better customer experience, more productive workforce, cost-effective supply chain or reduce risk. Attendees could see a live demo of IBM Social Media Analytics in the Solution Showcase.
Of course, that's not the whole story form Orlando. Follow the links below to round out your reading:
The name alone should tell you that "this ain't your father's Lotusphere." Renamed "IBM Connect," the 2013 edition of the industry's premiere conference on social business and the software that runs it kicked off this morning from the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort in sunny Orlando, Florida.
The new name reflects the increasing momentum of social business as a transformative technology and its increasing stature as a critical driver of competitive advantage:
"Just as social networking has flourished in the consumer realm, Forrester has identified social business as an emerging business category, with the social technology industry growing to $6.4 billion by 2016," writes "Turbo" Todd Watson in his summary post. "Increasingly, front-office leaders, such as chief human resource officers, are looking to form a smarter workforce to unlock human potential and unleash innovation. According to a recent IBM CEO study, 70 percent of companies surveyed cited human capital as the single biggest contributor to sustained economic value."
For me, the biggest takeaway was the way the tenets of social and its emphasis on collaboration made their way into the broader IBM initiatives such as Smarter Commerce, Smarter Analytics, Cloud, Watson and more. In each example we saw, an already powerful value proposition made more so through the broad portfolio of IBM Software capabilities. "The art of the possible is greater than anything we could think of even a few short years ago," said Mike Rhodin, IBM Senior Vice President, IBM Software Solutions Group.
From the main stage came product announcements, including a new version of our enterprise social networking platform, IBM Connections, new capabilities that allow marketing teams to easily design, test and optimize sophisticated advertising campaigns, and, based on the technology of recent acquisition Kenexa, a new suite of capabilities designed to attract, empower and motivate talent.
"The combination of Kenexa and IBM shows great promise to change how HR attracts, retains and trains talent," said Ross Grossman, vice president, human resources, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. "In biotechnology, competition for top talent is fierce. We're excited about the potential to better attract talented people who fit our company culture and can really impact our business performance."
The new offerings will help business leaders integrate IBM's industry-leading social networking and analytics technologies into their business processes to empower the 21st Century workforce and transform client experiences.
The new social software offerings will help companies gain deeper insights into big data generated through the use of social networks. Organizations applying analytics to their data for competitive advantage are more likely to substantially outperform their industry peers*.
Today, leading organizations, including 61 percent of the Fortune 100, are licensed to use IBM's social business technologies to transform their front office business operations. This includes connecting employees globally to empower faster decision making and analyzing big data from sources such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs and public forums, to react swiftly to customer trends and outpace competitors.
But that's just part of the story. To keep up with the story unfolding in Orlando, be sure to connect with the sites and sounds through these social channels:
Watch the opening general session each day on Livestream
IBM today announced fourth-quarter 2012 diluted earnings of $5.13 per share, compared with diluted earnings of $4.62 per share in the fourth quarter of 2011, an increase of 11 percent. Operating (non-GAAP) diluted earnings were $5.39 per share, compared with operating diluted earnings of $4.71 per share in the fourth quarter of 2011, an increase of 14 percent.
Fourth-quarter net income was $5.8 billion compared with $5.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, an increase of 6 percent. Operating (non-GAAP) net income was $6.1 billion compared with $5.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, an increase of 10 percent.
Total revenues for the fourth quarter of 2012 of $29.3 billion decreased 1 percent (flat adjusting for currency) from the fourth quarter of 2011. Without the impact of the divested Retail Store Solutions (RSS) business, revenue increased 1 percent, adjusting for currency.
"We achieved record profit, earnings per share and free cash flow in 2012. Our performance in the fourth quarter and for the full year was driven by our strategic growth initiatives -- growth markets, analytics, cloud computing, Smarter Planet solutions -- which support our continued shift to higher-value businesses," said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer.
"Looking ahead, we continue to invest to deliver innovations for the enterprise in key areas such as big data, mobile solutions, social business and security, while expanding into new markets and reaching new clients. We are well on track toward our long-term roadmap for operating EPS of at least $20 in 2015."
Software revenues up 3 percent in 4Q
Revenues from the Software segment were $7.9 billion, an increase of 3 percent (up 4 percent, adjusting for currency) from the fourth quarter of 2011. Software pre-tax income of $4.0 billion increased 8 percent year over year.
Revenues from IBM's key middleware products, which include WebSphere, Information Management, Tivoli, Lotus and Rational products, were $5.5 billion, an increase of 5 percent (up 6 percent, adjusting for currency) versus the fourth quarter of 2011. Operating systems revenues of $709 million were flat (up 1 percent, adjusting for currency) compared with the prior-year quarter.
Revenues from the WebSphere family of software products increased 11 percent year over year. Information Management software revenues increased 2 percent. Revenues from Tivoli software increased 4 percent. Revenues from Lotus software increased 9 percent, and Rational software increased 12 percent.
Most companies strive to speak to their stakeholders with a single voice.
But IBM isn't like most companies. IBM is a company of more than 400,000 employees around the world. To our clients we bring deep domain expertise, innovative approaches and, at times, strongly held views that challenge conventional wisdom.
Since the early days of "Web 2.0" many of them have taken to sharing their knowledge and their views with clients and the world - through blogs, online forums and videos.
Until now, finding out what IBMers are talking about - and thinking about - on these subjects has been a challenge. Now, though, that's all changed. Earlier this month we launched IBM Voices, a new web site that aggregates and presents - in a single spot - social media content from IBMers around the world.
IBM Voices is based on our innovative Social Media Aggregator platform that's become a social media fixture for our many software events. Here's what it looks like.
"Voices is a validation that the work IBMers are doing in social that is becoming an increasingly important way for our current clients, our prospects and other important people to engage with IBM and experience IBM's expertise on the web," says Ethan McCarty, IBM's Director of Enterprise Social Strategy and Programs.
IBMers have a lot to say about the issues and opportunities at play on a smarter planet. Through a platform like Voices, it's now easier than ever to hear them.
IBM today announced that it received a record 6,478 patents in 2012 for inventions that will enable fundamental advancements across key domains including analytics, Big Data, cybersecurity, cloud, mobile, social networking and software defined environments, as well as industry solutions for retail, banking, healthcare, and transportation. These patented inventions also will advance a major shift in computing, known as the era of cognitive systems.
�We are proud of this new benchmark in technological and scientific creativity, which grows out of IBM�s century-long commitment to research and development,� said Ginni Rometty, chairman and CEO, IBM. �Most concretely, our 2012 patent record and the two decades of leadership it extends are a testament to thousands of brilliant IBM inventors -- the living embodiments of our devotion to innovation that matters, for our clients, for our company and for the world.�
IBM's record-setting 2012 patent tally was made possible by more than 8,000 IBM inventors residing in 46 different U.S. states and 35 countries. IBM inventors residing outside the U.S. contributed to nearly 30% of the company's 2012 U.S. patent output.
From 1993-2012, IBM inventors received nearly 67,000 U.S. patents. The company's 2012 patent count exceeded the combined totals of Accenture, Amazon, Apple, EMC, HP, Intel, Oracle/SUN and Symantec.
IBM's record 2012 patent output featured inventions that are reshaping how companies are applying technology in today's world of a Smarter Planet and those that are laying the groundwork for the new era of cognitive systems. These include:
U.S. Patent #8,275,803: System and method for providing answers to questions - This patented invention was implemented in the IBM Watson system and describes a technique that enables a computer to take a question expressed in natural language, understand it in detail, and deliver a precise answer to the question.
U.S. Patent #8,250,010: Electronic learning synapse with spike-timing dependent plasticity using unipolar memory-switching elements - This patent relates to algorithms and circuits for efficiently mimicking the learning function of a brain's synapses and lays the foundation for a non-von Neumann computer architecture. IBM is working on a cognitive computing project called Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE), which aims to emulate the brain�s abilities for perception, action and cognition while consuming orders of magnitude less power and volume without being programmed.
U.S. Patent #8185480: System and method for optimizing pattern recognition of non-gaussian parameters - This patent describes a technique for dealing with and recognizing patterns in fast growing, large data sets of complex information, such as understanding of spoken phrases or processing satellite data to predict locations of traffic jams.
Yet volume alone doesn�t tell the whole story," writes IBM Chief Innovation Officer Bernard Meyerson. "What good are a pile of patents if they don�t change the world? That�s why we set our research priorities and make our investments with the goal of producing maximum global impact."
Today, we�re focused on a new era in Information Technology that is now in its early stages, but one that will continue to roll out over the next two decades. We call it the era of cognitive systems. We believe that the benefits of this new era will arrive sooner and stronger if companies, governments and universities adopt a culture of innovation that includes making big bets, fostering disruptive innovations, taking a long-term view and collaborating across institutional boundaries. That last part is crucial. What�s needed is radical collaboration�large-scale efforts to find common cause and share resources, expertise and ideas across the borders between companies and institutions.
Innovation isn�t about �me� anymore�one person, one company, or even one country. It�s about �we.�
Thanks again for making 2012 a spectacularly successful year for the IBM Software Blog. We'll be back in 2013 with more news, opinion and insights into the software that's changing the way the world literally works. Happy holidays!
The following is the sixth and final installment in our series on Advanced Data Visualization. Over the past three months, IBM visualization experts have explored new and emerging visual techniques and the underlying technologies you can deploy to better understand your data to transform insights into better business outcomes.
Frank van Ham is a well-known research scientist and an IBM Master Inventor with over a decade in experience in designing and deploying interactive information visualization. Some of his past projects include Many Eyes, a site for collaborative visualization and SequoiaView, a visual disk browser. Dr. van Ham currently works with the IBM Business Analytics division on integrating visualization into IBM's product portfolio.
Thanks to digital sensors, storage and processors we now live in a world that produces and stores a staggering amount of data, the vast majority of it in digital form. We often hear that all of this data has the power to transform many information-heavy industries, from health care to financial. However, most of this data is not useful in itself. The hardest challenge in dealing with so called 'big data' is not about scale or infrastructure, but about finding ways to refine it into useful information. In this blog post I will argue that it takes the combination of unique strengths from both humans and machines to successfully tackle this problem, and that visualization is the medium that ties the two together.
One possible route to attack 'big data' is to use the same computing power that has allowed us to gather all this data in the first place. We can use computer algorithms to refine this data for us and then present it in an understandable way. There's a plethora of algorithms that allow us to extract higher level features from raw data. For example, clustering algorithms allow us to identify larger groups of items that share a common property, statistical methods allow us to describe a the data in a set in terms of more abstract features and data mining methods allows us to extract often co-occuring events, for example. Commonly, we refer to the collection of all of these methods as 'data analytics'. Analytics is what allow us to wither down a large set of low-level factual observations into a smaller set of observations; however, they do not always provide us with information directly. Computers generally excel at fast and accurate data processing, but lack the context and creative skills to assemble these processed results into actionable information. In fact, solely relying on pure analytics to make decisions is dangerous for a couple of reasons:
More often than not analytics, return too much information and not all of it might be relevant. Unfortunately, computer systems often lack context to tell what information is relevant to you and what is not. At this point we still have the same problem as we did before (too much data), just at a smaller scale and higher level of abstraction.
The real world is not always easily captured in a nice mathematical model. Features in data exist at many different scales, with different amounts of certainty and algorithms sometimes make unwarranted and hidden assumptions to try and come up with a single answer. If your model is not detailed enough, analytic results might be incorrect; if your model is too detailed, analytic results might be unintelligible to a human operator.
Analytical or statistical summaries may sometimes hide what's actually going on in your data at a low level, again depending on the assumptions in the algorithm.
The following two charts try to illustrate this using two simple examples. Anscombe's quartet (left) presents four datasets that all have an equal number of points and virtually equal means and variance for both variables, as well as equal regression and correlation. Relying solely on aggregate statistics to describe these datasets without visually inspecting them would be grossly misleading. On the left I've plotted a small set of two dimensional points, some closer together than others. Suppose I want to know how many clusters of points are in this dataset. A human would probably say "it depends," while a clustering algorithm would say "3" (and yet another clustering algorithm might state "10"). Deferring critical decisions to �blind� analytics is dangerous in general and in all but the most straightforward cases you probably want a human in the loop to verify the results.
Unlike computer systems, the human brain is capable of putting information into context, making lateral jumps that connect two seemingly unimportant observations and provide creative hypotheses for an observed feature. This is (still) what makes us smarter than computers. In an ideal world, we would have humans place the results coming in from analytic processes in context and feed back their interpretations of the result into the processes themselves. Or in another analogy: Data mining algorithms provide us the tools to do the digging quickly, but deciding where to dig and what you do with the results is still very much a human decision. Or to quote Shyam Sankar in this TED talk : �You cannot algorithmically data mine your way to the answer. There is no �Find Terrorist� button.�
To realize this tight coupling between human operator and analytic tool, we need a medium that is suited to transfer information between both quickly and efficiently. Humans in general have a hard time interpreting large amounts of abstract information in numerical form because we only have limited working memory and are not naturally used to working with numerical representations. Instead, we have evolved to take in most of the information about the world around us in a visual manner. As a result, the part of our brains that do visual processing are well suited to spot outliers and detect patterns, without having to specify in advance what the patterns is.
Information visualization is a medium that uses computer algorithms to transform abstract data into visual imagery in a smart way, such that we can take advantage of our specialized "hardware". It allows us to quickly understand what is in a set of data and how the numbers relate. Note that I�ve deliberately designated visualization as a medium, not as a technique. Just like any medium, it takes skill to use it to communicate effectively and in a pleasant manner. In this post I�ve argued that visualization should be used to communicate analytic results from a computer to a human before they are used as basis for decisions. Other uses of the same medium involve communication of data from one human to another, for example to present data to another stakeholder. We will dig deeper into this interesting area of information processing in a number of future blog posts, so stay tuned!
Continue exploring visual analytics on IBM Many Eyes
Why stop the insight with this article? Visit IBM�s hub of visual analytics, IBM Many Eyes, and join over 100,000 like-mined visualization enthusiasts, academia and professionals. The Many Eyes web community democratizes data visualization by providing a simple three step process to create and interact with a visualization using your data set. Then share or embed your visualization across the web or your social network.
The following is the fifth of a new six-part series on Advanced Data Visualization. Over the next three months, IBM visualization experts will explore new and emerging visual techniques and the underlying technologies you can deploy to better understand your data to transform insights into better business outcomes.
Graham Wills is the lead architect for IBM�s visualization engine. He has two decades experience in research and implementation of visualization systems in areas including statistical models, geo- and temporal- visualization, large-scale networks and coordinated views. He has published widely in the field and his recent book,Visualizing Timeis currently available on Amazon.
No, this isn�t a piece on modulo arithmetic, binary logic or the like. No need to call in the mathematicians and programmers. What we are going to discuss here is visualization design and how different visual features work together.
The figure below is an example of a well-designed chart. It�s a scatter plot of two numeric fields, with color used to encode a third field. When we look at the figure, we immediately notice two important features:
The points are spread out over the space, almost never even touching another point.
Most points are blue, four are green and one is red.
The data for this chart are in fact simulated data. The X and Y locations of the points are what is called �stratified random� � they are random, but only within certain bounds. In this case the data consist of 100 points placed on a 10x10 grid with a bit of random noise added to allow them to move a little. One of the reasons a scatter plot is such a great tool for numeric data is that we have a very good ability to assess distances from a fixed point � in this case, distances from the axes or boundaries of the data space. This chart draws a box around the data space and adds faint grid lines to make those comparisons even easier. That makes it easy to spot relationships between fields used for position on a scatter plot.
This is a general presentation rule � if you want to allow people to compare numeric values, the two best ways to do so are using aligned lengths (bars on a bar chart which all start at the X axis are a simple and powerful example) and by using aligned distances (like the scatter plot). In the chart we present above the regularity is immediately apparent. If we tried to use angles or color or something like that to show one of the fields, it would be much harder to spot that regularity.
The second feature of this chart is related to the field we use for color. Color is a seductively powerful way of encoding information. For a lot of human evolutionary history, it has been critical that we can identify items based on color. We have a strong ability to differentiate greens, a pretty good ability to differentiate shades of red and a relatively weak ability to differentiate blues. This is very probably because those are the colors of the foods that we and our ancestors ate. You are here, at least in part, because your great-great-(etc.)-grandparent was able to tell subtle differences between a red/green nutritious plant, and red/green poisonous one.
Color is a �grouping� function � we see colors in groups, not really as a continuous scale. Even if we present people with a chart that goes smoothly from blue to red (say), they will perceive it more in terms of groups of similar-colored items. For this reason, color is an excellent field to use for a categorical piece of data. Color does not also have a natural order; we can impose orders like blue/red, or heat scales; we can learn scales like those used in maps (blues get darker as the altitude goes below zero, browns get stronger as the altitude increases above the baseline); but these are not natural.
This chart is using color just as an indicator that a point belongs to a given group. This is the simplest and most effective use of color, and so this chart works: it represents the data not only truthfully, but also in a way that fits with our ability to interpret it.
We saw there was a pattern in the way the X and Y fields interacted � they were distributed regularly, more spaced out than we would expect. This chart is also clear in that it we do not draw false conclusions about the locations of the groups. The color of the points does not appear to have a dependency on their locations.
So far, so good. Take a moment to look at the chart on the left. This chart uses the same X and Y data, but instead of using color to map a field, we use symbol shape. Take a moment to look at the chart and compare it to the previous one.
This chart is effectively the same as the previous one. Although the field used for symbol shape contains different data, it is the same type of data (categorical) and, as in the previous chart, has three groups � a �default� group with most of the data, a group with 4 items (�green� previously, �square� here) and a singleton group (�red� previously, �plus� here).
Symbol shape works in a similar way to color. It is good for categories, has no particular order, and we process it mentally using a �grouping� function. People using charts based on symbols will say things like �the square points are mostly �� or �the bottom-right sector contains points from both plus and square groups�. The same language is used when working with charts using color.
So, off to our third example. Given our success with coding one field with color and another with symbol, it is natural for us to want to use both! If we have two numeric data fields and two categorical fields, it seems pretty clear that we can make a good chart using X and Y for the numeric values and color and shape for the categorical ones.
And, in the figure to the side here, this is exactly what we have done. Again, take a good look at the figure and compare it to the previous ones and see what conclusions can be drawn from it.
A famous quotation (much mangled in repetition) from American journalist H.L. Mencken (pictured at right) is �There is always an easy solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong�. This chart is not deceitful in purpose; it doesn�t misrepresent the data. It also follows good advice about drawing charts and for each mapping of the categorical field it is very plausible and very neat. In fact the only reason this chart fails is that at a fundamental level, combining shape and color just doesn�t work.
When we process symbol and color in our brains (or maybe just outside it � I�m not going deeply into the optic processing system in this article), we process them very separately. When we look at the 100 items in the first chart we instantly spot the unusual colors. If we had a million points we would do that identification just as fast. Similarly if we presented a million circles with just four squares and a single plus, we would immediately note and classify those unusual points. What we cannot do is process both at the same time. We cannot spot combinations of color and shape without detailed thought.
The third chart we showed works moderately well for comparing groups of color OR groups of symbol. The presence of the other encoding is distracting, but we can cope with that without much cognitive overhead. But if we wanted to deal with each separately, we could just use two charts more simply and more easily. The promise of combining both mappings in one chart is that we can spot patterns between them. But we cannot.
There is a critical feature of this chart that we cannot immediately spot � to find it we must carefully process each of the unusual items and investigate them sequentially. If you found the following feature in the chart � congratulations! It is not obvious and needs mental work to find. In this chart there is exactly one point that is both an unusual color and an unusual shape � the green square at the center bottom of the chart.
This is a critical piece of information. The red point is 1% of the data. If you assume color and shape are independent, then being unusual in color and shape are each 5% and so the combination is has a 0.25% probability of happening by chance (5% multiplied by 5%). This is four times as unusual, and it should be the most important point in the chart, and yet it is not visually obvious that this point is more than �slightly unusual�. This chart contains only 100 data points. The task becomes much more complex as the data and groups increase in number.
This article has been a cautionary tale. The human visual system is complex, and perhaps the strongest overall message to take away is that coding four or more fields into one chart is hard. It�s almost certainly best to avoid using two encodings like color/shape/size/orientation/texture for different fields if you have any interest in seeing relationships between those fields. Position, on the other hand, is very good for showing relationships. Maybe if you really need to see four fields, it might be better to use three for position and one for color? As we have seen, using two + two can lead to a chart that rates a solid �zero�.
Continue exploring visual analytics on IBM Many Eyes
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I'm kicking off the week with another deep dive into the recently released 2012 IBM Tech Trends Report. Today, I've extracted the findings on Mobility, another of the critical emerging technologies that organizations are counting on to drive growth into 2013 and beyond...
Adoption & Investment:
49 percent of respondents have deployed Mobile
Top three barriers to adoption of Mobile according to those surveyed: Security (61 percent); integration of Mobile with existing infrastructure and data (44 percent); and difficulty extending existing applications to Mobile (38 percent)
69 percent plan to increase Mobile investment in the next two years, with 35 percent planning to increase it 10 percent or more
Over the next two years, 31 percent of respondents will start allowing BYOD � making it the norm for 76 percent of respondents
Only 9 percent of companies think they have all the Mobile skills they need: 25 percent of IT/LOB decision makers report a major Mobile skills gaps, with an additional 40 percent seeing moderate skills gaps (65 percent total)
45 percent of students and educators see major Mobile skills gaps, with an additional 32 percent seeing moderate skills gaps (77 percent total)
43 percent of respondents say their IT security policies don�t meet the needs of Mobile computing
50 percent are actively engaged in increasing security capabilities to existing Mobile applications
Growth market respondents appear to be lagging in Mobile deployment, with 35 percent citing current deployment versus 55 percent of mature markets
The shift toward BYOD is even more pronounced in growth markets, where 41 percent will allow BYOD within two years, bringing the total to 83 percent in those countries
If you recall, the report (released yesterday) revealed a workforce seriously short of skills in the technologies that most organizations have tapped as critical to their future growth, namely: business analytics, cloud computing, mobile and social business.
Today we're focusing on the gap in social business skills. As you can see in the findings below, organizations have begun their journey, but many have a long way to go before they can realize the immense promise of increased collaboration. For example:
Adoption & Investment
34 percent have deployed Social Business, with 11 percent implementing significant deployment. An additional 21 percent of respondents are now piloting the technology, and another 19 percent are planning to adopt it in the next two years
43 percent are planning investment in Social Business, with 16 percent planning an increase of 10 percent or more
Security was cited as the number one barrier to adoption for Social Business technologies (47 percent). The other top two barriers to adoption of social technologies were difficulty of measuring/tracking ROI (37 percent), and integration with existing systems and applications (33 percent)
60 percent of respondents cite social business skills gaps,with 22 percent reporting major skills gaps. Only 13 percent report sufficient skills
77 percent of students and academics report Social Business skills gaps � with 44 percent reporting a major skills gap
Social Business Security
More than half of respondents say their IT security policies don�t meet the needs of Social Business (54 percent)
62 percent plan to develop/acquire security strategies & policies in Social Business in the next two years
Build your social business skills at IBM Connect 2013
If the figures above are concerning to you, might I suggest heading down to IBM Connect 2013? Our pre-eminent conference on social business takes place January 27 to 30 in Orlando, Florida. Early Bird rates are available until December 10.
Only one in 10 organizations surveyed reported that they have all the skills they need for the four emerging technologies (cloud computing, business analytics, mobile computing and social business)
60 percent or more of the IT/LOB decision markers surveyed have moderate to major skills gaps across all four technology areas
73 percent or more of students and educators surveyed see moderate to major skills gaps across the four areas
Nearly half of the educators and students surveyed indicated major gaps in their institutions ability to meet IT skill needs in mobile, social, cloud and analytics.
The two biggest challenges cited for acquiring new skills: cost (68 percent) and taking time away from work (63 percent)
The imperative to arm more workers with technical skills is a global issue. To help prepare our global workforce to apply and monetize these advanced technologies, today IBM also unveiled new and significantly expanded resources to help people get the technical skills they need to succeed. The initiative includes new training courses and resources for IT professionals, training, technology and curriculum materials for faculty, and expanded programs to directly engage students with real-world business challenges.
On the Smarter Planet blog, IBM's General Manager of ISV and Developer Relations Jim Corgel today writes: "Businesses should aggressively build depth and breadth in the emerging skills among their employees. They should encourage experimentation and let their employees try out new technologies. And they should work with their business partners to set a shared skills agenda. Universities should build new programs and curricula to address the skills gap. They should incorporate real-world technology and business cases to prepare students for a rapidly changing environment. And they should develop a local industry ecosystem so they�re aware of the latest trends and can place students in internships that provide them with the most up-to-date expertise."
IBM is responding. For the first time, IBM�s Academic Initiative will offer access to curriculum and training resources on IT security to help students gain market-ready cyber security skills. Cited as the top barrier to adoption of advanced technologies in the IBM Tech Trends Report, cyber security is also a key job growth area. The information cyber security workforce is expected to nearly double by 2015. The new offerings include:
Pre-Packaged curriculum that brings real-world technology security scenarios into the classroom, helping students understand enterprise challenges and do in depth analysis of the trends uncovered in the IBM X-Force report.
No-charge access to security software that professors can use in the classroom to teach students how to test applications for bugs and check network and virtualized servers for vulnerabilities. Professors and students can remotely access the newest zEnterprise mainframe, a highly secure system that can be used to prepare students for real-world computing challenges using enterprise IT skills.
The ability to bring the latest enterprise technology directly into the classroom at no additional cost is critical in helping students gain market-ready skills. The IBM Academic Initiative now provides software licenses and how-to training materials in three new areas:
Big Data & Analytics: Now professors can bring Big Data software directly into the classroom with access to a variety of IBM Big Data offerings. E-Books and learning modules on Hadoop geared for either business and computer science students are also available.
Commerce: Now professors can download IBM Smarter Commerce software for use in the classroom. Through a series of hands on learning modules, students study topics like benchmarking and learn how to develop code to uncover online shopping patterns.
Mobile Computing: New hands-on learning modules on HTLM 5 and DOJO prepare students to develop mobile applications. Professors can also download IBM mobile development software to give students hands-on experience.
Finally, to help faculty update their skills on advanced technologies, IBM today unveiled a Knowledge Exchange. This online resource allows professors from around the world to share and collaborate on courseware and best practices with their peers. The initial offerings in the Knowledge Exchange will feature curriculum from winning IBM Smarter Planet grant faculty.
I�ll be going deeper into the report over the next few days, drawing out specific findings sharing viewpoints from IBM executives from each of the growth areas. In the meantime, feel free to visit these links:
As Slate's James Hughes writes: "the guiding principle of Powers of Ten is that every 10 seconds our distance from the initial scene�the couple in Chicago, captured in an aerial shot 10 meters wide�becomes 10 times greater before reversing course to explore the galaxies within the human body. Endlessly imitated in commercials and Hollywood films (Men in Black and Contact among them) and predating Google Earth (and Google Mars) by decades, the zoom continues to captivate viewers, leaving them either awed or overwhelmed by journey�s end."
The Eameses work is back in the news due to the launch of Beautiful Details, a new book exploring their legacy that Hughes says "will enliven, or perhaps leave you questioning, your coffee table and the furniture that surrounds it." The book was developed by Eames Demetrios, grandson of Charles and Ray and principal of the Eames Office, a gallery and educational space now located in Santa Monica, Calif.
The Eameses have a long history with IBM. In 1961, IBM sponsored an exhibition at the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles, commissioning the Eameses to develop an interactive installation on mathematics. Called Mathematica: A World of Numbers...and Beyond, the 3,000 square foot installation inspired a generation to embrace science, math and technology.
The popularity of the exhibit culminated in a replica being exhibited at the 1964 New York World's Fair. The large-scale mathematics timeline is still on display at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, NY, and the Museum of Science in Boston, Mass. A smaller, poster-sized version of the timeline is still displayed in classrooms and museums around the world.
Earlier this year, IBM collaborated again with the Eames Office on the free "THINK" iPad app, which contains many of these joint works.
Slate's Hughes continues: In Beautiful Details, Demetrios notes that Eames films were never outsourced. �[Charles and Ray] never hired a film production company to make the films for them�even a technical tour de force like Powers of Ten.�
Having harnessed the collective brainpower of the Eames Office, the film was completed with the financial support of IBM, which shared Charles and Ray�s concern that American students were falling behind in math and science and needed to be stimulated."