BI light for consumers

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Business intelligence (BI) vendors are rolling out consumer applications on mobile devices such as smartphones and the iPad; however, a local analyst says this is not true BI and rather a marketing tactic.

Independent consultant Bill Hoggarth says despite BI traditionally being driven as a niche business solution for enterprises, developing a simple application that analyses trivial consumer information holds no real value for business, but is rather aimed at the general consumer public.

He says these applications should not be considered in the same light as the BI deployed in organisations such as the World Bank.

However, he notes that devices such as the Apple iPad and smartphones have driven an interest for BI vendors to develop BI applications that appeal to the target market of the devices.

“The devices are providing a platform for consumers to access the information they need, rather than being limited by corporate data dashboards,” notes Hoggarth.

Hoggarth says the business expectations of information and the way in which data is being accessed is changing dramatically because of additional information streams, sources and hardware devices.

He explains that traditional BI and data warehouses are only one part of a bigger puzzle to access information, in order to enable effective business decision-making.

“As much as 80% of business data cannot be captured in the BI system. This is because the information captured from external consultants, the Internet, and even social networks such as Facebook have an enormous amount of information relating to a business' situation.

He says another problem is the amount of data dispersed across an organisation. “The majority of data is unstructured and stored in documents, spreadsheets and PDFs that traditional BI cannot access.”

Hunger for content

MicroStrategy SA MD, Merlin Knott, says BI has to evolve with the market. “Consumers have a huge appetite for content delivered via mobile devices such as the iPad, smartphones and netbooks. And technology has to support the nature of the device itself. Consumer-driven BI is oriented towards an immediate need and desire.”

Knott gives an example of a BI application aimed at consumers that can turn a BlackBerry or iPhone into a scanner for scanning retail products and accessing information about the product such as price and specials.

He explains that the opportunities for consumer BI are boundless: “From a consumer perspective, whatever interface you're using needs to be seamless. Whether you're using a mobile device or laptop, you should be capable of getting the information you need regardless.”

Knott will demonstrate BI on the iPad at next week's MicroStrategy World conference in Cannes, France.

World Cup BI

Earlier this month, global BI software company QlikTech rolled out a free application that allows soccer fans access to statistics about the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

The application, dubbed 'Kick It and Qlik It', is available online or via any mobile device and enables soccer enthusiasts to analyse historical facts and answer trivia questions.

According to the company, the application uses data provided by Infostrada Sports and is updated with real-time data from the games every 60 minutes.

The application enables users to stay up to date with the results of the soccer tournament and provides trivia such as which position receives the most yellow cards, the average age of team players and how many penalties have been taken during the tournament and which players took the most.

QlikView SA MD, Davide Hanaan, says BI should not be limited to broad business applications. “The strategy behind the application is to show that a BI business tool that's key to any organisation can be fun and easy to use and can be hugely informative to consumers.

“The other aspect is to illustrate the fact that BI can be used on any type of accurate data, it needn't be limited to business data.”

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