Monthly Archives: February 2012

Predicting a Power Failure Can Save the Game

Recently, Jimmy Kimmel challenged viewers of his show to wait for a crucial moment during the Super Bowl, then unplug their TV sets and record the reactions of spouses, family and friends as the screen went black. The playback was hilarious for Kimmel viewers, though the collective response from the victims of the prank was less than jovial.

At least those fans were able to plug their sets back in and resume watching; residents of a small New England town were not as lucky. They lost power during the first quarter and didn’t see it restored until the game was nearly over. The Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSNH) would later explain that a faulty underground cable caused the outage that resulted in 300 Patriots fans missing the bulk of the Super Bowl.

PSNH may have saved the game if it had leveraged Business Analytics Optimization (BAO). BAO encapsulates expert organizational knowledge and insight and automates real time decisions at the point of greatest impact, based on real time fluid data. With the new platform approach to BAO, known as BAOP, companies have a unified, cohesive view with “actors” replicating each and every system, device and touch point that can affect the business process. In the case of PSNH’s faulty cable joint, an actor would have detected a maintenance issue based on pre-determined factors, and already-established actions could have then addressed the problem by rerouting data or alerting maintenance crews well in advance of an actual event.

We hope that, in the future, more utilities will have solutions in place that enable them to take action preemptively so that no sports fan has to endure what the residents of Rye, New Hampshire went through. Their lights came on just in time for them to see the Giants score the game-winning touchdown.

Fear, Loathing and the Power of Computers

Novelist Robert Harris was recently interviewed on National Public Radio about his new book, The Fear Index. The premise of the book was inspired by the surprise—and automated—crash the financial markets took in 2010 after a series of computer-generated trades set to trigger according to certain market scenarios set off a domino-effect of frantic selling. While this kind of occurrence is rare, and the markets recovered rather, it touches on a much larger topic of concern—and fascination—to anyone who works in predictive analytics solutions, automated decision-making, event-driven architecture, or other aspects of the Big Data phenomenon that drives the way much of the world’s business is conducted today.

Harris’ novel takes the fear surrounding the financial markets, and the power of a computer run amok, and spins a fantastic thriller around it. While this is the stuff of fiction, it’s not that hard to imagine. What struck me as particularly poignant to what we do at Starview—and to automated decision processes and operational business intelligence software like that made possible with the Starview Enterprise Platform—was the power that Harris affords computers. And we’re not just talking about robots run amok in some AI-like fantasy. Artificial or not, intelligence is a powerful thing. And while it can be scary, it’s also incredibly inspiring and affirming to work in a field that is also improving businesses—and having a positive effect on not just processes, but profits—in the meantime.