In this age of Big Data and IoT, consciously managing the flow of information across an enterprise is critical. Significant investments are being made in storage, bandwidth and data management, and the rationale behind these investments is clear – the fewer impediments there are to the flow of information, the greater the competitive advantage in converting that information to insight and action.

But there remains a critical bottleneck that hinders how information flows across your enterprise. It is hidden in plain sight; in fact, you’re staring at it right now. It has nothing to do with bits and bytes. It has everything to do with pixels. The bottleneck is your screen.

Data does not magically generate insights on its own. In order to reach understanding, we must first consume data, and the primary means by which we do so is visual. We are visual beings. The majority of our brain is dedicated to visual processing. We process information visually. We understand visually. These statements become self-evident to anyone who has benefited from data visualization.

Those experiencing data visualization quickly learn that it acts as a universal translator of disparate forms of information, making incredibly complex things that might only be relevant or comprehensible to a few experts accessible to the many.

What is less obvious is the role pixels play in realizing the full potential of data visualization to get information flowing freely across the enterprise. Improvements in data management and visualization promise a new world where all our data lives in “a single pane of glass” but, often, the reality is that data gets trapped in separate browser tabs because we simply don’t have screens with enough pixels to show all the information at once.

In order for data visualization to approach its potential, we need to pay attention to how we are consuming it. Big Data needs a big canvas. The size of your workspace should be proportional to the volume and value of your data and analytics.

A larger display with more pixels means you can view more data, in more ways – using it either for a single complex visualization, or to view multiple visualizations simultaneously, allowing you to literally see the big picture. When it comes to data volume, processing power, and bandwidth, we live in an age of abundance. But pixels remain scarce. We need more of them.

Consider this example: A few years ago, Oblong Industries partnered with computational researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and neuroscientists from the University of California, San Francisco, to address a particularly tricky problem.

Our research partners told us the tools they used in their research into brain function put them in a situation where they had an almost schizophrenic work flow – living only in the world of anatomy, say, or only in the world of math and graph analytics. By building a data visualization environment with more pixels than they’d ever used before, we were able to create a unified, interactive experience where multiple data sets, applications, devices, and screens behaved like a single unified system.

This is a powerful demonstration of how data visualization offers a great deal more than just pictures prettier, grander and more animated than PowerPoint graphs and bar charts. It allows interaction between data and the full range of human “wetware” – our sensory systems and the broader capacity of the human mind. By leveraging our visual and spatial cognitive systems, we quite simply make it easier to analyze and interpret data.

The implications for enterprise are far-reaching. The most challenging business problems today hinge around multiple variables, and require people from different departments to tackle an obstacle bigger than their individual skill-sets would allow. These are room-sized problems. You have to think and work big. When data visualization is freed from the confines of a web browser or a single display, and you can populate a physically immersive environment with all the critical data pertaining to a cross-disciplinary challenge, you access a new scale of perception and insight. Accessing the big picture in this way, with your colleagues in the room, greatly enhances the opportunities for collaboration.

The collaborative opportunities, furthermore, are not limited to humans alone. Until now, human interactions with machines have almost exclusively involved a single person interacting with a single device, such as a mouse or keyboard, with a single output, such as a monitor. It’s a siloed experience.

What if, instead, you had multiple individuals interacting with multiple machines via multiple screens and means of input? That changes the whole nature of and scale of human-machine interaction in a very significant way. The technology is here now. Seize the opportunities.

(About the author: David Kung is a vice president with Oblong Industries)

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access