Once upon big data

March 13, 2015
Is the magic about to happen?

Big data has been a big buzzword for a while now, and, I confess, it has always seemed to me almost magical in its transformative possibilities when paired with advanced analytics—the stuff of fairy tales. Until recently, however, the magic did not quite seem to be working.

Kevin Haugh, general manager of Roadnet Technologies, a business unit of Omnitracs,  talked about big data plus advanced analytics and its promise at Omnitracs’ recent conference, “Omnitracs Outlook 2015: Expand the possibilities.”  “Up to this point, some 70% of all data and analytics projects failed. They didn’t just fall short, they failed outright,” he said.

This disappointing performance was tied to several factors, according to Haugh. It was hard to get the right data out of source systems; data was not timely because it took too long to get; there was poor data quality, which could be misleading; and the people who wanted to use the data had “day jobs” and no spare time to find ways to visualize the data to make it usable.

Now, however, things seem to be aligning. Today, there is a huge amount of data coming in and fleets want better business intelligence and analytics to help them put it to good use. They don’t want to be just looking backward either, Haugh noted. They want to look forward, although only about 3% of fleets are actually doing that now.

“For example, if you could predict far enough in advance that you were in danger of having a serious service failure for a key customer, such as missing a time window,” Haugh offered, “you could take action to avert that failure. We are working to help companies visualize data in new ways, to find the needle in the data haystack. … We have truly entered the golden age of data and analytics.”

In an interview with Fleet Owner, Haugh expanded on his vision. “On the data side, there are exciting opportunities to get to data that people really care about,” he said. “Increasingly, a treasure trove of data is now available to us.”

Haugh is not the only one who feels that the hour for big data and analytics has arrived. OEMs and technology providers across the industry are rushing to make vehicle connectivity and the access to real-time data it provides a reality. Meanwhile, advanced analytics has been steadily increasing in speed, power and sophistication and is more than ready for the work ahead.

It is exciting to be standing on the brink of the future, looking out over the shoulders of so many visionaries like Kevin Haugh, each working to make the magic of big data plus advanced analytics a reality that will take the trucking industry (and everything else) into a new age.

Can’t you just see truck driver parents of the future reading bedtime stories to their delighted children about “Hansel and Gretel outside the Geofence” or “Jack and the Magical Tree Map”? Or maybe how the Big Bad Wolf was foiled by the third Little Pig, whose clever use of predictive models led him to build a blow-down-resistant house of brick instead of a house of straw or wood?

Once upon big data time is, amazingly, now upon us. We will all soon be experiencing big data spun into business intelligence gold by advanced analytics, right before our eyes. It might not be Rapunzel’s story exactly, but magic it surely is.

Wendy Leavitt is Fleet Owner’ s director of editorial development. She can be reach­ed at [email protected].

About the Author

Wendy Leavitt

Wendy Leavitt joined Fleet Owner in 1998 after serving as editor-in-chief of Trucking Technology magazine for four years.

She began her career in the trucking industry at Kenworth Truck Company in Kirkland, WA where she spent 16 years—the first five years as safety and compliance manager in the engineering department and more than a decade as the company’s manager of advertising and public relations. She has also worked as a book editor, guided authors through the self-publishing process and operated her own marketing and public relations business.

Wendy has a Masters Degree in English and Art History from Western Washington University, where, as a graduate student, she also taught writing.  

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