Its Not the Amount

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2005-06-15 Print this article Print

of Information"> This is all great. I love the applications. When I saw Mendocino demonstrated at Sapphire, I wanted it. For what, who cares? It just looks like so much fun to play with all that raw enterprise power, all from the comfort of Office. But then I had a conversation with a computer scientist whom I met last week at IDCs forum on business intelligence, and I sobered up.
Dietrich Falkenthal is interested in visualization technology, of which many companies besides SAP gave gorgeous demonstrations at IDCs gig.
The key, Falkenthal said, is not the amount of information that can be collected from sensors, user inputs or other data sources, but how to make it useful, especially in tactical environments. Visualization technology is important to medical services, law enforcement and the military, for example, because they have a limited time to make decisions. But what cant be done with current technology is to come up with automated tools to intelligently handle complex real-time data. You can present data in gorgeous spinning pie charts, but if its the wrong data presented, the wrong conclusions can be reached, Falkenthal pointed out. "Tools are needed to process a lot of data and take some burden off users. Essentially, to do a smart push of important data that the user doesnt yet know he or she needs. For the most part, its still garbage in, garbage out, but visualization tools may help." This is not data cleansing, where records are combed through to eliminate name-spelling variants, for example. This is about incorrect data correlations: something you most certainly dont want police, passport agents, medical professionals or anybody in the military to be acting on. Click here to read and download Baselines 7-step plan for cleansing your data. Research in this area is new, but Falkenthal pointed me to universities such as MITs Engineering Systems Division or to companies and research labs that are thinking about these issues. Meanwhile, though, technology is forging ahead, synching up data sources. To compound the problem, nutso legislation is being passed. The Real ID Act will usher in the nations first national ID system, with little regard for the governments ability to deploy the technology in ways that would prevent citizens from being preyed on by identity thieves and with no regard for that fact that it relies on data from sources, such as state RMVs, that are increasingly targets for identity theft. And which, of course, contain typos, outdated information, etc. The bill dictates that all states collect personal information from citizens before allowing them to obtain a drivers license, including—at minimum—name, date of birth, gender, drivers license or identification card number, digital photograph, address, and signature. Collection of this particular information is not new. Linkage of states databases is. The bill specifies that states link what are at present discrete databases, creating, in effect, one nationwide database with personal information pertaining to all citizens. Next Page: Dont trust companies to protect your data; thats a do-it-yourselfer.

Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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