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Situational Intelligence: Not Just Another Fancy Term

Written By: Jorge Garcia
Published On: March 4 2013

Recently, Space-Time Insight released Version 4 of what they call the Space-Time Insight Situational Intelligence Suite. For the company, this is not just a fancy name, but their very own definition of what they offer: the ability to analyze and act on scenarios or situations, not just mere isolated data. Some organizations are looking to close existing gaps within the information management cycle to give information workers, decision makers, and field workers complete views of their information and tools to act upon certain conditions.



What is Situational Intelligence Anyway?
Breaking information silos is not an easy task. Some organizations collect information that comes from many different places and is separated in many dimensions, depending on the line of business, the place where it’s generated, how it’s structured, etc. As Rob Schilling, CEO of Space-Time Insight, mentions in a recent piece about Situational Intelligence:
Data itself is often meaningless, whether in the form of numbers on a spreadsheet, letters in a document, or pixels in an image. It is the act of analysis—finding patterns, identifying anomalies, and interpreting results—that creates intelligence.

As with all sources of information, big data or not, the collection of information from those silos is just one piece of the puzzle. It is the ability to exploit this data in a cohesive and wise manner which enables organizations to make decisions and perform actions with a high degree of confidence. Exploiting the data in the proper way is not an easy task, though; it requires building the necessary bridges to correlate these information silos, and potentially also integrating them, in order to understand the correlation and gain enough knowledge to inform actions. Also, to add more complexity to the mix, these days time is a key dimension; information needs to be delivered, collected, and delivered in a timely fashion, frequently meaning at real or near-real time.

Schilling defines “situational intelligence” as the ability to combine different categories or disciplines of intelligence in order to gain full visibility of a specific situation. These categories or disciplines include operational intelligence, environmental intelligence, location intelligence, machine intelligence, social intelligence, and business intelligence.

By acting together via strong correlations and visualization features, these “intelligences” can achieve an integral view of any unfolding situation. Situational intelligence is not simply about getting the information from every category, but about having a tight consolidation capability to provide real-time and historically-based insights.

SI in the Real World: Utilities, a Strong Use Case for SI
Utilities organizations have become strong use cases for situational intelligence solutions. For example, Space-Time Insight registers within its customer list organizations such as California ISO, Florida Power & Light, and a recent deal with Ontario’s Hydro One. Why utilities? Organizations in asset-intensive industries such as utilities, oil and gas, and telecommunications need to have access to massive amounts of data in various forms and structures, and from very disparate sources.

For example, smart meters, field sensors, weather reports, and even social media channels—their main goal is to make correlations between all this data that is normally isolated and get crucial insights to be able to make faster and better decisions not only from a strategic level, but from an operational level as well. For utilities companies, a service disruption can be better addressed by detecting both from internal sources such as sensors and social media channels, thus enabling the company to react faster to fix the issue. A weather report can be correlated with internal data to improve preventive measures such as decisions regarding which assets to protect and which part of the population will be affected the most. A combination of information sourced from weather reports, sensors, and other areas can help to establish preventive and corrective priorities for all assets, making them more cost effective, fast, and timely.

So, SI is unique in its approach to solving issues, as it takes advantage of already existing technologies in order to expand the range of view of an organization, as well as to close existing gaps between data, processes, and execution. Of course, this is a problem not related just to a single industry such as utilities. In this regard, efforts from other organizations such as the management application VisionWaves, are effectively connecting strategy with operations by offering an application that enables organizations to built comprehensive visualizations of all dimensions of an organization via executive cockpits, which can correlate information coming from different places. Situational intelligence is about having a complete view of an organization and at the same time being able to monitor both process and strategy, an ability that has relevance across multiple industries and lines of business.

Why You Need Intelligent Information Integration
Situational intelligence or not, now that an increasing number of organizations rely more or less on various types and flavours of analytics and BI tools, it is crucial for them to increase the degree of integration of these software assets to the complete business flow. Ensuring these capabilities eliminates information cycles when necessary, and provides information diligently and intelligently to not just support a decision but also to guide it, provide realistic insight, and be part of the operation of an organization at all levels.
 
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