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Data visualization: Is it coming of age?

Fractal Edge has patented its fractal data visualization system, based on assessment of its own power and ease of use. Bob McDowall comments in this column.


Market Analysis

Data visualization: Is it coming of age?
There is an increasing inability to recognize and determine what information is fundamentally needed; how to most effectively isolate, evaluate and use the information available. The sheer weight of information confuses and even stresses the recipient. What is specifically needed is the ability to recognize what information is required, where to access it and most importantly, to evaluate the relevance of that information and use it to greatest effect. It all adds up to information literacy. Mind mapping and visualization techniques are amongst the aids integral to developing information literacy.

Technology to deliver information in highly visual and graphical forms has been in existence for over ten years. A number of challenges face today's technology organisations delivering data visualization. Adequate data visualization is increasingly difficult to satisfy, as technology applications extend their roots across enterprises.

There has been an exponential growth in information supply, much of it being real time. Risk management and corporate governance place increased pressures on corporate decision-makers to react quickly to and make rapid decisions based on real time data. The efficiency of standard data visualization deteriorates in this environment. The analysis will be imperfect. Dissemination of information may be degraded.

These challenges are the very reason for heightened demand and requirement for new data visualization tools over a whole range of activities where there is a need to view performance at both a macro and micro level. The demands for data visualization applications range widely and as diversely as managing an investment portfolio to managing a technology portfolio of development projects balancing resources set against an ever changing and increasingly volatile business environment.

Fractal Edge has developed technology to address these challenges through the use of fractal mathematics (fractal: meaning simple repeating patters) by using a simple pattern repeating at smaller and smaller sizes. Fractal Edge has patents granted in the UK and Europe and pending in territories around the world. Fractal Edge's unique approach to data visualization has enabled the power of the underlying data to be greatly enhanced. Data is better explained and understood within a defined vision or context. Huge volumes of rapidly changing information may be presented on screen in visual form without losing detail. Bottlenecks in the access and delivery mechanisms for data are eliminated. Data may be colour coded for ease of macro presentation and identification purposes and the structure of the data may be easily arranged depending on criteria important to the user.

Fractal Edge applications map data neutrally. They can aggregate multiple proprietary and third party data sources to bring a combined view of relevant sources of information. Basic adapters are available to CSV and Excel and more sophisticated adapters to Windows and Bloomberg, the financial data and market information providers. One-way and two-way links are available to data sources. Fractal applications allow launch of functionality from underlying applications.

Fractal Edge's applications are not intrusive. They may be deployed quickly within an enterprise and are available with service and development tools. Through faster access to and analysis of data, a business is able to gain better understanding and make more intelligent decisions. Presenting a significant concentration of data eliminates the requirement for filtering and misleading intermediate summaries. Real time control of critical information with a macro and micro overview is possible with Fractal Maps.

There are some very obvious applications for Fractal Edge's technology in the finance sector. Portfolio management is an obvious and successful illustration of its strengths. Review and comparison of financial performance across the products, locations and divisions of a global enterprise is yet another illustration of where immediate benefits may be derived from improving the speed and quality of decision making. Information overload is opening up a host of opportunities to apply Fractal applications in commercial and governmental sectors.

The critical business benefits manifest themselves. Response times to data enquiry, extraction and presentation are shortened. In summary there is immediate opportunity for enhanced results from decision making based on better quality and more timely information. Improved returns from existing resources have a direct impact on profitability.


Copyright 2003. Originally published by, reprinted with permission. provides IT decision makers with free daily e-mails containing news analysis, member-only discussion forums, free research, technology spotlights and free on-line consultancy. To register for a free e-mail subscription, click here.


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