Data visualisation techniques have moved far beyond the humble bar chart
Data visualisation is the representation of data as a visual object. Its main purpose is to help with the effective communication of information. In the past, this might have meant a pie chart in an MS Word document. But with our current lifestyles providing increasing amounts of data to exploit, and increasingly sophisticated technology to represent it, data visualisation has moved firmly into the modern age.
The data visualisation engineer
Businesses cannot afford to neglect the huge advantages offered to them by data. Whether providing real time information on consumer spending habits for marketing purposes, or insights into usage statistics and customer satisfaction, data is a valuable asset to be exploited. That is, providing you know how to. The collection of data has become so widespread that businesses are often faced with the problem of deciding what to do with it. Having data isn’t necessarily the same thing as benefitting from it.
This is where the specific role of data visualisation engineer comes in. Businesses who are serious about maximising the potential of their data (and those who can afford to) are increasingly creating specialised positions for data engineers. Their task? To represent data in a way that is specific, clear, and visually engaging.
Technically skilled and with a flair for design
When a data visualisation engineer presents data, he or she should be helping a business to find a fresh angle on existing information. Generally speaking, rather than looking for answers to specific questions, executives want data visualisation techniques to provide them with unique insights. Ambitious and innovative views on data can target aspects that had never been considered before. It’s all about looking at data in a new way: challenging expectations and finding different perspectives.
Data visualisation engineers must have a flair for presenting information in an aesthetic way. However, they also require the technical skills to make this happen. They need to know how to present data to make it engaging, dynamic and interactive. It all comes down to what the customer wants. What is the structure of the company’s data? What does the client require? What kinds of features do they want to see? It is essential that the data visualisation engineer can enable the user to find the information they need, in a straightforward and easy to use way.
Benefits to business
All businesses use data visualisation techniques in some form or other. But unless a business has a specific data visualisation strategy, these methods will be inconsistent across the organisation. Having a dedicated role for data visualisation can ensure that the representation of data is unified across an entire company. This will make data more easily accessible to all, and the interpretation of data far more consistent.
Having a streamlined data interpretation strategy is particularly important given the growing reliance on machine learning to make business decisions. Where data is complex, and difficult to interpret, a thorough understanding of the decision making process is key. How is data being interpreted? What bias exists? How can anomalies be detected? Data visualisation of machine learning algorithms is currently undergoing significant growth, as businesses seek to establish trust in their AI enhanced systems.
Data visualisation as a service
Many dedicated data visualisation companies now exist to service a growing need for dynamic, engaging data presentation. Norwegian startup Highsoft AS is the parent company behind Highcharts, provider of interactive charts to 80 of the world’s largest 100 businesses. From basic line graphs to wordclouds and infographics, Highchart’s range of products makes it easy for companies to find their own custom data visualisation solutions. Famed for its interactive nature, US baed Tableau offers a live connection from data sets to its charts and infographics. This ensures that data representations update themselves automatically, making the technology perfect for handing rapidly changing Big Data operations such as AI and machine learning. Approaching the new frontier of data visualisation, Virtual Reality techniques such as those provided by Virtualitics offer full immersion in data. By entering Virtualitic’s VR data platform, users can collaborate on data together in a virtual 3D space. This combination of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Mixed Reality is an exciting prospect for the future of data visualisation as a whole.
Data visualisation has the potential to power truly experimental business strategies. Cutting edge data visualisation techniques enable businesses to build prototypes which explore the behaviour of data in certain situations. This lets them see how different scenarios might play out without making expensive commitments to certain products or policies. This modelling aspect of data visualisation will gain traction as the technology becomes more widespread. As novel techniques are explored to throw light on data in ever more interesting ways, bespoke applications will be devised to suit even the most niche of purposes. The future of data visualisation is here. Pie charts, eat your heart out.
Does your business have a data visualisation strategy? Would your organisation benefit from a dedicated data visualisation engineer? What are the most impressive or innovative data visualisation techniques that you have come across? Share your thoughts.
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