Data Visualization has become one of the common "buzz" phrases swirling around the internet these days. With all of the promises of Big Data and the IoT (Internet of Things), more organizations are making an effort to get more value from the voluminous data they generate. This frequently involves complex analysis - both real-time and historical - combined with automation.
A key factor in translating this data into actionable information, and thusly into informed action, is the means by which this data is visualized. Will it be seen in real-time? And by whom? Will it be displayed in colorful bubble charts and trend graphs? Or will it be embedded in high-detail 3D graphics? What is the goal of the visualization? Is it to share information? Enable collaboration? Empower decision-making? Data visualization might be a popular concept, but we don't all have the same idea about what it means.
For many organizations, effective data visualization is an important part of doing business. It can even be a matter of life and death (think healthcare and military applications). Data visualization (or information visualization) is an integral part of some scientific research. From particle physics to sociology, creating concise but powerful visualizations of research data can help researchers quickly identify patterns or anomalies, and can maybe sometimes inspire that warm and fuzzy feeling we get when we feel like we've finally wrapped our head around something.
Today's Visual Culture
We live in a world today that seems to be generating new information at a pace that can be overwhelming. With television, the Web, roadside billboards, and more all vying for our increasingly-fragmented attention, the media and corporate America are forced to find new ways of getting their messages through the noise and into our perception. More often than not - when possible - the medium chosen to share the message is visual. Whether it's through an image, a video, a fancy infographic or a simple icon, we have all become very adept at processing information visually.
It's a busy world with many things about which we feel a need to be informed. While we all receive information in numerous ways throughout the course of any given day, only certain portions of that information will have any real effect on the way we think and act as we go about our normal lives. The power of effective data visualization is that it can distill those actionable details from large sets of data simply by putting it in the proper context.
Well-planned data visualization executed in a visually-appealing way can lead to faster, more confident decisions. It can shed light on past failures and reveal new opportunities. It can provide a tool for collaboration, planning, and training. It is becoming a necessity for many organizations who hope to compete in the marketplace, and those who do it well will distinguish themselves.