No toying around: forecasting at The Lego Group

Messehalle 3A, NürnbergMesse

Source: Press Services @ spielzeugmesse.de

Once upon a time: The toy industry has invited me to the world‘s largest toy fair, which took place recently in the city of Nuremberg. With close to 3,000 exhibitors the toy fair is bigger than ever before.

Success is the theme of the event, and most German retailers cannot complain with consecutive growth numbers since 2008 (2013 is the only exception). A good portion of this growth has been driven by the rise of Lego throughout the last couple of years. The Danish brick builders have just claimed the market by becoming the world`s leading toymaker in front of companies like Mattel and Hasbro. Just by the way: This development could be of the reasons why Mattel is now trying it`s luck with a new CEO.

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Valentine’s Day: It’s not all about flowers and chocolate

166150500Cupid is bearing down on me again, and I’m still only thinking about what gifts to give my wife and daughter for Valentine’s Day. At this point, I’m hoping for divine inspiration. Based on holiday shopping research we conducted in November, I’ve learned that the gifts women expect to receive from their significant others too often are not the gifts they actually receive.

Uh oh. I should have paid attention sooner.

I did supplemental research about Valentine’s Day specifically, and I learned a lot that echoes back to our November research. Traditionally, most people think a card, some chocolates, maybe wine and dinner at a fancy restaurant is what’s expected by their sweetheart.  But, according to a recent survey from RetailMeNot, 65 percent of respondents prefer a low-key Valentine’s Day dinner instead of going to an upscale restaurant. I was surprised to discover that more women than men want to order takeout and stay home (34 percent vs. 23 percent). Read More »

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You know what Cupid loves? Money. Lots of money.

Look, I’ve been at this game a long time. I set Cleopatra and Marc Antony on a path to ruin. I set J-Lo and Marc Anthony on a path to eternal happiness … until they bought a stake in the Miami Dolphins. No one escapes that dumpster fire unscathed.

My point is, I’ve seen the blissful highs and the tragic lows. For centuries, I’ve lived with the gratitude and the scorn, the prayers and the insults.

Things changed when Chaucer linked romantic love to the celebration of St. Valentine. All of a sudden, every February, people were lavishing gifts on each other in the name of love! It picked up big time in 18th century England when flowers, candy and greeting cards became the norm.

That was when I realized it was time for Cupid to get paid.

I already controlled the demand side of the equation! All that was left was to get into the supply game. It started small with a few Cupid’s Closet locations in London.

With that nest egg, the rise of the US stock market and the ever increasing commercialization of Valentine’s Day … you’re looking at the wealthiest cherub on Earth and above it. To quote Lorde, “Everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece. Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash …”

I AM caught up in your love affair, and that’s how I roll. Emerald-studded bow, platinum arrows with ruby tips and quiver by Dolce & Gabbana. Sailing the Med in my 90’ yacht, the Lubber’s Quarrel.

But to stay on top of all this I need to be able to see quickly and easily how the Valentine’s economy is doing. That’s where SAS Visual Analytics comes in. You can check out a screenshot of one of my dashboards below, but here’s the deal.

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Chess champions, STEM champions

banners_for_blogImagine this: hundreds of fun-loving K-12 students excitedly converge in a large ballroom for their weekend adventure. They are mostly elementary school students and there is no shortage of kindergartners. The day's fun? Quietly solving and creating Renaissance-era logical and mathematical puzzles! Some pairs of puzzle solvers will concentrate for an hour or more as the long series of puzzles vary from strategic to tactical to geometric and mathematical.

As a bonus to all of the fun, this day's hard play helps them be more successful at Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. So does all the preparation prior to this big day. The Renaissance-era scholars of this activity could scarcely envision the technology these kids have in their backpacks, much less what they may invent in just a few years' time.

The fun can't start until the parents and other ancillary grown-ups are shown out of the great hall. Then it gets quiet -- all you can hear is the pressing of the buttons on the chess clocks, a 19th-century invention. Each pair of intrepid mathematical explorers are playing a chess game that, in all likelihood, has never been played before in history. It’s a scholastic chess tournament, and it is a weekend enrichment activity like no other.

In North Carolina, the premier scholastic chess tournament each year is the NC K-12 Chess Championship, a weekend-long United States Chess Federation (USCF) rated event that is being hosted this year by the Charlotte Chess Center & Scholastic Academy in Charlotte, N.C. from Feb 14th – Feb 15th. SAS is proud to sponsor this event again because chess helps prepare students for STEM education.

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Free and easy: why say no to open data?

In many ways it’s open season for open data; open data is one of those phrases we hear a lot but it’s not always appreciated as having value. The fact that it’s openly available is seen by some as proof that there’s no value in the data – unlike, for example, lots of details about loyal customers and their buying habits. But there’s a good chance that some of this publicly available data will be of value to someone, especially when combined with other data.

It’s worth clarifying what we mean by the term open data. There are two situations where it can apply.

One is where a commercial organisation makes its data available to customers – for example your energy provider making your usage behaviour available to you, the end consumer, via smart-meter data. One recent example is a water company, Aquastar, which is now giving customers in the town of Cary, NC (where, of course, SAS’ global headquarters happens to be based) real-time access to their water usage. It helps citizens monitor water usage and saves millions of dollars in the process with an automated water meter system.

The second example is where government or a commercial organisation is using data from an open source - meaning it’s freely available to other third parties – to improve decision-making and add value. Energy companies, for example, might use weather data to forecast where and when boiler breakdowns might occur so they can optimise efficiency when it comes to deploying their fleet of repairmen.

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Event stream processing: Do you need it?

Data Streams

With event stream processing, data is analyzed as it streams in from connected devices.

Staying competitive in a big data world means working fast and making decisions even faster. You need to assess conditions, approve access, stop transactions and reroute activities quickly so you can seize opportunities or prevent problems.

With increasing data volumes from the Internet of Things (Cisco predicts that fifty billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020), how can organizations consume and gain insights from these growing data streams?  Event stream processing (ESP) has been positioned to address this challenge, yet how do you know if you really need it?

Let’s begin by defining what event stream processing is. According to Wikipedia, event stream processing is a set of technologies designed to assist the construction of event-driven information systems.  ESP deals with the task of processing streams of event data with the goal of identifying the meaningful patterns within those streams, employing techniques such as detection of relationships between multiple events, event correlation, event hierarchies and other aspects such as causality, membership and timing.

That’s great, but what does it really mean?  In simple terms, ESP allows organizations to continuously analyze data … updating intelligence as new events occur … and helps drive business action in real time.  The key takeaway is the word “continuous.”  ESP allows data to be processed without the traditional information lag that most analytical systems suffer from.  Instead of storing data and running queries against it, ESP stores the queries and streams data through them with low latency.

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Reality++ fueled by IoT

It's an exciting time for reality! We've been technologically enhancing reality for a long time -- eye glasses, telescopes, binoculars, microscopes, photography, moving pictures, live streaming video over the Internet, etc. But whether it's augmented reality, virtual reality or somewhere in between, a new wave of eye wear technology is enhancing reality like never before. Meanwhile, reality is increasingly emitting digital signals to the Internet of Things (IoT). Together, these technologies will converge into Reality++, the latest form of enhanced reality.

Analytics is right in the middle, between reality's voices in the IoT and the new perceptual capabilities of both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). As this future convergence continues to develop, business will get real value due to low latency, streaming analytics that can answering complex questions while events are still in motion -- exactly the problem that event stream processing (ESP) solves for customers today.

Some of reality's biggest data. Hubble's recent picture of the Andromeda Galaxy has over 100 million stars and is the largest Hubble image ever produced.

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The intersection of the Internet of Things and manufacturing

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with James Haight of Blue Hill Research regarding the Internet of Things and how it is and will impact manufacturers. We also dipped our toes into other topics, including text analytics and the interesting combination of all these trends. The conversation was captured as Episode 16 of James' podcast channel, The Emerging Tech Roundup. Read More »

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Getting started with equipment monitoring!

IoTBy now, we have all heard about the Internet of Things (IoT), or the Industrial Internet.  Across industries, organizations are attempting to instrument and measure all critical business systems and assets in an effort to drive improved production and service delivery.  It is estimated that by 2020, companies will spend $500 billion on the Internet of Things.  That growth in connected devices and increased data volumes will certainly create new value opportunities … won’t it?

The answer is yes, but the real value will only be realized when organizations make the connections within these new data streams to drive improved decision making and actions.  It is surprising to me how many organizations are investing in improved sensing technology, without clear line of sight to how they plan to use it within their organization … or those that have visions of what this data could do for them, but struggle with how to get started.

During a recent customer engagement, we were discussing how to transform the customer's business model by optimizing their overall maintenance and reliability strategies, which would drive immediate impacts to bottom line profitability and give them a competitive advantage in the market. While the customer saw the value, they weren't sure how they could implement such a system in a greenfield facility. “We are just finishing the build out of the new facility, so we don’t have enough production machine data to get started," explained the customer. "In addition, since we haven’t been running in this location, we don’t have any failure events to leverage while building predictive models.”

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VirtualOil shuts in but retains forward value

Is Iran right that oil is heading for $25? Are OPEC and the International Energy Agency (IEA) right that prices will rebound later this year? The headlines suggest that, whatever the case, oil isn’t ready to recover the enormous value it has lost in recent months. With upwards of a million barrel-per-day global oversupply, traders are closely monitoring US rig count. Total SA this week joined other majors in cutting American shale oil production spending, but analysts warn that it will take time for production cuts to sop up the glut. The outlook has not been helped by the IMF’s dour global demand forecast this week.

What does that mean for VirtualOil’s fictitious energy production portfolio? Our charts capture how dramatically price declines spiked volatility late last year, but also that a correction today has less impact at the much lower base values. With oil prices simmering below $50, the actual price volatility delivered by the market has stabilized. Our Value-at-Risk backtesting vividly illustrates that the price came off hard but things are leveling out. Mark-to-Market has stabilized due to both the spot price movement and the value in our portfolio.

Chart: VirtualOil VaR Backtesting

Value-at-Risk Backtesting

Value-at-Risk Backtesting

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