UK General Election 2015: mapping the electoral arena

There are 650 seats in the United Kingdom's House of Commons, but the result of this year’s general election is widely expected to hinge on the decisions made in under 150 constituencies.

Undecided voters are watching the political agendas closely to help them decide which party they want to run the country. Already, we have seen the flux of floating voters impacted by the media frenzy during the leaders’ debates.

Over the last year Conservative Peer and professional pollster Lord Ashcroft has been polling the election's 146 most marginal – or closely fought – seats. It will be these constituencies that will be the deciders on May 7.

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California at the cutting edge

I took another trip to California and, of course, allowed Ed to come with me. San Francisco is an amazing place to visit (especially in March when it’s cold and wet in North Carolina.)

On this trip, we met with wonderful group of people, the California Transcribers and Educators for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Inc. (CTEBVI). They get together once each year to share experiences and ideas to support and advocate for people with visual impairments.

This year Ed and other wise leaders created a symposium to discuss cutting edge technology that is being used in the classroom, such as electronic textbooks and web-based instructional materials. The symposium explored assistive technologies and how they can be used to prepare students with visual impairments for the future! It gave us a lively and energizing afternoon.

While we were there, the news organization, Bloomberg News West, sat down to interview Ed. Check out the video clip here or below.

Perhaps you might wonder if I felt slighted that Ed got so much attention, but I really didn’t. It’s fine with me if he does most of the talking. I’m good with being silent but gorgeous.

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Five reasons SMBs shouldn’t ignore or go it alone with analytics


42-56876759Small to midsize businesses (SMBs) want to make the most of their data, but many feel they lack the skills and solutions to effectively harness it. However, new technologies and new channels to market are leading to the “democratisation of analytics” making it easily available to all. SMBs cannot afford to get left behind but neither must they to go it alone. 

Following these five tips will help you use all available resources to get the most of your data. Read More »

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Cleared for takeoff

The winds are calm, temperatures mild, and there’s the added bonus of a beautiful North Carolina sunset as we’re cleared for takeoff.

Most moms are a little nervous when their sons start to drive, but I had one who had even loftier goals and begged to learn to fly. As a grown adult now and a licensed pilot, I appreciate that he is willing to roll down the runway and pull those wheels up with his crazy mom as his co-pilot (of sorts).  Together we take in the outstanding view from 5,000 feet and watch as the colors melt into the horizon.

But while the sky before us settles in for the night, the buzz between my son and the air traffic controller remains a steady hum with back-and-forth banter about air space, speed, altitude and settings.


The communicator in me tunes into their common yet foreign language. It comes so naturally to them, but I know those code words and three-or-four-word responses represent hundreds of policies and guidelines, training documents, procedural manuals and best practices.

Turns out good preparation and planning and staying in touch with the control tower make for smooth flying.

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Will the IoT take us from identity to iDATAty?


The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to take us into the next big technology wave, which will include a massive proliferation of personal connected devices like we have never seen before – cars, toothbrushes, household appliances, watches, medical devices, bicycles, and all sorts of things on our body and in our homes.

At last month’s Mobile World Congress it was declared that the IoT is here to stay and will change how we live and the way we do things.

In one of the sessions, "Future of Analytics is Mobile,", the rapper and entrepreneur, was asked what is the future? His answer was, data mining with data being king. Companies will couple data with their consumers’ identity to create an "iDATAy," a new digital buzzword from will.iam. As a result, companies and people will have a better relationship with no middleman. Tomorrow’s operating system will know us. There will be no search engines. What we want will find us.

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Will control or reliability propel IoT in utilities?

532029221Whether it’s a smart water meter or a complex combustion turbine, expectations of reliability for complex, connected machines have increased across the board.

Due to higher visibility and the availability of advanced analytics, companies know they should be able to identify emerging safety and reliability issues in these assets. By doing so, they could avoid significant litigation costs related to environmental impacts of a failed asset. And they could avoid costly repairs that negatively affect customer satisfaction ratings.

Today, many of these devices have embedded sensors that, when analyzed, give us a picture of the health of the device. And, if the device is connected to the internet, then it is now available to The Internet of Things. Read More »

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Data streams and data lakes: Utilities adjust to big data vocabulary

173791238As utilities expand analytic capabilities into more areas of the business, the reality of the data management challenge becomes very real.

Most have accepted the era of "big data." But what about the quality of that big data? Is it reliable? What about the governance? Have the processes changed since it was first recorded? What about the latency? Is it the most recent?

For Enerjisa, a Turkish energy company, the acquisition of three regional distribution companies suddenly swelled their customer count to 9 million people – nearly 25 percentof the entire market in Turkey. However, their customer data needed rapid attention. For the various business areas at Enerjisa to operate more efficiently, it was necessary to create a single source of customer data that was easy to access for all departments within the company.

With an open, deregulated energy market on the horizon, Enerjisa recognized that building a foundation on reliable and accurate data was a crucial step to reach the company’s customer intelligence and analytics goals.

After implementing SAS Data Management, Enerjisa’s CEO Yetik Mert shared that, "Through these data quality projects, we reduced the number of total customer records in our systems by 25 percent and significantly increased successful contact rates at the same time.”

I had the opportunity to meet Yetik, along with CIO Gül Erol and IT Group Manager Gökalp Öger, when they visited SAS a few weeks ago. It is always inspiring to spend a day with leaders who are looking for innovative solutions to sharpen the point on their business. (More from the Enerjisa visit)

Data challenges are continuing to increase. Hot data, warm data, data lakes, pollution control – these terms emerged over the past 24 months in response to massive uptake in data federation and adoption of technologies like Hadoop.

And analytics is only one of the drivers that push utilities to address complex data challenges. Another is regulatory compliance. For example, one utility’s interpretation of NERC CIP (reliability standards that address cybersecurity of the North American electric grid) has influenced a decision to place a critical system behind a restricted firewall with a delayed data push, impacting synchronized data for operations and situational intelligence. This can have a significant impact on a utility’s ability to react to data in near real time. Data visualization on a 10-minute delay isn’t very useful during a severe storm.

So as utilities continue to experience growing pains – whether it is acquisitions like Enerjisa or changing regulatory requirements – the good news is that SAS Data Management continues to evolve with our customers. In fact, we just announced a 90-day free trial of SAS Data Loader for Hadoop. Try it and see how it can transform your company’s approach to big data.

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Four lessons from the Data4Decisions conference

470043831It’s great to get in on something on the ground floor. That’s what happened at the inaugural Data4Decisions Conference and Exhibition held in Raleigh, NC, in March. It brought together business people, academics and students to explore how organizations use data management and analytics technology to enhance business processes and decision making.

While each company applies its own “special sauce,” to the challenges presented by managing and analyzing data, only collaborative events like the Data4Decisions Conference will help move the analytics industry as a whole forward.

I participated in some of the sessions along with several other SAS colleagues, and I came away from the event with good tips to help you start or continue your journey of mastering your data to improve your operations as well as impacting both top- and bottom-line business results:

  1. Think Big. Big data? We’ve always had that. The computing power to analyze and make sense of Big Data? Not so much . . . until recently. Big computing turbo charges the analytics you use to understand your data and make better decisions because of it. To do that, computing power is essential.
  2. Stay Focused. A retailer who presented at the conference found a lucrative opportunity by focusing on only 10 pieces of information – six about customers, and four about competitors. Analyzing this information over time revealed they were missing out on top-line revenue and bottom-line margin opportunities to the tune of millions of dollars.
  3. Hire Top Talent. The caliber of student presentations at the conference showcased the fact that the next generation of business leaders understands the value of data and analytics better than we did at that age. What’s more, they’re prepared to apply that knowledge to solve real-world problems. The future of data science looks bright.
  4. Be a Star. Everywhere you look, there are opportunities to apply analytics and derive a better result. Keep your eyes and mind open to seize those opportunities and help your organization – and your career – shine.

If you weren’t able to attend the Data4Decisions conference this year, mark your calendar for March 8-10, 2016, when we’ll gather again and continue the discussion.

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Big data lessons learned from visualizing 27 years of international trade data

In my last blog post, I introduced SAS Visual Analytics for UN Comtrade, which helps anyone glean answers from the most comprehensive collection of international trade data in the world. I’d like to share some of what we learned in the development process as it pertains to big data, high performance data visualization and cloud computing.

What visualizations are best for your data?

In the past, traditional reporting of trade data required us to be quite specific about what we wanted to see: Which reporting countries? Which time period? Which commodities? And which partners? Data visualization exposes relationships and insights that are traditionally hard to display.

For example, when looking at the interactive visualization for Trade Balance, we see that the world tends to import the most things from China. However, clicking on the top traded commodity of “mineral fuels”, we see that the Russian Federation is the top provider for the most heavily traded category in the world. The US and Germany are almost tied to be the world’s top provider for “plastics and articles thereof.” These insights were obtained with three mouse clicks and a curious mind.

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How to build a data science dream team

475967869As a data scientist, I have the rare privilege of possessing the job title that Tom Davenport and others have dubbed the sexiest job in the 21st Century.  As this popular job title catches on, I’ve even noticed a trend where customers make direct requests for help specifically from “the data scientist.”

Friends who don’t understand what I do often ask if I wear a lab coat to work. Of course, I don’t, but at times I have considered it! My typical day involves helping colleagues and customers find solutions to their most critical business needs through the power of analytics.

Though the title has gained rock star status in some circles, the truth is, data science and analytics cannot be successfully executed by data scientists alone. We are only one piece of the puzzle. Success in data science and analytics requires an entire team of employees in diverse roles. The data scientist would inevitably fail in solving critical business issues without a full team engaged in the analytics process.

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