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Innovation Surgery: Data Visualisation

12 November 2020

Our Innovation Surgeries are designed with our clients in mind as we create bespoke sessions for businesses based on need.  If you are working with us and would like us to offer a session about a specific topic, get in touch with your Business Innovation Advisor.

Our Innovation Champion, Jenny Naldrett, began this surgery with an introduction on the importance of horizon scanning to a business.  Innovation, simply put, is change.  Identifying trends through horizon scanning enables business growth as leaders explore new and varied incomes.

Dr Alejandro Veliz Reyes presented how research at the University of Plymouth has informed data visualisation in a number of projects and courses on offer, including a project that is specificly looking at how the creative use of technologies can help businesses by leveraging the UoP facilities and expertise to find solutions to industrial challenges.

At the heart of data visualisation is the need to communicate ideas effectively to the audience.  It’s not just about what is being produced but who is seeing the information and how we deliver it in a way that makes sense.  The mode of communication can take many forms.  From single variables tracked over time, focussing on one piece of information (through charts such as line, bar, stacked bar, candlestick, area, timeline, horizon and waterfall) to mapping multiple variables through graphic modes and taking a multi-model approach (venn diagrams, histogram, box plot, violin, density, network, chord and sunburst) with different modes assembled together.  These visualisations are not just tracking a single element over time but relational ties between things.

Dr Veliz Reyes demonstrated a variety of tools that can be used to assist with multi-model data visualisation such as Miro (which ATI have recently used to collaborate with our website developer, Vitamin Cornwall, in order to build ideas over a period of time and involve multiple users) and Spatial (an AR- based collaboration online resource).  The benefits of finding a tool that assists with making sense of visual information, particularly at a time of remote working, are clear.

Most tools are usually trying to visualise space and time and relationships between the two.  More complex data visualisation frameworks to communicate complex processes are also available.  Dr Veliz Reyes used the example of the London Underground map, demonstrating how it has been adapted over time.  By rescuing some elements of its physical constitution but compressing peripheral elements the map has increased its readability and useability.  In essence diverting from the physical world to a more abstract conceptualisation.

The key question has to be, what do we use visualisation for?  Do we want to engage with an audience?  Do we want to communicate something that we are doing?  Are we actually visualising data in order to find new patterns in order to understand something or to map relational ties between things?

Data does not always come in quantitative form.  Digital data for instance, needs to be communicated in a form that is readable to humans.  For example, visualisations using AI can help to identify features of a scan for a building surveying job whereby through a process of clustering and selection of different data points across a complex geometrical model, can help to better understand how the model can be decomposed into different building elements.

If you are interested in learning more about how data visualisation can help your business, get in touch with your Business Innovation Advisor.

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