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In its recent 2013 predictions, analyst firm IDC projects there will be 4.4 zettabytes (or 4.4 trillion gigabytes) of data created or replicated this year. Known as the “digital universe,” this represents a 50% growth in data over 2012, and analysts admit even this figure is likely too conservative.  This mind-boggling amount of information makes one wonder if it’s even possible to locate useful bits of knowledge among all the data zipping around. And, in fact, IDC says in its Digital Universe in 2020 report, “only a tiny fraction of the digital universe is currently being explored for analytic value.”  

Extracting value from the growing volume of data has become nearly impossible without the right tools, which is why companies are investing more in their information management systems.  Known as “Big Data” technologies, new software solutions have emerged to help access, analyze and share desired information. Unfortunately, many of these programs are useful only to the most tech-savvy users and present information in hard-to-understand formats.  A better way to control this avalanche of data is to combine this information with the 3D graphics associated with it. For example, consider the volume of information tied to a Boeing 787 jet aircraft: configuration data, design metadata, assembly and BOM structures, manufacturing routings, supplier information, inventory levels and cost data, not to mention the eventual reams of quality and maintenance information. If this information can be coupled and put into “visual context”, one could visualize the details of a particular area of the aircraft, simply select assemblies or parts of interest and gain instant access to the business information they are interested in. One of the best examples of this is a typical “where-used” query, which I am sure many of you have done. Imagine instead of a listing of the assemblies and sub-assemblies the part was used in, you instead were presented with a visualization of the specific locations these parts were used! Every piece of data contained within the graphic is accessible from a single, user-friendly, visual interface.  

3D visualization can become the most effective way to navigate through this ever growing massive digital universe. Graphics that combine data from in-house programs, such as CAD and ERP systems, make it possible for users throughout an organization to quickly and easily find the right information at the right time. This will also require that processes be better linked in the enterprise creating an end-to-end uninterrupted workflow. This represents a principle we refer to as integrated idea to performance and with 3D visual communications driving the simplification of this environment, it may be the one solution that will help businesses stay afloat in today’s growing sea of data.   

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