By Tom Groenfeldt
High-speed analytics originally developed for trading in financial markets are now being used to support real-time dynamic decision-making in the telecommunications arena, shipping ports and airlines, among others.
In 1872, Gijs Dirkzwager monitored the progress of sailing and steam ships at the Hook of Holland and dispatched their estimated arrival time to Rotterdam by horse messengers. His company, now Royal Dirkzwager, today provides electronic monitoring of ship movements around the world.
Some cargo lines still run their ships at high speed, only to have them sit at anchor for 20 to 30 hours because no space is available at the dock -- a waste of fuel. With Royal Dirkzwager, they can monitor both ships and ports to run their vessels at maximum efficiency and still reach the port at an opportune time for unloading. In the future, Royal Dirkzwager expects to offer more sophisticated services by linking information about port traffic, tides, fuel consumption and insurance rates to help owners calculate how fast to sail and whether, for example, the Suez Canal is more cost-effective than sailing around the pirate-threatened Cape with its higher costs for fuel and insurance.
The maritime service is using systems from Progress Software, including its Sonic Enterprise Service Bus, which competes with Tibco, and its complex event processing engine. Capable of handling a thousand events per second in real time, the new system can gather complete data about shipping movements all over the world. Clients subscribe to information about specific ships, based on virtual lines drawn around any given location on the map.
British Airways is using Progress to link data from hundreds of systems to improve operations and make sure its most valued customers are treated well, while 3 Italia, an Italian mobile phone operator, uses it to check the credit of prepaid customers while they are making a call.
Progress calls it responsive process management, or RPM. Unlike business intelligence, which analyzes events after they take place, RPM runs its analytics in real time to enable a business to respond while the events are unfolding.
“Customers want to understand what is happening in their business in real time so they can dynamically respond to opportunities and threats,” explained John Bates, general manager for Progress’ Apama division. “They need visibility across a range of systems including transactions, business processes and complex event processing as part of their operations.”
Royal Dirkzwager is saving its customers tens of millions of dollars a year because they aren't burning fuel uselessly, added Bates. Before deploying Progress to track vessels, ships were radioing in their positions, but sometimes the port wasn't ready, or the ship didn't arrive as expected and resources were underused.
The Progress system uses service-oriented architecture to pull data from existing applications, much of it on legacy mainframes, so it does not require firms to rip and replace their existing technology. British Airways wants to achieve situational awareness, to understand what is going on in time to respond to high-value customers. If a flight arrives late and the high-value passenger makes the connection but his bag doesn't, BA can spot the problem and automatically send him a text saying the bag will arrive at his hotel at 10 p.m. that evening, assuming he had booked the flight and hotel through the same system. That requires linking the booking system, the flight systems, and the customer loyalty programs and then tying in a communications application to send out a text or e-mail.
At 3 Italia, the systems couldn’t keep up with 12 million customers. Configured to let calls go through if they didn't have credit information to stop the caller, they were leaking revenue. 3 Italia is one of the first telecommunication providers in Europe to implement a single charging system for pre- and post-paid services of voice, video, SMS and data. The billing system handles large amounts of data from multiple gateways.
"We effectively put real-time credit checks in the call data stream," said Bates.
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