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September 27, 2022

How 3 New Technologies Enable ‘The Sensing Organization’ To Go Beyond Business Intelligence

Lori Witzel


When professional soccer players race downfield, passing the ball deftly to their teammates and setting up for a goal, they don’t use “intelligence”—logical decision-making, or their capacity for learning—to assess who to pass to on the fly. Their decisions bypass “cerebral” intelligence, and they take action automatically based on experience and practice. They’re in the flow, taking in information holistically through all their senses, responding to changing conditions and changing the game while doing so.

What if your organization could similarly sense, respond, then take advantage of changing conditions—seamlessly, automatically, the way a professional soccer player does? It can, with technology that’s not science fiction. Evolving from foundational business intelligence (BI) to a sensing organization can yield a massive competitive advantage.

It’s time to build on the foundation of traditional BI’s “central nervous system” using new technologies, and plan a more competitive future by building a sensing organization.

Three ways a sensing organization builds on, and transcends, foundational BI

There are three significant ways a sensing organization will disrupt competitors who are only using foundational BI technologies:

Agility. During times of rapid change, organizations that can automatically sense and, in near-real-time, respond without waiting for human intervention clearly will have an agility edge. Imagine the advantages provided by more agile logistics. If a shipment of replacement parts is en route and a wreck will delay transit, automatic rerouting will save hours or days compared to organizations that need to review reports, alerts, and then manually take action.


Customer experience. Consumers are under pressure to find what they need while spending less energy and time shopping, and those businesses that can predict their needs and execute win. Imagine the improvements in customer loyalty unlocked by more relevant and timely recommendations. A sensing organization can capture and aggregate sensor, personal, behavioral, price, and inventory data in near real-time, and automate recommendations. Shoppers can easily find what they want, at the best price, without wasted trips.

Adaptability and resilience. Over the past few years, we’ve seen how the past is no longer reliably predictive of the future—and thus it’s a risk for future-forward resilience to rely solely on historical data, foundational as it is for BI. Imagine how much more adaptable and resilient your business will be when decisions are automated based on the freshest, most relevant near-real-time data. While your competitors are driving using the rear-view mirror, your business can pass them while adjusting to what’s around the next corner.

How does a sensing organization differ from those using traditional business intelligence?

Although both types of organizations use data to drive decision-making, sensing organizations bring three technologies together in a new way:

1. IoT sensor data and edge analytics. Smart homes, smart devices, smart factories, smart logistics, smart healthcare all rely on sensors that can capture and transmit data. But new advantage comes from closing the gap between device and decision. By applying the power of application logic to collect, transform, and analyze data near or on the device itself, decision-making is faster, and response times accelerate.

2. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Traditional business intelligence (BI) may use AI / ML technologies to automate data preparation, guide analyst queries, and suggest trends worth watching. But there’s a more powerful, future-forward use of AI / ML—to speed automaticity for data-driven decisions. The same way that a soccer player instinctively “reads” the field and responds in real-time, when analytics is pushed to the sensor edge, predictions, prescriptions, and responses can happen almost instantly.

(By BeeBright/Shutterstock)

3. The metaverse, IoT data, and the ongoing explosion of data. The metaverse is not a technology, but a continuing shift in how we interact with technology across a variety of applications and platforms. With the metaverse, direct engagement with technology no longer requires a keyboard or touchpad. Through virtual reality devices such as immersive headsets and VR gloves, using a virtual avatar a user can participate in a variety of virtual activities. Although it’s early, tech influencer Robert Scoble is tracking more than 2,100 companies who are engaged in this new approach. While there is considerable marketing hype surrounding the metaverse, there are use cases in real-world practice creating real benefits now, including employee training and maintenance services. These practical applications of the metaverse will turbocharge value from the ongoing explosion of data.

Bringing these three areas of tech together in early forms of a sensing organization is not science fiction—it’s happening now.

A recent article by Mary Paige Bailey in Chemical Engineering reported on a joint field test between Yokogawa Electric Corp. and JSR Corp. Yokogawa Products developed an AI system that ran a chemical plant for 35 days—autonomously. Up until now, human intervention was required to manage complex process impacts due to varying and unpredictable weather. The general manager of production technology at JSR, Masataka Masutani, noted their future-forward vision, stating, “The orientation of JSR is toward making production smart through a proactive incorporation of drones, IoT sensors, cameras, and other new technologies…in this experiment, we took on the challenge of the automation of plant process control using AI control technology.”

BI Is Foundational for a Sensing Organization—But Don’t Stop There

Establishing a solid base in business intelligence lays the best foundation for transforming into a sensing organization.

Do you have a data-driven culture, enabled by democratized access to insights? Are your executives still making decisions by gut feel, or from insights derived from data? Do your LOB managers have access to trustable reports and dashboards to support their decisions?

(Pixels Hunter/Shutterstock)

To what extent are your systems and processes automated based on data? One important use case for BI is in support of high-value automation. For manufacturing processes, customer churn management, network management, and similar, the foundation for a sensing organization is robust BI.

Are you using cloud-native technologies and robust API management to support insights generation? A modern data and analytics architecture will be adaptable and elastic, supporting the consumption of “big data” from sensors and “wide data” for AI analytics. If your organization’s architecture is still predominantly on-premises, you’ll have trouble moving beyond basic BI.

Is access to data well-governed, while still providing business users easy access to curated, rationalized data? BI relies on trustable data, and the sensing organization requires it. Are you using modern data architectures to support governed access, to enable unified metadata management and data quality? Identify what data is most valuable for high-value use cases, and focus on improvements there for a solid BI foundation.

Start the conversation now toward becoming a sensing organization

If your company has already embarked on its digital transformation journey, you’re heading in the right direction. But don’t stop there—use work groups and CoEs to explore the disruptive power inherent in combining IoT sensor data and edge analytics, AI / ML, and immersive metaverse-style environments for an unfair advantage.

Some resources to help you envision the possibilities of what’s next include:

● Projects underwritten by the U.S. National Science Foundation’s AI Institute
The Smart Factory @ Wichita
● European AI use cases for vertical industries
● Innovation labs featuring applications of these technologies from various vendors.

Gain a radical competitive advantage over competitors by enabling your organization to—just like the soccer player mentioned earlier—automatically respond in the moment to changing conditions, changing the game while doing so. Prepare to go beyond BI, and transform your organization into a sensing organization.

About the author: Lori Witzel is Director of Research for Data Management and Analytics at TIBCO. She develops and shares perspectives on improving business outcomes through digital transformation, human-centered artificial intelligence, and data literacy. Providing guidance for business people on topical issues such as AI regulation, trust and transparency, and sustainability, she helps customers get more value from data while managing risk. Lori collaborates with partners and others within and beyond TIBCO as part of TIBCO’s global thought leadership team.

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