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Business Intelligence in the Virtual World

by William Laurent, William Laurent, Inc.Monday, January 10, 2011

During our waking hours we are all “knowledge workers” to a large degree, whether we realize it or not. We process an endless stream of intelligence about our world in the form of statistics, numbers, video sound bites, voice mails, stock market tracking dashboards, and so much more. Without this continual barrage of information, most of us are not able to function optimally in society. The undisputable fact is that our lives are now filled with “business intelligence” (in its most general meaning), which gives us indispensible support for so much of our daily decision making.

Business Intelligence WebBut it is rough going out there in the real world. So for many of us, regular retreats into our favorite virtual worlds —from state-of-the-art gaming consoles to internet role playing applications--is what keeps us sane and motivated enough to wake up each morning and face the tribulations of our daily lives. We play games and partake in simulated worlds where we go on journeys and missions that can last months at a time, or even years on end. For some of us, our virtual lives and virtual worlds capture as much of our imagination and creativity as the real world. We experience many of the same vicissitudes and problems that haunt us in the non-make believe universe: our life force gets low, we run short on money, and of course, we experience information overload.  A few future learning folks even have businesses that they conduct in complex virtual worlds such as Second Life, where real money can be earned in exchange for services (such as language lessons or an avatar makeover) that are provided in the same virtual world. Such mature virtual environments (that serve as a conduit for business transactions) are generating huge inventories of information that can be used to enhance user experience and commerce at large. Thus, it makes perfect sense to start talking about business intelligence in the virtual world.

The concept of “virtual world BI” (not to be confused with “virtual BI”, which can represent a number of many different and unrelated ideas) may seem a little bit preposterous to some readers. Nevertheless, this strand of BI has already materialized and is being put to good use in the military simulation/virtual training industry. Because of the prohibitively high cost of training army troops on physical terrain, the cost savings promised by virtual reality-based training is quickly growing. But cost savings and reduced physical footprint are only the tip of the iceberg. With electronic military simulation platforms that offer soldiers full immersion (via full body motion capture and simulated weaponry that they can hold in their hands) in a virtual world, every aspect of the soldier’s performance during training can be tracked and analyzed.

Atlantis Cyberspace (http://www.aci-sim.com) is a company that manufactures virtual military training software and weapons for military simulations. Atlantis’ claim to fame rests in their ability to create a life-like virtual world for dismounted infantry units. While there are other vendors rendering fantastic virtual worlds for military training, the solutions engineered by Atlantis provide considerably more value for their clients because they understand the importance of BI in a virtual world. Their VR engine generates various performance data about the training mission as it happens. After a training mission is complete, Atlantis’ action review capability lets trainers go back and do a thorough step-by-step review of the entire mission from both a visual and statistical viewpoint. Being able to measure the performance of trainees via a series of metrics that can be reviewed by all team members and squad leaders renders the old days of one-dimensional and static military training obsolete.

Last month, I spoke at length to the CEO of Atlantis, Laurent Scallie, about this BI angle. He elaborates, “Our virtual reality (VR) training platform lets clients capture and review a robust portfolio of data about each training session. This provides performance management and continual improvements so that troops will be more adequately prepared for the real life environments that they will face in combat. Ultimately, troops are better trained, which translates to saving the lives of soldiers as well as minimization of civilian deaths in actual combat situations.”

By 2015, the Department of Defense (USA) budget for training and simulation will grow to 25 billion dollars. This is noteworthy when considering the future of virtual world BI. Performance management and business intelligence in the virtual world is not something that is discussed much by my fellow industry pundits. But rest assured that it will be gaining visibility in the years ahead.

About the Author

William Laurent is one of the world's leading experts in information strategy and governance. For 20 years, he has advised numerous businesses and governments on technology strategy, performance management, and best practices—across all market sectors. William currently runs an independent consulting company that bears his name. In addition, he frequently teaches classes, publishes books and magazine articles, and lectures on various technology and business topics worldwide. As Senior Contributing Author for Dashboard Insight, he would enjoy your comments at wlaurent@williamlaurent.com

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