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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
Killer Apps with Visual Fusion 5.0
By Susan Smith
The world of Business Intelligence software can go one step further with IDV Solutions’ new release, Visual Fusion 5.0, (VF 5) business intelligence software that unites data sources in a web-based, visual context to allow users and developers to create applications with interactive data visualization. Visual Fusion makes it possible to get business data into online maps easily and can be used anywhere -- from marketing to crisis response. One of the great things about VF 5 is its integration with Microsoft SharePoint.
In an interview with Scott Caulk, product director of IDV Solutions, he spoke about the role of the latest release of Visual Fusion.
Scott: IDV Solutions has been around since January 2004, and from the beginning the company focused on interactive data visualization. We started off focusing on maps and essentially getting business data into online maps, and doing it in such a way that was easy to user, as opposed to the GIS technician or IT person, our success has been in giving them something that was enjoyable to use – that’s essentially what Visual Fusion is.
GW: How would you describe Visual Fusion today?
Scott: Right now we’re describing Visual Fusion as business intelligence software that’s used to build out the Microsoft stack. Our customers use it for a unique killer app so that could be around marketing, security, many different uses, especially when combined with the Microsoft stack. What Microsoft SharePoint and Visual Fusion have in common is that you can unite content coming from almost any data source, whether that’s internal or external to the organization and you can bring it together in a very visual interactive context. The context of location is powerful and with Visual Fusion in that interface for the end user, it’s not just a map anymore, it has a timeline. With VF 5 it’s got analytics charts and maps so the end user can do what they want. In order to help them interact with that data to answer a question they may have or arrive upon insight that’s valuable to them, they indicate that they have that full context application time, and analytics, or one of those or a portion of those.
GW: What is in the new release?
Scott: What’s new in VF 5 is the analytics portion that is all out of the box, so where it used to be it would take a couple of days or weeks to get your charts and maps integrated with your map view and time line view, now it takes five minutes. We have stuff right out of the box that you can use to get a view on the data. So the analytics portion is huge for VF 5. Also we have data offerings out of the box, so now from the interface, whatever your application is, you can add new content or edit existing content right back to whatever data source you have internally. If you’re inside SharePoint, all happens right out of the box, you don’t need to do anything as long as you have permission it will work. If you are using SQL, Oracle or ArcSDE then you just have to set up according to the server you’re using. With SharePoint you don’t have to do anything, it just happens automatically because of the integration with SharePoint. And the third new feature for this release is the SharePoint 2010 integration – some of the new functionality they have in that we’ve adopted in our product.
Analytics, authorship and SharePoint 2010 are the biggest features of this release.
GW: How would a user use VF 5 to create apps?
Scott: For example, you have stores across the U.S., and you want to see the performance of each store. When you first look at the information on the map it is color coded, and tells you how a store is doing. I get a tool tip and can look at it in more detail. We have our data sources on the right hand side of the screen. In the last version we added filters. It’s easy for the end user to set up a filter out of the box that allows you to move to a different time period and see that information update on the map.
The two things we’re trying to do with VF 5 is give more power to the business user, so they get more out of data, and secondly, make it easy to build great apps quickly. If you are a developer you can build apps much quicker than with other products. Instead of weeks and months, it can take hours and days.
Quick queries and finds allow you to filter your data as you need to. There are authoring draw tools that are integrated with the product, that create, read, update and delete capability for internal data stores. The end user can do that without having to go to a separate interface.
You can switch from one year to another and the software automatically updates. Once you have your data source identified, you can tie a time filter to a particular data attribute because the XML code is ready to go, and all the developer or end user has to do is go into XML and specify which data attribute they want to tie it to. Another type of attribute is the slider bar. You can trim the data down on the map to only the territories that have the performance for against the 10 year average or whatever the scenario is.
GW: How does the SharePoint data enhance capabilities for VF 5?
Scott: Visual Fusion 5.0 geospatially-enables SharePoint 2010 functionality--like Lists, Search, and Alerting--and takes advantage of SharePoint’s broad infrastructure for content management, security, and rapid application development. New Visual Fusion applications can be built in minutes within SharePoint. Also, users can create and store drawings of points, lines, and territories inside SharePoint, which eliminates the need for investment in spatial databases.
If you’re within your SharePoint environment, all of the data is in your SharePoint field, where you can concatenate different fields you want to see. You can type in some text, pick which column you want to show that has the data in it, or you can reference a link to more content.
We’ve added the notion of content, so the filters, the legend and the interactivity has been there. Content gives you all the points that are on the map with a timeline involved. Whatever information in the map and in the timeline will also be over in the feed control.
You can stack your tools on each other, and sort them based on underlying data attributes. You can use an input box to trim results down to what interests you most. For example, with Borders stores, as you type in it starts to trend down your list, so this allows you to go in and get different groupings of the data and look at them that way.
There may be sales reps associated with these stores so you can set these up to go against any of your data attributes, and that way you can quickly subdivide by information. You can also use some out of the box charts, which respond to activity on the map, activity in the timeline, activity in filters.
Scatterplot is one type of chart, another one is Bar Graph, and another one is Frequency Graph. You can look at the minimum value of revenue to the maximum value of revenue and chunk it up into equal buckets. In terms of the number value, and it’s going to throw each of the stores into whatever number value they belong in.