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Big data


“In a live environment such as a motorway, where life critical decisions have to be taken very quickly, real time or near time computing is a powerful tool”


I


n today’s world, turning data into readily usable infor- mation has become a science which, once mastered, is a source of increased productivity or efficiency. This


science becomes an art when the data set grows in size. Terabytes of data both in a structured (SQL/Oracle RDBMS) and unstructured format, such as text files, have become common in most modern organisations. Big data is a general term used to describe the voluminous amount of unstruc- tured and semi-structured data a company creates. A primary goal for looking at big data is to discover repeat-


able patterns that can then be analysed to inform the decision making process of an organisation. It’s generally accepted that unstructured data accounts for at least 80 per cent of an organisation’s data. If left unmanaged, the sheer volume of unstructured data generated each year can be costly in terms of storage. Unmanaged data can also pose a liability if information cannot be located in the event of an audit or legal proceedings. Big data analytics is often associated with cloud computing because the analysis of large data sets in real-time requires a framework to distribute the work among tens, hundreds or even thousands of computers. Like most organisations, infrastructure operators are gen-


erating large amounts of data and are looking for new means of turning this data into useful information to improve their efficiency and the quality of the service they deliver to their clients. Analysis of big data is a means of achieving both contractual compliance and improved performance by har- nessing information captured by operational systems. This principle has been successfully implemented on the M25 DBFO (Design Build Finance & Operate) project in the UK. This project, which runs the London orbital road, one of the most heavily-trafficked motorways in Europe, is using a combination of information from various data sources and systems to produce real time or near real time alerts and information dashboards. In a live environment such as a motorway, where life criti-


cal decisions have to be taken very quickly, real time or near time computing is a powerful tool to ensure that an event, such as an accident, can be managed within a specified time constraint. The constraint can be defined by the business user in accordance with the system and architecture.


DETAILED ACCOUNT On the M25 network digital cameras are streaming live video 24/7. These pictures are monitored in the Network Operation Centre (NOC) and allow an operator to react in real-time to an incident. The operator notifies the closest


Europe/Rest of the World Vol 8 No 3


Motorway surveillance


PDA (3G)


Camera Camera Camera


PDA (3G)


NOC


Screen Operator


Screen Operator


Screen Operator


Data processing centre


(Oracle RDBMS)


Scheduled ETL process


Overall System Architecture


(SQL server cluster) Data warehouse Mail exchange server Performance graph Content management


Data consumer


PC Smart phone PC


Inform


Decision maker Figure 1: M25 DBFO system architecture


Incident Support Unit (ISU) of the incident and location. Details of the incident are recorded in an integrated incident and road management system. Data from the management system flows into a data


processing solution referred to as the Data Warehouse on the back of processes designed to run at specified intervals. The data is prepared for reporting in accordance with a defined set of rules to test the quality and consistency of the infor- mation received. A performance dashboard delivers the inci- dent details to a target audience via an auto generated email or text message. The information is also published on the intranet for a wider audience to analyse. Early notification of the incident is generated in near real time to help make informed decisions on live operational activities. The same approach used to manage incidents is effectively applied throughout the M25 operations, including defect


thinkinghighways.com 49


Decision maker


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