Internet of Things

What My Nocturnal Toddler Can Teach Us About the 'Internet of Things'

What My Nocturnal Toddler Can Teach Us About the 'Internet of Things'
Image credit: Westend61 | Getty Images

As many new parents will tell you, the blessings of parenthood don’t always come easy. You need to adjust to countless changes in your priorities, schedule and pretty much everything else in your life. For me, one of the hardest things to deal with was the prolonged bouts of sleep deprivation.

See, my son was never a big fan of sleep. He always saw night time, and in particular the truly ridiculous hours of the middle of the night -- as the perfect time to wake up, fully energetic and ready to take the world by storm.

Naturally, my wife and I were concerned, both for our son’s sleeping patterns and for our own sanity. We spent a lot of money on sleep advisors and at their guidance we began monitoring everything about the little guy, from eating schedules to bedtimes. However, neither the advisors nor myself managed to find any meaningful pattern in the data, and there was no solution in sight.

After endless attempts to persuade our son to adjust his sleeping schedule, the breakthrough actually came from a completely unexpected direction.

As a data junkie and co-founder of Sisense, a business analytics company, I’m constantly looking at the ways in which information and alerts can affect the way people act. I was researching the psychological effects of light and sound on human behavior, when I found something that I thought might be applicable to my son’s nocturnal patterns.

Based on my research I decided to stage a little experiment.

I took an Internet of Things (IoT) device - a smart lightbulb -- and placed it next to my son’s room, setting it to change color to red only when it was the appropriate time to wake up.

I then explained to him that a red light outside his room means its morning time, and ok to get out of bed. And guess what? It worked. For the past few months everyone at my house has been sleeping much better, and my son’s concentration and socialization have improved significantly.

As the research had indicated, and now my experience had proven, our senses and emotions have an incredible impact on driving us toward action - much more so than reading words in a book or even looking at numbers, which might appeal more strongly to our logical side. So the obvious next step was to see how this applies to the business world, and specifically, the way business professionals consume data that requires action.

Related: 4 Reasons to Be Excited by the 'Internet of Things'

Wait, what?

The thing is, the change in my son’s behavior works pretty much the same for adults as it does for toddlers.

Research has shown that sensory stimulation produces much stronger reactions than plain text or images. Evolution has made our basic human instincts aware of light, sound and other senses. We have yet to develop the same kind of survival instinct, when it comes to bar charts and dashboards.

A few months later, we decided to launch BI Virtually Everywhere - an initiative that aims to address this exact matter by extracting insights from our computer screens and bringing it into the physical realm -- allowing us to consume and communicate with data through light, sound and natural language.

Related: The 4 Biggest Business-Intelligence Challenges Facing Entrepreneurs

We live in a world that demands immediate, on-the-spot responses to changes in business, which we are constantly measuring through sophisticated technology. But we still view data in the same visual representations as we did 20 years ago, except the printed reports of yesteryear are now dashboards appearing on our computer screen - often behind a login and amidst a sea of other distractions and notifications.

While my son was too young to read the numbers on the alarm clock, adults on the other hand clearly have the ability to comprehend abstract concepts. Yet light and sound trigger a much more basic reaction driving them to take immediate action. I believe this can be traced back to our primal evolutionary instincts, which hardwires us to respond to environmental stimulation, such as changes in temperature, sound patterns and volume or even the setting of the sun.

When people see a light turn red - indicating a drop in an important metric such as web traffic -- they know to take the necessary steps to turn it back green.

Related: 3 Ways to Avoid Big-Data Blind Spots When Recruiting

The ability to directly interact with your data, and get answers to simple questions by literally asking them out loud by directing them at devices, like the Amazon Echo turns data into a tangible part of our lives. Similarly, a breeze of cool air on our face is a much stronger indicator of the temperature outside than viewing an online weather forecast. And the list goes on. Just imagine what other, new and exciting ways for interaction with data awaits our discovery.

Dashboards and other traditional ways of consuming insights have brought business users much closer to their data. Previously it was only the traditional gatekeepers - IT, developers, and later dedicated data analysts - who had access to data at will. New BI tools have democratized data by removing the technical barrier.

Sisense has now furthered the revolution by enabling business users to easily analyze even highly complex datasets and quickly gain business insight from them.

Our BI Virtually Everywhere program is merely the next step in this journey, which started with static reports, continued to dashboards and is now moving out of the two dimensional monitors and into 3D real-life with a physical, auditory, visual and general sensory presence - bolstering its essential role in today’s data-driven business world.

This could be a new frontier in the world of BI - embedding analytics in the physical world, catering to emotional and behavioral human needs.