Pushing the boundaries of technology

Pushing the boundaries of technology

18 June 2014

Charlie Tuxworth, Director of Software & Innovation, shares his thoughts on the world of technology

What’s been going on recently in the world of technology within Equiniti?

We’ve been putting significant time and effort into researching and applying new technologies, tools and processes that can improve our services and widen our services portfolio.

Some of the concepts are aligned to industry trends, and others are coming from ideas generated by people within Equiniti. The Equiniti group has expanded significantly through acquisition over recent years, and there are some great skills, ideas and products already within the group that we’re able to exploit wider across our solutions.

What innovations are on the horizon?

Big Data is a topic that is currently close to the top of Gartner’s Hype Cycle. Behind the hype is a set of theories, technologies and principles that are definitely going disrupt the IT services industry. What’s easy to overlook is that the principles behind Big Data can be applied to business and projects of all sizes, as “Big” doesn’t always refer to the volume of data.

Data is definitely growing in volume. It’s been estimated that 36,000 hours of video is uploaded onto YouTube in an average hour, and not all of that can be videos of cute cats! But the change is more marked in terms of data complexity.

Data has become untidy as the formal, relational databases now sit alongside less structured data sources; Data is distributed as the ability to capture information of a variety of devices increases; and it is accepted that Data, or rather the embedded information, is becoming more valuable.

Equiniti Data Services has been providing professional services around Data Extraction, Cleansing and Transformation for some time, and we’re in the midst of bringing in some new software into this area that will further enhance that operation.

Data is definitely growing in volume. It’s been estimated that 36,000 hours of video is uploaded onto YouTube in an average hour, and not all of that can be videos of cute cats! 

What about data analytics, how does this work?

Data Analytics is one of the key aspect of the Big Data story, and analytics can be used to combine data from various sources to provide a ‘golden record’, and this forms part of services we provide today.

Where it becomes really interesting is when data from so called Open Sources is used to augment the structured data. This enhanced information can provide fascinating insights into the interests and personal motivators for an organisation’s customers. Companies such as Amazon have been using these techniques for some time to market services and products that are relevant to the customer. Subject to data protection and confidentiality constraints, it is only a matter of time before such targeted marketing is applied to more “traditional” business models.

Predictive Analytics takes data interpretation to another level. Whilst data analytics provides a good insight into what has already happened, predictive analytics creates scenarios that suggest what might happen as external factors, such as inflation, the weather, or even the timing of sporting events change.

Predictive analytics is already used extensively within financial services for credit scoring and calculation of insurance premiums, and is also used to predict buying patterns within retail. In the run up to Hurricane Irene hitting the US in 2011, Walmart increased stock levels of strawberry pop-tarts and beer, as their analysis had shown these two items to be amongst the top pre-hurricane purchases after bottled water. 

It’s not always immediately obvious how these tools and techniques can improve the services that Equiniti provides, but building an understanding of them allows us to challenge the way we think about the solutions we develop and provide.

Are there any future innovations which are likely to shape the evolution of Equiniti’s technology strategy?

Yes, definitely. The development of systems based around the User Experience (UX) is a very interesting area. The requirement to make systems touch-enabled is already with us thanks to the prevalence of iPads, Windows 8 and the like, so Equiniti is already addressing that. What we’re also investigating, as a logical extension, is how users need to interact with the systems in different environments. For example, we provide solutions to organisations that have laboratories, and in those environments a keyboard and mouse cannot be used due to the risk of cross-contamination.

We’re therefore looking at user interfaces which are “touchless” and that are able to respond to speech, movements and even recognise an individual, and their facial expressions. The capability is available today in the consumer space (anyone with a Microsoft’s XBox and Kinect will be familiar with the concept), and it’s not a big leap to see that being used in a business environment.

The commitment that Equiniti has made to research and innovation is very exciting and we intend to push some boundaries with our application of these newer technologies.