Sharepoint Framework in SharePoint Search Driven Architecture

On 16.10.2017 I had a privilege to be one of speakers on ShareCon365. I had technical speech where I showed how to make Sharepoint Framework (SPFx) apps in Search Driven Architecture. If you were on my speech you are probably interested in materials which you can find here: My presentation materials.

If you were not…than keep reading 🙂

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3 easy ways to integrate external data sources with SharePoint Online

Introduction

SharePoint Online provides powerful tools able to search through various types of data. At Findwise we have worked with Microsoft search applications since the begining of the FAST era. If you have questions about or need help with integration of external sources – feel free to write me a couple of lines: lukasz.wojcik@findwise.com

 

Lets get started! First you must provide some content to SharePoint.

Here are some solutions you can choose from to feed SharePoint Online with your data:

Pushing data to SharePoint list using RESTful service

Using Business Connectivity Service

Using custom connector in hybrid infrastructure

 

Pushing data to SharePoint list using RESTful service

The most simple method to put some data in SharePoint is to write it directly to the SharePoint lists.

SharePoint Online exposes a REST API which can be used to manipulate lists.

Following steps will guide you through pushing data to SharePoint lists.

1. No token, no ride

First things first. In order to use any manipulation in SharePoint you must obtain an access token.

To do so, you must follow these steps:

  1. Handle page load event
  2. In the load event handler, read either of the following request parameters:
    • AppContext
    • AppContextToken
    • AccessToken
    • SPAppToken
  3. Create a SharePointContextToken from previously retrieved token using JsonWebSecurityTokenHandler
  4. Get the access token string using OAuth2S2SClient

2.     Know your list

By the time you want to manipulate your list you should probably have known your list name but you may not know its ID.

So, if you want to retrieve lists, you should call a GET method:

/_api/Web/lists

with header:

Authorization=Bearer <access token>

with content type:

application/atom+xml;type=entry

and accept header:

application/atom+xml

3.     Add entries to the list

Once you finally retrieve your list, you are ready to actually push your data.

There are few additional steps that need to be taken in order to execute POST request needed to add the items to the list:

  1. Get context info by calling POST method:
    /_api/contextinfo
  2. Get the form digest from received context info xml
  3. Get the list item entity type full name from the list data by calling GET method:
    /_api/Web/lists(guid'<list ID>')
  4. Form query string used to add new item to the list:
    {'__metadata':{'type':'" + <list item entity type full name> + "'}, 'Title':'" + <new item name> + "'}}
  5. Get the list items data by calling POST method:
/_api/Web/lists(guid'<list ID>')/Items

with headers:

Authorization=Bearer <access token>
X-RequestDigest=<form digest>

with content type:

application/json;odata=verbose

and accept header:

application/json;odata=verbose
  1. Write the byte array created upon the query string to the request stream.

That’s all, you’ve just added an entry to your list.

A full example code can be found here:

https://github.com/OfficeDev/SharePoint-Add-in-REST-OData-BasicDataOperations

 

 

Using Business Connectivity Service

SharePoint can gather searchable data by itself in a process called crawling. Crawling is getting all data from a specified content source and indexing its metadata.

There are various possible content sources that SharePoint can crawl using its built-in mechanisms, such as:

  • SharePoint Sites
  • Web Sites
  • File Shares
  • Exchange Public Folders
  • Line of Business Data
  • Custom Repository

In first four types of content you can choose multiple start addresses that are base paths where crawling process starts looking for data to index.

SharePoint Sites include all SharePoint Server and SharePoint Foundation sites available at the addresses specified as start addresses.

Web Sites include all sites over the Internet.

File Shares include files available via FTP or SMB protocols.

Exchange Public Folders include messages, discussions and collaborative content in Exchange servers.

Line of Business Data and Custom Repository include custom made connectors that provide any type of data. These are described in another method of connecting external data below.

To use first four types of content, all you have to do is to specify addresses where the crawling process should start its operation. Alternatively you can specify crawling schedule which will automatically start indexing data at the time specified in schedule.

There are two types of crawling:

  • Full – slower, indexes all encountered data, replacing any already existing data by new version
  • Incremental – faster, compares dates of encountered data and existing data and indexes the data only if the existing data is outdated

Though these methods are very simple and easy to use, they provide very limited flexibility and if you need more personalized way of storing your data in SharePoint which will be searchable in the future you should use more advanced technique involving creating Business Data Connectivity model, which is described below.

 

 

Using custom connector in hybrid infrastructure

Business Connectivity Service is a powerful extension but to get the most out of it, you must make some effort to prepare the Business Data Connectivity model used to define the structure of data you want to be able to search through.

1.     Create Business Data Connectivity Model

There are two simple ways to create the Business Data Connectivity model:

  • Using Microsoft SharePoint Designer
  • Using Microsoft Visual Studio

The Business Data Connectivity model is in fact stored in XML file so there’s the third way of creating the model – the hard way – edit the file manually.
Although, editing the Business Data Connectivity model file is not that easy as using visual designers, in many cases it’s the only way  to add some advanced functionalities, so it is advised to get familiar with the Business Data Connectivity model file structure.

Using Microsoft SharePoint Designer and Microsoft Visual Studio methods involve connecting to SharePoint On-Premise where the model is deployed. After the deployment the model needs to be exported to a package which can be installed on destination site.

1.1. Create Business Data Connectivity Model using Microsoft SharePoint Designer

The simplest  way to get started with Business Data Connectivity Model is to:

  • Run Microsoft SharePoint Designer
  • Connect to the destination site
  • Select External Content Types from the Navigation pane
  • Select External Content Type button from the External Content Types ribbon menu

The SharePoint Designer allows to choose the external data source from:

  • .NET assembly
  • Database connection
  • WCF web-service

The advantage of this method is that the model is automatically created from data discovered from data source.
For example if you choose database connection as a source of your data, the designer allows you to pick the database entities (such as tables, views, etc.) as a source and guides you through adding operations you want to be performed during the search process.
Saved model is automatically deployed in connected site and ready to use.

The disadvantage of this method is that only simple data types are supported and you won’t be able to add operations providing functionality of downloading attachments or checking user permissions to view searched elements,
thus adding parts responsible of these functionalities to the model file may be required.

1.2. Create Business Data Connectivity Model using Microsoft Visual Studio

In order to use the Visual Studio to create the Business Data Connectivity Model you must be running the environment on a system with SharePoint installed
To create the Business Data Connectivity Model you must take a few steps:

  • Run Visual Studio with administrative privileges
  • Create new project and select the SharePoint Project from SharePoint from either Visual C# or Visual Basic templates
  • Select Farm Solution and connect to your SharePoint site
  • Add new item to your newly created SharePoint project and select the Business Data Connectivity Model

Your new BDC Model can be now designed either in built-in SharePoint BDC Designer or in built-in XML Editor but with only one of them at time.

The advantage of designing the model in visual designer is that all defined methods are automatically generated in corresponding service source code.
Once project is built, it can be deployed directly to the connected destination site with a single click.

The disadvantage however is that you must define all fields of your business data by yourself and also create corresponding business model class.
You must also provide your connection with external system such as database.

While this method is very convenient when deploying the solution on SharePoint On-Premise, you must bear in mind that SharePoint Online doesn’t allow additional .NET assemblies that often come along with the model when creating a SharePoint Project containing a Business Data Connectivity Model.

2.     Export Business Data Connectivity Model

Once the model is created it needs to be exported to a package that can be installed on a destination site.

If you created your model in SharePoint Designer you can just right click on the model and select Export BCD model.

If you created your model in Visual Studio, you can export the model by selecting Publish command from Build menu. The simplest way to save the package is to select filesystem as a destination and then point where the package file should be saved.

3.     Import Business Data Connectivity Model into destination system

Once you have an installation package, you can import it as a solution in your SharePoint site settings.

To do so, navigate to the site settings and the to the solutions, where you can click on the Upload solution button and select the installation package.

 

Since SharePoint Online doesn’t allow using your own code as a data connector, you can use Hybrid infrastructure which involves using Business Data Connectivity Model on SharePoint Online side and the .NET assembly containing all the logic on correlated SharePoint On-Premise side. The logic provides all the necessary connections to data sources, formatting the data and all other customer required processing.

 

 

 

Conclusion

As you can see, integrating external data seem to be pretty simple and straight forward, but it still needs some effort to do it properly.

In the future posts I’ll cover the methods described above with details and some examples.

Time of intelligence: from Lucene/Solr revolution 2017

Lucene/Solr revolution 2017 has ended with me, Daniel GĂłmez Villanueva, and Tomasz Sobczak from Findwise on the spot.

First of all, I would like to thank LucidWorks for such a great conference, gathering this talented community and engaging companies all together. I would also like to thank all the companies reaching out to us. We will see you all very soon.

Some takeaways from Lucene/Solr revolution 2017

The conference basically met all of my expectations specially when it comes to the session talks. They gave ideas, inspired and reflected the capabilities of Solr and how competent platform it is when it comes to search and analytics.

So, what is the key take-away from this year’s conference? As usual the talks about relevance attract most audience showing that it is still a concern of search experts and companies out there. But what is different in this years relevance talks from previous years is that, if you want to achieve better result you need to add intelligent layers above/into your platform to achieve it. It is no longer lucrative nor profitable to spend time to tune field weights and boosts to satisfy the end users. Talk from Home Depo: “User Behaviour Driven Intelligent Query Re-ranking and Suggestion”, “Learning to rank with Apache Solr and bees“ from Bloomberg,  “An Intelligent, Personalized Information Retrieval Environment” from Sandia National Laboratories, are just a few examples of many talks where they show how intelligence comes to rescue and lets us achieve what is desired.

Get smarter with Solr

Even if we want to use what is provided out of the box by Solr, we need to be smarter. “A Multifaceted Look at Faceting – Using Facets ‘Under the Hood’ to Facilitate Relevant Search” by LucidWorks shows how they use faceting techniques to extract keywords, understand query language and rescore documents. “Art and Science Come Together When Mastering Relevance Ranking” by Wolters Kluwer is another example where they change/tune Solr default similarity model and apply advanced index time boost techniques to achieve better result. All of this shows that we need to be smarter when it comes to relevance engineering. The time of tuning and tweaking is over. It is the time of intelligence, human intelligence if I may call it.

Thanks again to LucidWorks and the amazing Solr Community. See you all next year. If not sooner.

Writer: Mohammad Shadab, search consultant / head of Solr and fusion solutions at Findwise

SharePoint Framework vs Sharepoint apps vs Sharepoint solutions

  • “I’m so confused with all this SharePoint Framework, apps, solutions
I just wanted to develop for Sharepoint!”
  • “What can I use SharePoint Framework (SPFx) for? Can I use it for branding?”
  • “When should I pick custom SharePoint solution over SharePoint Framework or SharePoint App?
  • “How can I make elevated privilages in sharepoint hosted app?”

During our years of experience in SharePoint development we’ve seen those questions many times. They were asked by IT devs of our clients, by users of tech blogs/forums and also by ourselves (yes, we’re learning all the time!). Since you’re here we assume that you are confused a little bit too but don’t worry. We know what you feel. That’s why we’ve created this post.

At Findwise we work with improving the SharePoint experience on a daily basis. If you want to know more about our areas and offers visit our site.

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Web crawling is the last resort

Data source analysis is one of the crucial parts of an enterprise search deployment project. Search engine results quality strongly depends on an indexed data quality. In case of web-based sources, there are two basic ways of reaching the data: internal and external. Internal method involves reading the data directly from its storage place, such as a database, filesystem files or API. Documents are read by some criteria or all documents are read, depending on requirements. External technique relies on reading a rendered HTML with content via HTTP, the same way as it is read by human users. Reaching further documents (so called content discovery) is achieved by following hyperlinks present in the content or with a sitemap. This method is called a web crawling.

The crawling, in contrary to a direct source reading, does not require particular preparations. In a minimal variant, just a starting URL is required and that’s it. Content encoding is detected automatically, off the shelf components extract text from the HTML. The web crawling may appear as a quick and easy way to collect a content to be indexed. But after deeper analysis, it turns out to have multiple serious drawbacks.

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Digital recycling & knowledge growth

How do we prevent the digital debris of human clutter and mess? And to what extent will future digital platforms guide us in knowledge creation and use?

Start making sense, and the art of making sense!

People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian's  National Postal Museum

People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum

Mankind’s preoccupation for much of this century has to become fully digitalized. Utilities, software, services and platforms are all becoming an ‘intertwingled’ reality for all of us. Being mobile, the blurring of the borders between the workplace and recreational life plus the ease of digital creation are creating information overloads and (out-of-sight) digital landfills. While digital content creation is cheaper to create and store, its volume and its uncared for status makes it harder for everyone else to find and consume the bits they really need (and have some provenance for peace of mind).

Fear not. A collection of emerging digital technologies exist that can both support and maintain future sustainable digital recycling – things like: Cognitive Computing, Artificial Intelligence; Natural Language Processing; Machine Learning and the like, Semantics adding meaning to shared concepts, and Graphs linking our content and information resources. With good information management practice and having the appropriate supporting tools to tinker with, there is a great opportunity to not only automate knowledge digitization but to augment it.

Automation

In the content continuum (from its creation to its disposal) there is a great need for automating processes as much as possible in order to reduce the amount of obsolete or hidden (currently value-less) digital content. Digital knowledge recycling is difficult as nearly every document or content creator is, by nature, reluctant to add further digital tags (a.k.a. metadata) describing their content or documents once they have been created. What’s more experience shows this is inefficient on a number of accounts, one of which is inconsistency.

Most digital documents (and most digital content, unless intended to sell something publicly) therefore lack the proper recycling resource descriptors that can help with e.g. classification, topic description or annotation with domain specific (shared, consistent) concepts. Such descriptions add appropriate meaning or context to content, aiding its further digital reuse (consumption). Without them, the problem of findability is likely to remain omnipresent across many intranets and searched resources.

Smartphones generate content automatically, often without the user thinking or realizing. All kinds of resource descriptors (time, place etc.) are created automatically through movement and mobile usage. With the addition of further machine learning and algorithms, online services such as Google Photos use these descriptors (and some automatic annotation of their own) to add more contextual data before classifying pictures into collections. This improved data quality (read: metadata addition and improved findability) allows us to find the pictures or timeline we want more easily.

In the very same manner, workplace content or documents can now have this same type of supporting technical platform that automatically adds additional business specific context and meaning. This could include data from users: their profiles, departments or their system user behaviour patterns.

For real organizational agility though a further extra layer of automatic annotation (tagging) and classification is needed – achieved using shared models of the business. These models can be expressed through a combination of various controlled vocabularies (taxonomies) that can be further joined through relationships (ontologies) and finally published (publicly or privately) as domain models as linked data (in graphs). Within this layer exist not just synonyms, but alternative and preferred labels, and more importantly relationships can be expressed between concepts – hence the graph: concepts being the dots (nodes) with relationships the joining lines (vertices). Using certain tools, the certain relationships between concepts can be further given a weighting.

This added layer generates a higher quality of automated context, meaning and consistency for the annotation (tagging) of content and documents alike. The very same layer feeds information architecture in the navigation of resources (e.g. websites). In Search, it helps to disambiguate between queries (e.g. apple the fruit, or apple the organization?).

This digital helper application layer works very much in the same smooth manner as e.g. Google Photos, i.e. in the background, without troubling the user.

This automation however, will not work without sustainable organizing principles, applied in information management practices and tools. We still need a bit of human touch! (Just as Google Photos added theirs behind the scenes earlier, as a work in progress)

Augmentation

This codification or digitalization of knowledge allows content to be annotated, classified and navigated more efficiently. We are all becoming more aware of the Google Knowledge Graph or the Microsoft Graph that can connect content and people. The analogy of connecting the dots in a graph is like linking digital concepts and their known relationships or values.

Augmentation can take shape in a number of forms. A user searching for a particular query can be presented not only with the most appropriate search results (via the sense-making connections and relationships) but also can be presented with related ideas they had not thought of or were unaware of – new knowledge and serendipity!

Search, semantic, and cognitive platforms have now reached a much more useful level than in earlier days of AI. Through further techniques new knowledge can also be discovered by inference, using the known relationships within the graph to fill in missing knowledge.

Key to all of this though is the building of a supporting back-end platform for continuous improvement in the content continuum. Technically, something that is easier to start than one may first suspect.

Sustainable Organising Principles to the Digital Workplace

 


View Fredric Landqvist's LinkedIn profileFredric Landqvist research blog
View Peter Voisey's LinkedIn profilePeter Voisey

Choosing an Open Source search engine: Solr or Elasticsearch?

There has never been a better time to be a search and open source enthusiast than 2017. Far behind are the old days of information retrieval being a field only available for academia and experts.

Now we have plenty of search engines that allow us not only to search, but also navigate and discover our information. We are going to be focusing on two of the leading search engines that happed to be open source projects: Elasticsearch and Solr.

Comparison (Solr and Elasticsearch)

Organisations and Support

Solr is an Apache sub-project developed parallelly along Lucene. Thanks to this it has synchronized releases and benefits directly from any new Lucene feature.

Lucidworks (previously Lucid Imagination) is the main company supporting Solr. They provide development resources for Solr, commercial support, consulting services, technical training and commercial software around Solr. Lucidworks is based in San Francisco and offer their services in the USA and all rest of the world through strategic partners. Lucidworks have historically employed around a third of the most active Solr and Lucene committers, contributing most of the Solr code base and organizing the Lucene/Revolution conference every year.

Elasticsearch is an open-source product driven by the company Elastic (formerly known as Elasticsearch). This approach creates a good balance between the open-source community contributing to the product and the company making long term plans for future functionality as well as ensuring transparency and quality.

Elastic comprehends not only Elasticsearch but a set of open-source products called the Elastic stack: Elassticsearch, Kibana, Logstash, and Beats. The company offers support over the whole Elastic stack and a set of commercial products called X-Pack, all included, in different tiers of subscriptions. They offer trainings every second week around the world and organize the ElasticON user conferences.

Ecosystem

Solr is an Apache project and by being so it benefits from a large variety of apache projects that can be used along with it. The first and foremost example is its Lucene core (http://lucene.apache.org/core/) that is released on the same schedule and from which it receives all its main functionalities. The other main project is Zookeper that handles SolrCloud clusters configuration and distribution.

On the information gathering side there is Apache Nutch, a web crawler, and Flume , a distributed log collector.

When it comes to process information, there are no end to Apache projects, the most commonly used alongside Solr are Mahout for machine learning, Tika for document text and metadata extraction and Spark for data processing.

The big advantage lies in the big data management and storage, with the highly popular Hadoop  library as well as Hive, HBase, and Cassandra databases. Solr has support to store the index in a Hadoop Highly Distributed File System for high resilience.

Elasticsearch is owned by the Elastic company that drives and develops all the products on its ecosystem, which makes it very easy to use together.

The main open-source products of the Elastic stack along Elasticsearch are Beats, Logstash and Kibana. Beats is a modular platform to build different lightweight data collectors. Logstash is a data processing pipeline. Kibana is a visualization platform where you can build your own data visualization, but already has many build-in tools to create dashboards over your Elasticsearch data.

Elastic also develop a set of products that are available under subscription: X-Pack. Right now, X-Pack includes five producs: Security, Alerting, Monitoring, Reporting, and Graph. They all deliver a layer of functionality over the Elastic Stack that is described by its name. Most of them are included as a part of Elasticsearch and Kibana.

Strengths

Solr

  • Many interfaces, many clients, many languages.
  • A query is as simple as solr/select?q=query.
  • Easy to preconfigure.
  • Base product will always be complete in functionality, commercial is an addon.

Elasticsearch

  • Everything can be done with a JSON HTTP request.
  • Optimized for time-based information.
  • Tightly coupled ecosystem.

Base product will contain the base and is expandable, commercial are additional features.

solr vs elasticsearch comparison open source search engine

Conclusion – Solr or Elasticsearch?

If you are already using one of them and do not explicitly need a feature exclusive of the other, there is no big incentive in making a migration.

In any case, as the common answer when it comes to hardware sizing recommendations for any of them: “It depends.” It depends on the amount of data, the expected growth, the type of data, the available software ecosystem around each, and mostly the features that your requirements and ambitions demand; just to name a few.

 

At Findwise we can help you make a Platform evaluation study to find the perfect match for your organization and your information.

 

Written by: Daniel GĂłmez Villanueva – Findability and Search Expert

Using search technologies to create apps that even leaves Apple impressed

At Findwise we love to see how we can use the power of search technologies in ways that goes beyond the typical search box application.

One thing that has exploded the last few years is of course apps in smartphones and tablets. It’s no longer enough to store your knowledge in databases that are kept behind locked doors. Professionals of today want to have instant access to knowledge and information right where they are. Whether if it’s working at the factory floor or when showcasing new products for customers.

When you think of enterprise search today, you should consider it as a central hub of knowledge rather than just a classical search page on the intranet. Because when an enterprise search solution is in place, when information from different places have been normalized and indexed in one place, then there really are no limits for what you can do with the information.

By building this central hub of knowledge it’s simple to make that knowledge available for other applications and services within or outside of the organization. Smartphone and tablet applications is one great example.

Integrating mobile apps with search engine technologies works really well because of four reasons:

  • It’s fast. Search engines can find the right information using advanced queries or filtering options in a very short time, almost regardless of how big the index is.
  • It’s lightweight. The information handled by the device should only be what is needed by the device, no more, no less.
  • It’s easy to work with. Most search engine technologies provides a simple REST interface that’s easy to integrate with.
  • A unified interface for any content. If the content already is indexed by the enterprise search solution, then you use the same interface to access any kind of information.

 

We are working together with SKF, a company that has transformed itself from a traditional industry company into a knowledge engineering company over the last years. I think it’s safe to say that Findwise have been a big part of that journey by helping SKF create their enterprise search solution.

And of course, since we love new challenges, we have also helped them create a few mobile apps. In particular there are two different apps that we have helped out with:

  • SKF Shelf – A portable product brochures archive. The main use case is quick and easy access to product information for sales reps when visiting customers.
  • MPLP (mobile product landing page) – A mobile web app that you get to if you scan QR-codes printed on the package.

 

And even more recently the tech giant Apple has noticed how the apps makes the day to day work of employees easier.


SKF Shelf3

Read more about Enterprise Search at Findwise

Elastic{ON} 2017 – breaking all the records!

Elastic{ON} 2017 draws 2200 participants to Pier 48 during these somewhat chilly San Francisco days in March. It’s a 40% increase from the 1600 or so participants last year, in line with the growing interest for the Elastic Stack and the successes of Elastic commercially.

From Findwise – we are a team of 4 Findwizards, networking, learning and reporting.

Shay Banon, the creator of Elasticsearch and Elastic CTO, is doing both the opening and closing keynote. It is apparent that the transition of the CEO role from Steven Schuurman has already started.

ElasticON 2017

2016 in retrospective with the future in mind

Elastic reached 100 million downloads in 2016, and have managed to land approximately 4000 paying subscription customers out of this installed base to date. A lot of presentations during the conference is centered around new functionality that is developed and will be released to the open source community freely. Other functionality goes into the commercial X-pack subscriptions. Some X-pack functionality is available freely under the Basic subscription level that only requires registration.

Most presentations are centered around search powered analytics, and fewer around regular free text search. Elasticsearch and the Elastic Stack got its main use cases within logging, analytics and in various applications as a data platform or middle-layer with search use-cases as a strong sidekick.

A strong focus on analytics

There’s 22 sponsors at the event, and most of the companies are either offering cloud based monitoring or machine learning services. IBM, the platinum sponsor, are promoting the Bluemix cloud services for cognitive Watson functionality and uses the conference to reach out to the predominantly developer-focused audience.

Prelert was acquired in September last year, and is now being integrated into the Elastic Stack as the Machine Learning component and is used for unsupervised anomaly detection to give operation log insights. Together with the new modular Beats architecture and various Kibana improvements, it looks apparent that Elastic is chasing the huge market Splunk currently controls within logging and analytics.

Elasticsearch SQL – giving BI what it needs

Elasticsearch SQL will give the search engine SQL capability just like Solr got with their parallel SQL interface. Elasticsearch is becoming more and more a “data platform”. Increasingly becomming an competitor to HPE Vertica and Amazon RedShift as it hits a sweet spot use-case where a combination of faster data loading and extreme scalability is needed, and it is acceptable with the tradeoffs of limited functionality (such as the lack of JOIN operations). With SQL support the platform can use existing visualization tools such as Tableu and it expands the user base as many people in the Business Intelligence sector knows SQL by heart.

Fast and simple Beats is music to our ears

Beats will become modular in the next release, and more beats modules will be created either by Elastic or in the open source or commercial community. This increases simple connectivity to various data sources, and adds standardized dashboards for the data source, which will increase simplicity and speed in implementation.

Heartbeat is a new Beat (with a beautiful name!) that send pings to check that services are alive and functioning.

Kibana goes international

Kibana is maturing with some new key updates coming soon. A Time series visual builder that will give graphical guidance on how to build the dashboards, Kibana Canvas gives custom dynamic reports and enables slide show presentations with live data, and the GUI frontend is translated to various languages.

There’s a new tile service for maps, so instead of relying on external map services, Elastic now got control over the maps functionality. The service can be used free of charge but requires registration (Basic subscription) to use all 18 zoom levels.

kibana-int

 

To conclude, we’ve had three good days with exciting product news and lots of interesting meetings in what could very well be the biggest show for search and search-driven analytics right now! Be sure to see us at the next year’s Elastic{ON} again. If not before, see you then!

 

From San Francisco with love,

/Andreas, Christian, Joar and Peter

Digital wizardry for customers & employees – the next elements

A reflection on Mobile World Congress topics mobility, digitalisation, IoT, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and sustainability

MWC2017Commerce has always had a conversational, today it is digital. Organisations are asking how to organise clean effective data for an open digital conversation. 

Digitalization’s aim is to answer customer/consumer-centric demands effectively (with relevant and related data) and in an efficient manner. [for the remainder of the article read consumer and customer interchangeably]

This essentially means Joining the dots between clean data and information and being able to recognise the main and most consumer-valuable use cases, be it common transaction behaviour or negating their most painful user experiences.

This includes treading the fine line between being able to offer “intelligent” information (intelligent in terms of relevance and context)  to the consumer effectively and not seeming to be freaky or stalker-like. The latter is dealt with by forming a digital conversation where the consumer understands the use of their information only being used for their end needs or wants.

While clean, related data from the many various multi-channel customer touch-points forms the basis of an agile digital organisation, it is the combination of significant data analysis insight of user demand & behaviour (clicks, log analysis etc), machine learning and sensible prediction that forms the basis of artificial Intelligence. Artificial intelligence broken down is essentially resultant action based on the inferences of knowing certain information, i.e. the elementary Dr Watson, but done by computers.

This new digital data basis means being able to take data from what were previous data silos and combine it effectively in a meaningful way, for a valuable purpose. While the tag of Big Data becomes weary in a generalised context, key is the picking of data/information to get relevant answers to the mosts valuable questions, or in consumer speak, to get a question answered or a job done effectively.

Digitalisation (and then the following artificial intelligence) relies obviously on computer automation, but it still requires some thoughtful human-related input. Important steps in the move towards digitalization include:

  • Content and Data Inventory, to clean data/ the cleansing of data and information;
  • Its architecture (information modelling, content analysis, automatic classification and annotation/tagging);
  • Data analysis in combination with text analysis (or NLP: natural language processing for the more abundant unstructured data, content), the latter to put flesh on the bone as it were, or adding meaning and context
  • Information Governance: the process of being responsible for the collection, proper storage and use of important digital information (now made less ignorable with new citizen-centric data laws (GDPR) and the need for data agility or anonymization of data)
  • Data/system Interoperability: which data formats, structures, and standards, are most appropriate for you? What data collections are most Relational databases, Linked/graph data, data lakes etc.?); 
  • Language/cultural interoperability: letting people with different perspectives accessing the same information topics using their own terminology.
  • Interoperability for the future also means being able to link everything in your business ecosystem for collaboration, in- and outbound conversations, endless innovation and sustainability.
  • IoT or the Internet of Things is making the physical world digital and adding further to the interlinked network, soon to be superseded by the AoT (the analysis of things)
  • Newer steps of Machine learning (learning about consumer preferences and behaviour etc.) and artificial intelligence (being able to provide seemingly impossible relevant information, clever decision-making and/or seamless user experience).

The fusion of technologies continues further as the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres with developments in immersive Internet, as with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).

The next elements are here already: semantic (‘intelligent’) search, virtual assistants, robots, chat bots
 with 5G around the corner to move more data, faster.

Progress within mobility paves the way for a more sustainable world for all of us (UN Sustainable Development), with a future based on participation. In emerging markets we are seeing giant leaps in societal change. Rural areas now have access to the vast human resources of knowledge to service innovation e.g. through free-access to Wikipedia on cheap mobile devices and Open Campuses. Gender equality with changed monetary and mobile financial practices and blockchain means to raise to the challenge with interoperability. We have to address the open paradigm (e.g Open Data) and the participation economy, building the next elements. Shared experience and information commons. This also falls back to the intertwingled digital workplace, and practices to move into new cloud based arenas.

Some last remarks on the telecom industry, it is loaded with acronyms and for laymen in the area sometimes a maze to navigate and to build some sensemaking.

So are these steps straightforward, or is the reality still a potential headache for your organisation? 

Contact Findwise now to ease the process, before your competitor does 😉
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View Peter Voisey's LinkedIn profilePeter Voisey