Big Data is here to help you define, re-define, guide, or
build a better, more flexible and powerful business. The limits are beyond the
imagination when you have enough data collected. The problem is; what do you do
with that data once it’s collected? You have to have the means to visualize the
data in order for it to aid your journey to success.
That doesn’t mean you have to pay a huge cost for a piece of
proprietary software you may use once or twice during the lifetime of your
business. Fortunately, there are plenty of web-based applications that can
display your data, in various fashions, so your company can benefit from the time
spent in designing and collecting the data.
I have found five such applications. Each of them falls into
a range of feature sets and complexity; but all of them will get you where you
need to go. Let’s take a look at these web-based apps and see which one will
best fit your needs.
1. Many Eyes
Eyes is an experiment, by IBM, that allows you to easily visualize your
data set. With Many Eyes you can either upload your own data set or make use of
the many data sets already within the framework. Many Eyes offers multiple
visualization types, such as: Scatterplot, Matrix Chart, Network Diagram, Bar
Chart, Block Histogram, Bubble Chart, Line Graph, Stack Graph, Pie Chart,
Treemap, Word Tree, Tag Clouds, and much more. In order to upload your own data
set, you must be registered (which is free). The one caveat to using Many Eyes
is that your data sets will be made available to the public. Make sure
the data you are uploading is not sensitive or proprietary. Also, the size
limit of any given data set is 5MB; so if you’re looking to upload very large
data sets, you’ll have to turn elsewhere.
iCharts has two options –
a free option and an option for business. The business plans start at $25.00
per month and goes up to an Enterprise plan (contact for details).
The free plan allows for data interactivity, public sharing, and unlimited
standard data sets. When you jump up to the paid versions, you get features
like: Private charts, custom templates, upload images and logos, download
high-res images, unlimited live database connections, survey data sets, large
data sets, chartbooks, capture leads, branded chartchannels, mass report
customization, and much more. With iCharts you can load just about any kind of
data including spreadsheets, Google Drive documents, and more. Interactive
charts are a unique feature that allows you to integrate data pop-ups, zoom
& pan, or rich comments. If you’re looking for a data visualization tool
that will not only help you internally, but help brand your company, iCharts
might be what you’re looking for.
3. Wolfram Alpha
Wolfram Alpha is
a computational knowledge engine which attempts to rival Google. What is unique
to WolframAlpha is that you can enter a string and have the tool immediately
compute the string and display the results. For example, I can enter “American
Demographics”, click compute, and instantly have displayed various pieces
of information regarding that string. Or, with the Pro subscription, you can
input your own data and have it quickly computed into various dynamic and
interactive charts. The Pro account is limited to twenty uploads per month
(images, tiles, tabular data, and more), and is $4.99 per month. The Pro
account also offers much richer data results (unlimited step-by-step solutions,
longer computations, etc.).
4. Visualize Free
Visualize Free is a
hosted tool that gets you to upload your own data sets as well as gives you
access to publicly available datasets. With this data you can build your own
interactive visualizations to help illustrate your data. Visualizations
include: Charts, maps, diagrams, dashboards, and much more. Creating a
dashboard for your data is simple with the drag and drop designer. You can
either upload a data set (spreadsheet or tab-delimited text) or you can cut and
paste tab-delimited data into the cut and paste area (in the upload data page).
You must register for an account (it’s free) in order to get to the upload
portion of the tool. You can also gain access to numerous public-available data
(such as data.gov). As the
name implies, Visualize Free is free to use. Any dataset you upload will be
private only to you – so you don’t have to worry about other users gaining
access to your data.
5. Data Wrangler
is a web-based service from Stanford University’s Visualization Group. This
tool is used for cleaning and rearranging data into a form that other tools can
use (such as a spreadsheet). Although this tool will not actually visualize
your data, it will clean it up so that visualization tools can actually make
use of the data. What this means is you will spend less time formatting your
data and more time analyzing it. With this tool you can split, but, extract,
fill, translate, drop, merge, wrap, delete, promote, fold, unfold, and
transpose various data points. Be warned, there is a bit of a learning curve to
using Data Wrangler; but once you’re used to the interface and the available
tools, you’ll be getting your collected data ready to be visualized in no time.
Data Wrangler is free, but also in beta.
The larger your company grows, the more dependent upon data
it will be. In order to keep up with the competition you must be able to get
all of that collected into a visualized, interactive form in order to best use
the results. Each of these tools will help you, in various ways (and at various
price points) to achieve that very goal.