Closing the Loop
By Peggy Anne Salz, Mon Sep 20 08:15:00 GMT 2004

Technology is gaining traction that tells executives what’s happening inside their companies in real-time -- and lets them route critical business information across the enterprise.

In business, the ability to see events as they happen -- across the enterprise or a network of business partners and customers -- is a competitive advantage. This is why businesses are spending millions to build real-time, dynamic processes. The bump in the road has traditionally been infrastructure. And a lack of reliable, ubiquitous protocols has made it difficult, expensive and disruptive to integrate processes that deliver real-time data to remote workers.

Now the pieces are falling into place and event-driven technology is moving from the margin to the mainstream. Rather than swamp remote workers with waves of information, event-driven technology -- true to its name -- is triggered by an important event and delivers a real-time alert to everyone in the extended enterprise who is affected by the event, or needs to know it happened.

But it’s not an easy task to modify existing business reporting technology to be event-driven business intelligence tools. In most cases they’re built on architectures designed for static information. In addition, it’s difficult for many systems to detect critical business events because they’re already locked within other much more complex business systems.

The Chain of Events

Sensing a business opportunity, a growing number of business integration and messaging software companies are currently fine-tuning their offers to enable the real-time enterprise. Many are focused on keeping stores of data at all touch points consistent across the extended enterprise. But a clever few are developing technology to integrate mobile knowledge workers who need access to the data as it is created, and immediate notification of any changes, whether or not they are connected to the system.

Against this backdrop, KnowNow has developed technology that delivers event alerts to every type of user interface including browsers, spreadsheets and a wide range of mobile devices. Because the technology uses the ubiquitous HTTP protocol, the result is a standards-based even-driven solution that hides the complexities of the underlying network.

The company’s lightweight middleware solution is built on a publish-subscribe platform -- a logical choice for an event-driven architecture. Put simply, it captures relevant events and information (which can be defined by the enterprise) and immediately publishes this information to users who have subscribed to it. Subscribers can then update or alter the information and push it to browsers, spreadsheets or wireless interfaces.

Action Points

A sector where KnowNow and its developer partners Accius and Whentech are gaining traction is options and futures trading. Previously, New York Mercantile Exchange traders were using paper-based histories to help them make decisions on the trading floor. These histories were quickly outdated by new information, and traders had no way to collaborate with each other, brokers, or the market makers who depended on them to mitigate risk and determine the best pricing options.

KnowNow and its partners recently developed a solution that converts real-time NYMEX market data and delivers it over a Wi-Fi network to traders’ devices. This allows traders to collaborate using real-time option pricing, profit and loss, risk management and trade booking data. Additionally, traders can subscribe to alerts regarding important market developments such as price spikes.

According to Accius CEO Doug Moore, mobile wasn’t the key requirement for pub-sub solutions, but clients now see it as the key benefit. “Putting the data in motion enables a new class of applications,” he explains. One future focus, he reveals, is “merging IM (Instant Messenger) with structured and unstructured data.” This form of broadcast, he says, would allow “customers to see and hear what companies have to communicate and then respond with text messages or voice calls.”

Looking ahead, the simplicity of event-driven technology will surely be its power. It makes it possible -- and affordable -- for small and mid-sized companies to act like large corporations and build an extended network of partners, customers and stakeholders. It may be a while before the local store can deliver real-time data feeds, messages and images to my mobile device. But at least I can be sure it’ll be what I want to hear about delivered on my terms.