Did you ever wonder why we don’t read spreadsheets and PowerPoints to our kids when we tuck them in at night? It’s because they want to hear stories about people doing things. Human beings just aren’t moved to action by plain facts and figures. We need emotions to motivate and inspire us to make decisions that can change our lives. Facts and figures may be extremely important when it comes to running a business, but without an emotional element, they’re just data.

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Big Data Pioneer

But that doesn’t mean there are no stories behind data. Take the year 1972. Five IBM employees decide to pursue a vision to create standardized software for companies to access business data when they need it. They created a company called Systems, Applications and Products in Data Processing known all over the world today as SAP. Instead of storing data on punch cards for overnight processing, as was the custom back then, SAP began storing data locally using a centralized data storage system and allowing real-time processing.

SAP’s big data roots go back to the very inception of the company. SAP was dealing with data well before the birth of the Internet (1990), before mobile phones were invented (1983) and before companies like Microsoft (1975), Apple (1976) and Google (1998).

But the real data explosion started about ten years ago with the advent of Facebook (2004) and an overnight sensation when Apple combined a mobile phone, an iPod and an Internet connection into the iPhone, generating massive volumes of data and a social media revolution. The impact on the business world was just as revolutionary, prompting SAP to develop SAP HANA, a database for storing and analyzing operational data in real-time, and the rest is history.

Time to Celebrate

Visitors to SAP headquarters in Walldorf, Germany can now experience this story in a new, state-of-the-art Inspiration Pavilion created to celebrate SAP’s big data journey. Using a storytelling approach in collaboration with the Human Face of Big Data team, the SAP Inspiration Pavilion has a variety of installations. A row of pinwheels suspended from the ceiling paves the way inside. The wheels are powered by a continuous stream of a live Twitter feed and spin the fastest when people on the west coast start their day with early morning tweets, a living testimony to the difference in social media adoption on different sides of the ocean. The Big Data Wall presents milestones in the history of data while the Panorama Wall, a huge real-life projection, gives visitors the opportunity to uncover hidden details of city life or listen to big data stories about people living in New York or Tokyo.

The Magic Mirror

The exhibit’s crowning glory is a mirror that shows the viewer as a source of data particles surrounding the person like an aura. The viewer can point to different data clouds to learn about the impact of data on different aspects of our lives including health, security, sports, education, transportation and sustainability.

The next time you visit Walldorf, make sure you spend some time exploring the fascinating world of big data. You will be inspired by real life stories about the impact of data on our lives, our actions and our decisions!

This project won silver award for “Best of Business to Business Live Communication 2011.”

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