Synoptic: the best data visualization tool


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April 21, 2021

We often find ourselves in the situation of possessing or having access to information, a lot of information, but which, without any kind of organization, is of little use. What is the point of having thousands of data if I am not able to exploit them? Organized data becomes information, very valuable at times, and that is precisely what operational intelligence platforms such as IDboxRT offer me.

This ability to squeeze the most out of my data to obtain valuable information is presented to me in many different ways: the ability to graph and compare historical and real-time data, performing calculations to obtain new data, positioning this data on maps, reports…, but we also offer a more visual way to work with this information: the synoptic.

A synoptic is that “which presents the main parts of a subject in a clear, quick and summarized way”, as dictated by the dictionary. In our case, we use the synoptics to capture data in a visual way, being a schematic representation of reality, which allows us, at a glance, to obtain that valuable information and to know what is happening at the present moment.

Throughout all these years working with synoptics we have used many different approaches based on the nature and needs of each project and client, but experience has made us adopt certain techniques to improve these representations that are often repeated. This is the case of the drill-down approach, in which we start from a generic representation, a high-level visualization, where at first glance it is interesting to know general data, KPIs, and get an idea of where everything is located. From this first level we would navigate to the next one in which we could go into the detail of the selected area, and even obtain data of this in comparison with the rest of the analogous areas, and so, we would continue descending in level to go more and more into detail and get to the specific data.

A real example that we have developed with this approach could be: A first representation of a map of the world, dealing with a client that operates globally, where the top management can get at a first glance information on how their manufacturing plants are operating, and compare to make sure everything is working correctly. With a single click we could navigate to a second, more country-specific level to see the detail of the country’s plants, and in turn navigate to a plant, either because we want more detail or because something has caught our attention when reviewing the KPIs. Once we are visualizing the representation of the plant, we can consider the navigation to specific areas of the plant, and even continue down to the level of machinery or specific parts of each of the machines.

There are infinite approaches for this type of representation, although it must always be in accordance with the need for information. The synoptic representation loses its usefulness if the data shown are not understood or provide unnecessary information.

It is also important that the design of these graphic representations is carried out in accordance with the client, since usually each company has its own way of representing its assets (diagrams, maps, drawings, plans…) and it would be a contradiction to propose something that is unfamiliar to them and would involve a work of adaptation. In addition, we work to maintain the corporate identity of each client so that they perceive these representations as their own and feel “at home”. In this way, they can also make use of these representations at company level on information panels or videowalls. All this entails a previous work to the realization of the synoptic based on the study of the brand and its uses.

Following this approach we have worked on the representation of water treatment plants, road construction projects, industrial production monitoring, refining plants, energy efficiency in buildings, Smart Cities projects and so on.

On the other hand, it is important to highlight that all our synoptic representations use the standard SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) format, which makes the representations scalable ensuring that there is no loss of quality, and allows the customer to make use of their own representations by importing them directly into the platform.

In addition, from IDboxRT we have an extensive library of pre-made elements of all kinds, so the user can make use of these forms with a simple drag and drop, and even add their own forms to this library.

Synoptics are undoubtedly one of the most powerful tools for data analysis within IDboxRT and are widely used by our clients, regardless of the sector, as they greatly facilitate the understanding of the data and are visually very attractive.

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