By Jeff Erickson
Jerry Ward has always been a database tech geek. But for him the database was never an end in itself—it was a launchpad into interesting business use cases. “Even back when I was upgrading our company to version 6 of Oracle Database, I was also working on our build of Oracle Manufacturing and Oracle Financials in Oracle Forms,” he says.
Today the regular speaker at Oracle tech user groups, including Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) and ODTUG, still eschews “tech for tech’s sake,” instead continually exploring use cases where his data could be valuable to the business.
One of the ways Ward does this is by staying active in the Emerging Tech special interest group (SIG) of Oracle Application Users Group (OAUG). The members of this SIG are responsible for bringing use cases to explore. For example, “We know that with blockchain most of our members are still in the proof-of-concept stage, but we’ve seen where it’s starting to make sense,” he says. One Emerging Tech SIG member is from a company that makes high-end vitamins and serums and wants to track and prove its ingredients, and “in that case, it’s worth it to spend a lot per transaction to get the firepower that is needed for blockchain,” Ward says. Other members are from municipal governments that are interested in using blockchain to track property documents, he says. “But if you’re shipping thousands of low-cost commodity parts like calculators,” as one SIG member does, “the blockchain investment might not be worth it yet,” he adds.
IoT is further along, Ward says, citing a couple of use cases from the group. Ward’s partner in the Emerging Tech SIG, Hans Kolbe, brought a use case from German aluminum manufacturing companies he works with. “They need to track their actual costs in excruciating detail and do forecasting on the raw material cost and prices,” says Kolbe. That requires a combination of the IoT, big data, and Oracle Applications. “We’re thinking we can feed data directly to the apps, but we need to test it” and run it by SIG data experts such as Ward, Kolbe says.
Ward is also exploring IoT and Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse. “We’re using IoT on the farm to measure animal health” and proactively order veterinary services, he says. The project uses tiny sensors in a cow’s stomach to catch health signals early. “We get information off the device and stream it through Oracle Event Hub Cloud Service and into an Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse instance so we can do reporting and some predictive analytics,” he says. “Then we feed that into Oracle ERP Cloud [Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning Cloud] so we can schedule veterinarian visits, create billing events, and pass everything through in an automated fashion.”
Ward says it’s important for people who work with data to keep up with the cloud and AI, because those technologies continue to create opportunities—with Oracle Autonomous Database being a prime example. “It’s getting easier every year to apply these technologies, because people have figured out what works and they’ve curated that and packaged it up into services, so now you can do one-click provisioning,” he says. “The exciting part is that you don’t have to be a data scientist to leverage machine learning, because Oracle is building the algorithms into SQL for you.”
A broader review of AI will be the focus of the OAUG Emerging Tech SIG this year, says Ward, including a look at how AI can piece together a coherent story in ever-shifting arenas such as trade compliance. Ward and Kolbe and their fellow SIG members want to see if AI can automate trade documents and trade compliance. “How can we combine publicly available data about current trade deals such as China/US or Brexit with searches of government websites and translate it down to the specific company needs?” asks Kolbe. But Kolbe admits that he’s coming at the problem completely from the business side. He’ll need help from Ward and other data experts to understand how to feed the AI algorithms what they need. “Multinationals want to learn about this,” says Kolbe. “There’s an enormous amount of time and money spent on it.”
And that spells opportunity for data experts who work to stay on top of the latest business use cases.
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Illustration by Wes Rowell
Jeff Erickson is content strategist for database and data-driven innovation at Oracle. An award-winning script writer and columnist, Erickson is a former editor of Database Insider News and has more than 15 years of experience writing for and about the smart, curious people who keep our digital world humming.