Business-intelligence technology is typically used to derive meaning and make decisions from data like sales, costs and other corporate trends. But what could BI tell us about the ongoing crisis in Japan?

That was the question that popped to the minds of the people at Extended Results, a business-intelligence consulting firm in Redmond (and the same company that came up with a business collaboration application for the Microsoft Kinect sensor).

A Microsoft-focused shop, they used tools including Access, Excel and PowerPivot in conjunction with a USGS data feed to pull together and analyze the seismic data coming out of Japan.

See the Extended Results blog for the technical background on the project, and the data analysis — looking at variables including magnitude, number, time of day and depth of the quakes. This screenshot from their Excel spreadsheet provides a sense for what they came up with.

(You can also download the Excel file from this post.)

After seeing it laid out like that, “the impact of the earthquake hit us straight in the head,” writes Patrick Husting, the company’s president, in one of the posts. “The number of earthquakes are unbelievable and basically the whole country is in a state of shaking.”

Next up, they plan to data from financial markets and social media.

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  • Adrian Alleyne

    Hi Todd,

    I have to say this post is a little bit disappointing. I’m actually surprised you didn’t hashtag with a comment like “all Japan is a-tremble over Extended Results cargo shorts” ala Kenneth Cole. Thanks for highlighting one company’s data visualization capabilities, but in terms of this giving any understanding of the Japanese crisis, I think it misses the mark.

    Good BI should be able to give greater insight into an event (or process) to help us remedy a situation or avoid it in the future. Now, if their application were able to, for instance, compare geographic location of earthquake epicenters with the timing of the aftershocks overlayed with radiation threat levels and proximity to hospitals. This BI may be able to help us assess the need for hospital evacuation across the region. That’s just one example.

    So I suppose there’s nothing wrong with highlighting a vendor, per sey, but if you’re capitalizing on tragedy and then not delivering on the promise of “understanding the crisis” to highlight some basic data visualization… well the (but hey, who am I to judge).

    • Adrian Alleyne

      *…well the = *…well then

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the feedback.

      I thought it was pretty interesting to see the raw earthquake data crunched and put together in this way, particularly when it got into things like the time of day that they’re happening. Agree that more data would be better, and it looks like that’s where they’re headed.

      If anybody else out there has something better along these lines, I’d love to post about it, as well.

  • Guest

    It never fails to amaze me that a company is willing to profit from the misery and tragedy of others. Extended Results has just been added to my short list of companies that clearly only care about their bottom line. Did this information help anyone in Japan?!

    • v-raj

      What do you want the software to do? Send an alert – YOU ARE HAVING ANOTHER EARTHQUAKE? WE RECOMMEND BUYING A PREPAREDNESS KIT

      I’m sure the information will assist humans to understand the sheer intensity and instability over time so that they can take response action. Awareness comes from information, action follows awareness.

      • Guest

        Hey v-raj, I spent 7 years in Japan and survived the Kobe earthquake in ’95… we were lucky- 90 miles from the epicenter and only moderate damage. We were without power, water and basic necessities for 3 1/2 weeks, and we were prepared with a lot of emergency supplies. More than 6000 people died in the earthquake and the ensuing fires. You, my friend, have clearly only experienced an earthquake when your cubicle neighbor bumped into your wall.

        This event is devastating- and will be for a decade or more. The human tragedy of is not even remotely yet understood. The environmental damage is already incalculable.

        Extended Results can say all they want about this being altruistic- it is a blatant attempt at self-promotion. Patrick, you are way too smart to make comments like, “Funny we aren’t selling a thing…” If it is altruistic, make a donation to the Red Cross for every person that downloads the spreadsheet? Better yet, put a link right there with the data so people can donate as well.

  • Patrick

    It has been interesting to hear some of the comments coming back after people reading this blog. I have received, “great job”, “interesting view of the earthquake data”, to “you suck”, “you are trying to capitalize on it” and others. Funny, we are not selling a thing in the blog. All we did was bring in data from the USGS site to see the data in a different perspective so we could get a better understanding of the quakes. We explained the tools we used so if you wanted to try it yourself you could. The power of the Internet, everyone can have a comment. BTW, my favorite comment was why didn’t we do analysis to predict the event so they could have taken steps to mitigate it. Statistics is important. If you don’t understand the numbers, you probably don’t understand.

    • Erinrad2485

      how the hell do you mitigate an earthquake, much less mitigate 27 per day

      i’d rather see seismic data than # of fewer widgets produced and sales lost by honyotaishi

      even the simple data slice drives home the fact that living on a jello island has to be traumatic

      it hadn’t occured to me that this event is really eventeventeventeventevent
      i know about aftershocks but these are seriously repetitive QUAKES

      good to see someone thinking about alternative uses for their products and sparking human debate at the same time.

      hey – if you are profiteering – just give it to the red cross disaster relief fund

      anyone want to talk about product improvements – post your ideas on the company website

  • WiredGeek

    I agree with the criticism about blatant promotion, and the fact that it could have been finessed with a bit more analysis. Perhaps Patrick can be persuaded to provide a public version of the app so that people can put in their own parameters and distribute derived data points and (crowdsourced) analysis for whatever social good can be produced.

    • Mikej

      The spreadsheet is on their web site with the data for people to download. I just downloaded it and it seems to work. Check it out.

  • Anonymous


  • Sammy

    Actually, the numbers are very interesting. They really point to a major issue in the plate that is under Japan. No where on the planet is this kind of action going on. Check out Google Earth earthquakes for an example.

  • Guest

    I downloaded the spreadsheet and found that Japan’s still experiencing a new earthquake every hour, that most are above the 4x scale and the majority of them happen during the day. I didn’t know that but certainly paints a scary picture beyond the radiation scare.

    While TV and magazines have been focusing on fear and what might happen without really providing any insights, this is an example of using data to understand what really happened.

  • Frank

    Looks like a 10 year old made it. Extended Results falls short on any results.

    • Rich

      Really? In what way would you like it improved? Seems pretty straight forward to me.

    • Mike

      I agree with Rich. Frank – if you have better ideas, suggest them – don’t rag on someone that actually has done something, especially if you have nothing to contribute yourself

  • Stu

    This is a piece of data produced as a snapshot, not a comprehensive analysis. It’s gratifying to see a company showcasing the possible uses of their tools outside of business $tatistics. Well done Extended Results.

  • Niedzielski Lindsey

    Great post Todd. It is interesting how much business technology can tell us about more than just business. We have bookmarked this post on our community for IM professionals ( Look forward to reading more in the future.

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