A splunking in the thames

Andrew Morris TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
by Andrew Morris
Issue 88 - April 2014

Betsy boo is my 3 year old daughter. She is Amazing, Unique, Talented, Individual, Sensitive, Thoughtful, Indestructible, Cool. She is also AUTISTIC.

To be honest we didnt know what autism was and are still learning; it is a problem within the brain; it happens when kids are born, and is often not picked up until they are older/school age. There are many different levels of autism, some more severe than others and hence it is a spectrum disorder. Regardless of the severity it is often a very lonely, sad place to be. We have witnessed first hand how a beautiful cheeky run of the mill little 2 year old can change from a happy gregarious individual, to a withdrawn shadow who sits in corners and cant be consoled, even with cuddles from her favourites including her mummy. This more than anything else is what hit us like a bus.

I wanted to do something that would not only raise money, but also raise awareness of Autism, and use data to amplify and measure the impact. I chose kayaking 145 plus miles down the River Thames as the event, but there were lots of questions.

How do you capture the data from something like this? And once you have it getting the meaning out of it is even harder. Theres lots of it, it moves fast and it is very varied. Data is everywhere, generated from emails, from websites, fitness apps, mobile phones, lifestyle monitors, heart rate monitors, social media, and video.

There is more and more data available to us and capturing it is hard. Getting the meaning out of it is even harder. Consider the kayaking just to start with theres training data, location data, social media data, video data and sponsorship data. Some ends up in the cloud, some on a device, some in a spreadsheet, some on paper, some on your SD card on a GoPro camera.

Imagine if I could combine the data that I was generating from the event, tie it in with the social media around Autism, locally in the UK and worldwide, and see what impact I was making. I could involve sponsors, in real time, by getting them to use social media to motivate me to raise more money. For example someone could tweet me in real time to tell me that if I went a bit quicker then they would sponsor me more!

The question was how to solve this problem.

Previously you might have used Excel, or you might have spent a lot of money on Business Intelligence tools, data warehouses or a combination of all of those. Given the expense, you probably would have done nothing at all!

These traditional analytics tend to be narrow in their scope, present data that is out of date and hard to include data from many different sources. Because you are dealing with Siloed data* you never have a complete picture. The data these tools were built for was typically neat structured data this isnt the case in todays world and certainly isnt the case for this kind of adventure. Combining video, social media feeds, like Twitter, personal health data, route and map information, water clarity and flow from Thames Water, and information from Virgin Money Charity website, couldnt be done with historical tools. Todays technology needs to work with these kinds of machine data and sensors from what is called The Internet Of Things. Todays technology allows you to take this big data and turn it into meaningful insight, applications and visualizations to see exactly what is happening to me as I kayak down the River Thames.

I need to be hooked up, and chose the following:

- Fitbit flex - measuring food, water consumption, day to day activity and sleep
- Fitbit scales measuring weight and BMI
- Zephyr Heart Rate monitor
- Map My tracks app, with GPS information
- Go Pro Hero 3 with live streaming solution (to be tested in coming weeks!)
- Tinke from zensorium.com/tinke
- Pebble watch to provide easy to read real time social media feeds that motivate me!
- Virgin Money Charity site to feed in donation information
- Thames Water to provide clarity and river flow information

And the solution?


Splunk is a software platform that is taking all this data joining it together, correlating it, and running analytics on it It allows you to present data in interesting ways so you can see whats happening in REAL TIME from all the different sources, no matter what they are. It allows you to ask questions about whats happened over time, see whats going on now, show progress, peaks of activity, compare social media trends, see how much money you are raising per meter, kilometer, mile or foot. It gives you a complete view of your goals, your progress, your decisions, what people are saying about your efforts and more importantly can show the impact you are making through a particular event.

Betsy is always going to be autistic, but there are things we can do and show, as parents, family and friends. Please follow us on social media, (twitter #k4a), and sponsor us. Every bit will count.

Andrews kayak adventure covers just three days from 6th to 9th May 2014.
You can view the website with all the data being collected both in training and during (including live video streawming) here www.kayaking4autism.com.

Well have a full report in the June issue of tv-bay Magazine with how Andrew got on, how the kit performed and what live streaming is really like from a kayak in the Thames!
Donations of course are welcome here http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/kayaking4autism.

Tags: iss088 | Splunk | kayak4autism | Autism | Andrew Morris
Contributing Author Andrew Morris

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