One of the recent side effects of the digital revolution is the ability for services to deliver in ‘real-time’, that is now, instantly and at once. The concept and it’s buzz-word handle chime conveniently well with social media and instant gratification/information of today’s world.
Now two extreme examples of real-time in real, present day action.
Every Room for Sentiment
At one end of the scale we have the joyful experiment in the interpretation of real, living information about the Olympics. US-based company Sosolimited have been commissioned by EDF Energy (sponsors of power to the Olympics) to create what is trendily entitled ‘the world’s first media-driven light show.’
Sosolimted is an art and technology studio specialising in interactive environments and multi-sensory design will light up the London Eye (another EDF sponsored thing of beauty) at 9pm during the Olympics and Paralympics with a display triggered by colours drawn from people’s moods.
In real-time, as people tweet comments about the Olympics, an algorithm will split their tweets into positive and negative comments and filter them all through a selective program which converts into a light show.
The London Eye will be bathed in purple if the overall tweets are negative and yellow if they are overwhelmingly positive. Green will indicate neutral, with shades between.
They have been trialling it over the past two months, apparently, and have found around 60,000 Olympic-related tweets a day (which they expect to double), and despite the G4S security fiasco and the monumental shambles at Heathrow, most tweets have been positive. The buzz of the games and from the Olympic torch relay around Britain have ensured that.
The algorithm is designed to convert real-time social emotions into colour and movement. 24 hours of social comment become half an hour of emotional peaks and troughs, according to Justin Manor, Sosolimited founder.
Another member of the team is Professor Mike Thelwall, from University of Wolverhampton, who has developed Sentistrength, a true sentiment system. This was designed as part of an EU funded project called Cyber Emotions.
No Room for Sentiment
At the other end of the real-time scale we have what HM Customs and Revenue are doing, which is to install a Real Time Information (RTI) system with the laudable twin aims of improving the operation of Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) and supporting the delivery of a new Universal Credit system
The current arrangements of employers reporting tax and earnings at end of year will change to a continuous updating process, whenever payments are made. In theory there should be less sorting out and adjusting long after the tax year has ended.
The new benefit programme should theoretically be more flexible in processing people’s benefit entitlements and earnings.
All sounds hunky dory and forward thinking? Mmmm. All information will be sent in real-time and it’s all dependent on software that works, of course.
It almost goes without saying that it is behind schedule and is likely to be yet another major damp squib. PC Adviser published an article by Derek du Preez warning that the slow delivery of the new real-time info for PAYE ‘threatens every business in the UK’, according to the All-Party Parliamentary Taxation Group which has slammed the whole project.
It’s supposed to be all systems go, ready to go live in October 2013 as Universal Credits are introduced. The Parliamentarians thought HMRC had ‘overstated their business case’, underestimated RTI investment costs, employer migration costs and done no estimate of employer software costs.
They recommended one of two options: either implement a ‘Strategic Solution’ which guarantees flow of real-time data by using the payments infrastructure or scale the whole thing to ‘RTI-lite’. This one would remove ‘dynamism’ from Universal Credit. The National Audit Office has also joined in the general slamming of the delivery.
Sentiment Analysis is Logical Next Step
Anybody outside HMRC payroll with large reserves of confidence in HMRC (or any public department) to deliver technology on time, on budget and on target, might tweet about it, please. Just so the sentiment guys can get a perspective on public opinion and change the colours from very dark to something lighter?
But life is not yet reduced to a responsive light show. The really serious point is that the future of sentiment analysis is looking bright. Its application to the fields of advertising, mental well-being and personal control/manipulation of people is boundless. Whether that’s a good thing or not remain to be seen, in the fullness of time, real or illusory.
PC Advisor, Derek du Preez, Slow delivery of Real-Time, 17 July 2012