Processing Real Time Data On the Fly – The Future of Mobile, Social TV and Web Apps

Real time data processing was once a secretive and dark art known only amongst the likes of the CIA and Wall Street’s electronic traders. Not only were the systems that performed these hyperspeed calculations extremely expensive and highly complicated, they were also completely customized to the specific institutions that were using them.

As our digital world continues to become more connected every day, and as the proliferations of devices and affordable internet and data services spread across the world, people are online all the time.

At the same time, we are increasingly bringing our internet-connected devices into common experiences like riding the train, commuting to work or watching television. Nielsen has found that as many as 86% of laptop and mobile owners use their “second screen” apps when watching television.

As such, the opportunity for creative developers, TV networks and mobile development studios to create experiences that take advantage of these massive concurrent audiences and real-time data technology to create unprecedented ‘second screen’ experiences is gargantuan.

For example, you could have a smartphone app specially designed for use during the SuperBowl that would allow everyone watching the show to make play predictions in real-time just before the pass was caught or the audible was called.

Or, during the half-time show you could take in votes from the millions upon millions of current viewers to determine what segment or performer would be shown next, and everyone watching could see the average vote values of everyone on their smartphone screen.

Presidential debates could be revolutionized by the ability for the audience to participate and register their agreement or disagreement with candidates and their stances in real time. This kind of continuous polling app could change the face of broadcast television and politics as we know it.

The central issue that has prevented these kinds of experiences from coming to fruition in the past has been that taking in constant input from television audiences, and processing it in real-time in order to create dynamic and massively multi-user apps, is an extremely difficult technical challenge.

The kinds of audiences that major television events can draw are often staggering. The 2012 SuperBowl drew 111.3 million viewers. Imagine the volume of data that would be generated by even a fraction of this audience sliding up and down on their screen to vote, make predictions or send messages.

It’s not only a big data problem in the classic sense. It’s a real-time big data problem. Any system that is created for this use case would have to not only take in a large volume of streaming data, but it would have to make calculations on this data in flight, and then broadcast the results back out to every connected user to complete the experience.

We can expect to start seeing Social Television apps that weave in audience sentiment, opinion and preferences into the main-screen content soon. The immensity of this change cannot be overstated. Traditionally, television was a one-way broadcast medium. We’re about to see this change.

These new Social Television and massive audience apps are going to make Television a two-way medium, allowing viewers to “talk back” as they convert watching TV from a passive activity to an active conversation.

Imagine a world where you could vote down characters you didn’t like, in real time, as they come on screen and start delivering lines. Imagine being able to have an active role in crafting the future of your favorite programs. Social TV and the next generation of massive audience apps is going to change broadcast media forever.