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Crisis Centre

The Enginuity Group

Making business intelligence collaborative

A collaboration between researchers at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Ontario and The Enginuity Group of Toronto, Ontario has resulted in the remodelling of Enginuity Group’s interactive visualization sharing tool.

Enginuity uses a business intelligence application tool for their clients to use to gather and share information among clients’ employees. The tool pulls articles from the Internet on various topics, then sorts them based on subject and relevance. Enginuity employees use this database to cross-reference information and complete market research for their clients.

Enginuity realized the tool was not reaching its full potential due to usability problems. It decided to customize the tool to make it more accessible, efficient and engaging for their employees. Without the resources to complete the task on its own, Enginuity Group teamed up with Christopher Collins, PhD, Assistant Professor in the university's Faculty of Science.

To cover the cost of the project, Enginuity applied for a grant from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) through the Applied Research and Commercialization (ARC) Initiative. ARC aims to accelerate innovation and improve productivity for globally competitive south western Ontario companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. FedDev Ontario accomplishes this by providing funding to universities so faculty and students can work directly with industry businesses on innovative projects.

Dr. Collins researches computational linguistics and information visualization. This project was a great opportunity for him and his students to come up with an innovative way to enhance communication and improve the process of gathering and understanding data.

With the funding from FedDev Ontario, Dr. Collins was able to hire Brittany Kondo, a fourth-year student in the university's Computer Science program, and Meng-Wei Chang, a Computer Science graduate student, to develop new features for the existing software. 

“The students were a key element in the re-development of the tool at every stage," says Dr. Collins. “They evaluated the existing software, identified opportunities for improvement, worked with Enginuity to design a new software interface, and did all of the subsequent programming once we decided what features to develop.”

Under Dr. Collins' supervision, Kondo and Chang focused on providing an organized layout of the documents in the database, incorporating collaborative awareness and having a visual representation of the correlation between documents.

With the new design, articles pulled from the Internet are sorted using a tag cloud visualization, which uses keywords to group articles together. This also allows users to comment on the article and indicate its relevance for other users. The students found this filters the interface more effectively and encourages reading of material. 

They also added features to facilitate collaboration—an element Dr. Collins says will give Enginuity a competitive edge.

“We created something called collaboration rings,” Dr. Collins explains. “There is a coloured ring around each article, which changes based on how many times it has been read or commented on. This can act in two ways: a ‘popular’ article might encourage more people to read it, or users may decide to read a different article, knowing it will help their team cover a wider range of information.”

According to Dr. Collins, research on usability and visualization was an integral part of the process; otherwise, his students would not have been able to develop the innovative, appealing features Enginuity wanted.

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