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Catching Up – Lab49 Articles July 1, 2009

Posted by newyorkscot in Articles, HPC, Marketing, Visualization / UX.
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Life at Lab49 has been busy recently with a diverse set of client delivery, sales and marketing activities – all good news as the business continues to grow on both sides of the Atlantic.

On the marketing front, we have written a lot of great articles this year, and have been in a number of other features, providing commentary to the relevant stories. They can all be read on the Lab49 website here with the articles carved out in a separate page here. A few highlights:

Waters Special Report: IT in Crisis: Lab49 sponsored a special report in the SIFMA edition of the magazine, the theme of which how financial institutions should be addressing the current challenges presented by the financial crisis, and how, by investing in the right technology, firms can radically improve their agility and intelligence.

Robust, Reusable Drag-and-Drop Behavior in Silverlight discusses how developers can can greatly increase the overall robustness and re-usability of any drag-and-drop implementation in Silverlight, through the manipulation of an element’s RenderTransform with attached behaviors.

Riding the Tsunami discusses why firms need to update their trading and risk infrastructures and implement a holistic approach with a balance of powerful new technologies. 

Building a bank from scratch hypothesizes what it would take to rebuild bank systems from scratch to support real-time data aggregation and analysis, to provide a platform to capitalize on next-generation technologies, and to accommodate constant change. The article also outlines what principles, technologies and processes should be put in place to facilitate the optimal solution.

Concurrency: Take Control or Fail discusses how new trends in hardware demand the adoption of parallel programming throughout the financial enterprise, and why firms need to start getting up to speed now, or risk falling behind.


User Interface Design in Capital markets September 19, 2008

Posted by newyorkscot in Markets, Visualization / UX.
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I attended an Edward Tufte course yesterday in New York, with a number of colleagues from Lab49. I had read the first 3 of his books, but not Beautiful Evidence, and was looking to see how we can further apply his ideas and principles to our work in building advanced user interfaces for traders, etc.

Overall, it was great to hear from the man himself on how he approaches visualizing data and how one can achieve information density: showing causality, focusing on the information to be presented over the form of production, to integrating different form of production (text, image, graphs), etc. I enjoyed the specific references to the visualization work (and thus principles), that Gailileo used almost 400 years ago. Specifically, the use of intuitive graphics that portray meaningful data inline with text (just as sparklines can), is a very powerful concept that I think will become a dominant form of communication especially when those graphics are driven off live data.

ET gave his usual amusing powerpoint (PP) bashing routine, most of it very much merited. In general, PP is a bad communication medium, and does encourage slovenly thinking of the material being presented. I liked his comment on how PP is simply a “projector-management” system.

In general, I agree with most of Edwards thinking with respect to the cleanliness and density of content on the visualization – and it is particularly true on printed media. However, I felt that more could be done to update the ideas for the monitor display form ( see his commentary on the iPhone here).  We all use pretty high-res monitors, and traders tend to have the very best, if not HD. Monitors are becoming increasing pervasive and a lot more thinking can and should be done in optimizing information density and clarity on trading applications. Once full touch screens are available, new opportunities for interactivity will present themselves and thus drive the engraining of the medium. 

So, with that said, I feel that many of the principles of visualization data in general, as well as some of his ideas for maximizing content (over admin junk such as scroll bars, buttons, navigation, etc.) are well founded. The advice that no more than 10% of the screen should be for non-content is also a very good sanity check.

BUT, in capital markets there are a number of scenarios where the visualization of high-frequency and complex data do  not have elegant solutions (other than some of the ideas at Lab49 🙂 ) . Yeah, sparklines are nice and have tremendous information density for showing a lot of linear ticking data and showing absolute and relative trends. I wonder how E.T. would approach some of the situations we have to deal with like: a) full market depth view of fragmented markets in real-time, b) multi-dimensional pricing and risk (e.g. diversified portfolios that need to be viewed across asset, geography, industry, company dimensions, for example), c) credit risk of a portfolio of structured products ?

A Year of Losses September 16, 2008

Posted by newyorkscot in Markets, Visualization / UX.
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Cool visualization in the New York Times, illustrating the changes in market capitalization of the major Wall St firms from a year ago to Sep 12, 2008. Hover over the companies to look at the astonishing negative changes (e.g . Citigroup down 58% in one year from $236.6bn to $97.8bn!)

Lab49Capital: iPhone Application for Hedge Funds August 4, 2008

Posted by newyorkscot in Marketing, Visualization / UX.
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Lab49 has just announced this very cool iPhone / iPod Touch application for the buy-side. The application, called “Lab49 Capital”, is an example of real-time portfolio management solutions we are building for clients. As you will see in the screenshots and screencast on the Lab49 website, it provides real-time alerts, P&L and position updates for a portfolio and allows the user to drill into the portfolio across multiple dimensions such as industry, country, manager and strategy. Using the iPhone’s fantastic graphics capabilities, the application also has some very clever user interface considerations, packing in a lot of information into each of the screens.

Hands-on Computing July 17, 2008

Posted by newyorkscot in Visualization / UX.
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Great article, “Hands-on Computing” in Scientific American this month that covers multi-touch computer screens and how this technology, including Microsoft’s Surface and the iPhone, will change the way we interact with computers and data. There is also a supplemental article explaining how multi-touch screens work.

Great British Venn (Euler) Diagram March 18, 2008

Posted by newyorkscot in Other, Visualization / UX.
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OK… this is for all of my American friends who still need to figure out a) whether I am Scottish, British or a United Kingdom citizen, b) what NOT to call me!


Extreme Visualizations – MoMA Exhibition March 17, 2008

Posted by newyorkscot in Science, Visualization / UX.
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I went to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) yesterday to see their new exhibition, Design and The Elastic Mind. This exhibition has a vast array of really cool concepts and visualizations that is absolutely fascinating. From “Extreme Visualizations” to “Mapping The Internet” to “Nanofracture”, they did a nice job of presenting how modern design and technology impacts our lives in many different ways. For example, the Nanofracture section demonstrated the advances in nanotechnology in terms of design of modern structures and materials, as well as the modeling of the human brain. They even had a design section of how origami can be used to model everything from DNA to a Fresnel Lens used in space telescopes. There were also various static and dynamic visualizations of global internet traffic & telephony around the world and in/out of New York (see pictures on New York Talk Exchange), as well as a model of all the flights in the sky across North America in a 24hr period. All in all, a very creative and insightful exhibit that beautifully marries design, art, engineering and computational power. Most of the exhibits are online at the URL above.

BEA-Intel-Lab49 Whitepaper on CEP in Capital Markets January 14, 2008

Posted by newyorkscot in Articles, Complex Event Processing, Marketing, Visualization / UX.
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Finally, the whitepaper we have been writing with BEA and Intel on how the BEA Weblogic Event Server can be leveraged in the front office has been published here and on the Lab49 website. The paper outlines general trends in the CEP market; use cases for the application of CEP; and a reference architecture. This work is based on the fixed income demo Lab49 built with BEA which focused specifically on analytics integration and performance (as well as a cool WPF visualization).

Data Streaming Crosses the Chasm December 20, 2007

Posted by newyorkscot in Complex Event Processing, HPC, Marketing, Visualization / UX.
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Lab49‘s Daniel Chait provides SDTimes’ editor-in-chief David Rubinstein with his views on CEP, HPC, multi-core processing, WPF/Flex, etc, here.  Nice article, David.

Lab49 Client & Marketing Update.. December 12, 2007

Posted by newyorkscot in Client Engagement Mgt, Complex Event Processing, HPC, Marketing, SOA / Virtualization, Visualization / UX.
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The last few months and weeks have been a bit mad with a host of new client projects coming online, and a tidal wave of marketing activities.

On the project front, and despite some dodgy market conditions, we have been continuing to see (and have started) some interesting projects around automated trading: from market simulation environments to real-time pricing to risk management systems. We have also seen more projects on the buy-side where the level of innovation and adoption of the latest technologies is still impressive. In advanced visualization (specifically, WPF/Silverlight), we are starting to see interest across various trading businesses which is very promising going forward. We also continue to be involved in quite a few projects involving grid computing, distributed cache, etc.

On the marketing front, we have been busy publishing new articles, contributed to a number of features in various industry publications and are currently in the process of writing some thought leadership pieces for technology and finance publications. We have also been doing some great sales & marketing activities with some of our technology partners around, including working on some new client opportunities and developing some demos leveraging WPF and CEP platforms. (We will also be starting to talk a bit more openly about our various partnerships)

What’s great about the recent flurry of project and marketing activity has been the balance across high performance computing (grid, cache, etc), Java (J2EE, Spring, opensource), Microsoft (WPF, Silverlight) and other technologies (messaging, market data, visualization, etc), which really helps to show Lab49‘s depth and breadth across the technology space. Some highlights from the last few months include:

Lots more news, articles, features, partner updates, etc in the pipeline that I will post as they happen..

Cool Visualizations July 18, 2007

Posted by newyorkscot in Visualization / UX.
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Thanks to Marc for highlighting this cool site on interesting visualizations of complex networks. I noticed that some of the work by our friend, W. Bradford Pailey, gets good coverage. Lab49 has worked with Brad in the past on an FX Spot trading application in one of the banks, and he has also presented at one of our internal seminars. He continues to apply his genius to financial services – he worked with Edward Tufte on his Sparklines – and I would love to get my hands on the design for his NYSE Specialist Trading application (now that would make a great WPF demo!)

Two of my favourite pieces of work (art) from Brad include the Strength of Nations and Relationships Amongst Scientific Paradigms

Artificial Artificial Intelligence June 9, 2006

Posted by newyorkscot in Visualization / UX.
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Amazon’s Mechanical Turk  has an interesting twist on AI, whereby computer tasks are farmed out to humans.

Essentially, this is a service taking advantage of the fact that computers are great at processing vast amounts of data and crunching compex algorithms, but are not so good at associative and context-based knowledge processing (for now). In this service, the computer actually requests tasks to be performed by a “server farm” of humans, where the folks performing the tasks get paid for their efforts.

Brad Paley, who is a leading expert on interaction design, gave an interesting talk on Data Visualization at Lab49 recently. Part of his talk discussed the boundaries between computer intelligence/processing and human intelligence. Although computers can indeed process data in a few milliseconds, the human brain has been programmed over millions of years to interpret, associate and comprehend concepts and contexts, and is a lot more powerful than a computer at doing so. Some of Brad’s work includes helping the NYSE re-engineer the specialists’ workstations, and the revolutionary science behind the data visualization interface allows the specialist to process up to 30 times more information that they used to be able to do with the previous system.

So, computers are awesome at doing the volume of data processing, but specialists are still needed to provide context and to drive (and control) the market.