GIS provides insights into complex datasets

GIS provides insights into complex datasets

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Albert Lojko, Global Head, Eikon, Thomson Reuters
Albert Lojko
Global Head
Eikon, Thomson Reuters

As the cost of processing large datasets at speed falls, geospatial technology has a lot to offer the banking, financial services and insurance industry

How is mapping/location technology helping in shaping the banking and finance industry?

This technology allows us to create a visual picture of complex data which can be easily interpreted by financial professionals. With this technology, we’re able to bring together diverse datasets to build a global view of rapidly changing dynamic markets, like global commodities. For our commodities market clients especially, this means we’re able to build a global picture of key elements in the supply chain for a particular commodity — from production, processing, transportation, storage and other associated ‘real world’ assets. GIS technology allows us to bring together complementary and complex datasets in a way that provides customers with immediate insight into factors that will drive the supply and ultimately the price of commodities. Supplementing this information with real-time alerts for multiple news and other information sources covering production outages, natural disasters, geopolitical news, and specialist industry analysis content can help decision makers more quickly react to situations.

What kind of solutions do you provide to banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) markets vis-a-vis geospatial technology?

Thomson Reuters Eikon is our powerful and intuitive next-generation desktop for financial markets professionals, providing news, analytics and data visualization tools to help them make more efficient trading and investment decisions. The Interactive Map tool in Eikon provides financial markets professionals with a global map of the commodities markets including vessels, vessel movements and history, ports/berths/ anchorages, shipping zones (eg Suez Canal), oil refineries and oil storage, coal mines, power stations, LNG facilities, metals mines and facilities, and agriculture facilities.

In addition, we supply data visualisation overlays giving an aggregate picture of supply and demand, as well as a variety of weather overlays containing satellite and radar data, global conditions and severe weather. We also give the user the ability to upload their own proprietary data in geospatial format to view alongside our provided content, with the data remaining securely within the client’s own infrastructure.

Who are your big clients? Which geographies do you cater to?

Global weather, vessel data and oil refinery information accompanied by real-time news alerts in Interactive Map in Eikon
Global weather, vessel data and oil refinery information accompanied by real-time news alerts in Interactive Map in Eikon

Our biggest clients for Eikon generally span the gamut from large global banks and trading firms to regulatory bodies to hedge funds and even academic professionals. Our primary customers that use the Interactive Map tool within our Eikon desktop are major commodity producer and consumer organisations, including many of the leading global oil companies, agricultural firms, metals mining and refining companies, power and gas organisations and commodity trading firms.

How is Thomson Reuters delivering big data to financial markets? How are you utilising geospatial tools and applications for this?

Our largest physical asset dataset from a GIS perspective is the shipping data we use in Interactive Map in Eikon. We maintain a current vessel database of around 100,000 active ships, with movement history for each vessel dating back to 2010. We receive the vessel position via satellite and ground-based receivers, meaning that we can receive multiple updates from a vessel on its position per hour, depending on line of sight to satellite or shore-based receiver. When you combine this with historical paths of each vessel, it adds up to a lot of data, very fast. To make better sense of this data, we also record a vessel’s interaction with events such as entering ports and store a history of these events. We then provide tools for a user to be alerted to these important events and to easily see that vessel’s history. This is turned into a four-year long vessel trail displayed right in Interactive Map, so a user can quickly see which routes a vessel frequents. All of the data behind this specific capability can be pulled into spreadsheets for a user to further analyse.

Weather data is probably our next largest dataset, to the extent that we onboard and process hundreds of gigabytes of weather data daily to generate terabytes of forecast model outputs for power, gas and carbon markets and to generate new layers of weather data as overlays for mapbased displays.

Weather layers containing data such as wave height Global weather, vessel data and oil refinery information accompanied by real-time news alerts in Interactive Map in Eikon Vessel paths in the U.S. golf coast region tracked in real-time with global weather conditions layered on top can then be overlaid on vessel data, to give an idea of how rough weather could affect shipping. Users can also combine this with market intelligence gleaned from news. We have a process using natural language processing technology that searches all news stories for references to named oil tankers, oil refineries or power stations, allowing us to automatically tag that news story with identifiers for those assets and then display them as alerts directly attached to those items in the map.

Vessel paths in the U.S. golf coast region tracked in real-time with global weather conditions layered on top
Vessel paths in the U.S. golf coast region tracked in real-time with global weather conditions layered on top

One example of insight gained here is during an event such as a major tropical storm. Even as the storm can be seen brewing on Interactive Map, we can also alert users of major cargoes that are planning specific actions to avoid these storms, as well as alerting them to refineries or power stations that go offline along the predicted path of the storm. All of these cues will drive the price of oil, gas, electricity and other commodities around the globe so this information is critical to our customers. In this way we create a compelling and unique visual display to keep our customers informed and provide them with the tools they need to create or adjust their trading strategies.

What are the main challenges for big data analytics in Eikon?

When it comes to big data analytics for Interactive Map in Eikon, the biggest challenges we faced were in quickly making the logical connections between disparately- sourced datasets of varying quality and then delivering that to our customers in an easily-digestible format. Our customers are not looking for the fire hose of big data; they want the tools to find the signal from the noise. They are looking for real-time information that gives them an advantage in a competitive market. We have found that one key to producing analytics tools to find this signal is in the team we have built. This team has deep domain knowledge and can thus quickly understand the meaning of any new or incoming data and just as quickly extract its unique value for end users. That, in the end, is how we transform big data into information that is rich in value for our customers.

Innovative visualisation technology provides a real-time picture of the commodities supply chain for metals, energy, and agriculture alongside weather, news, and detailed vessel data
Innovative visualisation technology provides a real-time picture of the commodities supply chain for metals, energy, and agriculture alongside weather, news, and detailed vessel data

How do you see geospatial technology changing the way BFSI industry works in the years to come?

As remote sensing technologies advance and the cost of processing large datasets at speed falls, geospatial technology has a lot to offer the finance industry. Banks or insurance companies could use it to quickly come to a better understanding of the likely risks and events that impact their clients. They could thus make better decisions on profitable pricing of loans or insurance policies they offer — or to rapidly respond to situations like the recent UK floods by pre-positioning resources where need is likely to be greatest. Food producing organisations may be able to make better forecasts of crop production on a global level, visualising the way weather and logistics will impact how production and consumption plays out over time. That would allow them to immediately see the geographies they need to focus upon and what the precise nature of the shortages or excesses will be. Major commodity producers or consumers will be able to fluidly merge their own proprietary data about the ‘real world’ with publicly available content on map-based displays, understanding immediately where information gaps could impact them.