A COVID-19 data block lets organizations make sense of ever-changing data

a-covid-19-data-block-lets-organizations-make-sense-of-ever-changing-data

Data discovery company Looker says the block helps structure data about the pandemic and makes it accessible and easy to use so decisions can be made.

Image: iStockphoto/MangoStar_Studio

Making sense of big data is often a challenging process and with this in mind, data discovery company Looker has developed a COVID-19 Data Block–prebuilt pieces of code that the company said simplifies data complexity.

 

It joins other Looker Blocks the company has developed and is free for people to explore. It is designed to be understandable to any employee, even those in a non-technical role, across different verticals, the company said.  

Looker was acquired by Google in February and its Data Block has been added to Google Maps Mobility Data, which presents data by location and highlights the percent change in visits to places like grocery stores and parks within a geographic area, the company said.  

 

Looker’s mission was to make data actionable. CEO Frank Bien “realized that people had questions the data could answer, but they didn’t have the tools to answer those questions because most people can’t write SQL,” to structure the data and figure out how to convert it to address business metrics, explained Looker’s Chief Data Evangelist, Daniel Mintz.

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)

 

Translation from raw data to business metrics is already contained in Looker’s Analytic Blocks, Mintz said, adding that he was an early customer while working in the publishing industry. Mintz said he and his colleagues wanted to perform analysis on certain data to glean information such as which articles were performing well.

 

Looker gave them the ability to drill down and get more useful information from its dashboard, Mintz said. Looker works with wherever a customer stores its data and can be customized, he said. The company works to understand how data is structured and can build a block that knows how to interpret all the fields in use. “Our blocks will get you 90% of the way there and you customize the last 10%.”

 

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, “We watched like everyone else in horror and …  realized that there were amazing things happening with data,” especially real-time data on testing and infection rates, for example.

 

“We were watching various entities do data collection and put out reports every day and what you want is to put disparate data sets in one place and then harmonize them–make them all have same basic structure and make them homogeneous so people can reason with the data” for whatever purpose they have, Mintz said.

 

Looker’s COVID-19 Data Block makes public datasets easy to integrate into existing data, he said. It contains pre-built dashboards and provides links to data from places like the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering and The New York Times.

 

Data Block is being used in impacted verticals like retail, so grocers that are seeing major spikes in sales both online and in stores are using this data to provide insights into what to order and have in stock, Looker said.

Hospitals, labs, and insurers are using data to understand how to prepare their business and save lives, including Commonwealth Care Alliance (CCA), which is utilizing Looker’s capabilities to guide and monitor delivery of critical aid to its members and patients during the pandemic.

Academic institutions such as Oklahoma State are using data to plan so they can mitigate the impacts of COVID on their citizens. The university is also using the Data Block to create a state-wide symptom tracker.   

Restaurant chains can benefit by using the data to determine which locations to reopen as restrictions ease and how to re-engage their employees, the company said. And meteorologists can use the Looker Weather Block on top of the Google Mobility Data to align climate with people gatherings, the company said. 

The data in the Data Block is not static, Mintz said, and that as additional relevant data sources are made available, it will be updated to incorporate that information.

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