Identitech tackles info overload

Identitech Inc., a vendor of document management and workflow software, last month introduced a new data visualization tool to that uses color-coded blocks to help users understand complex information at a glance.

The Graphical Interface for Information Cognition (GIFIC) is designed to support business decision-making. The software can be programmed to map data to sets of rectangles whose colors symbolize different levels of conditions, such as "normal," "high" or "low." By reading this graphical presentation, users can discern, for example, whether a fighter plane's systems are functioning normally, depending on the colors of the display, said Kerry Gilger, Identitech's president.

"We get killed with information," Gilger said. Because images are easier to interpret than lots of numbers, GIFIC offers "a whole new way of looking at data," he added.

"Significant Opportunity"

The product "presents a significant opportunity for those applications where information must be presented after being synthesized through a set of filters and presented to users through a decision point," said Geoff Blanco, vice president for electronic document management systems with Doculabs, a Chicago consulting firm that tests workflow, document management and related products. "It definitely gets [Identitech] out of the traditional document management, workflow and imaging" arena.

Identitech makes a workflow and document management product called FYI, which is used by the Defense Department, the Tennessee Valley Authority and NASA. GIFIC is being incorporated into FYI. "The two together is where the strength [of Identitech's product strategy] lies," Blanco said.

Bill Krieg, a program manager with CExec Inc., Vienna, Va., envisions several applications for which his federal customers might use GIFIC.

For example, he said, CExec is developing a logistics system for the Air Force that will track supply and repair records, among other data, for 200,000 items worth an estimated $47 billion. With GIFIC, users could see quickly whether their stocks were running low or whether equipment was out of commission.

CExec also performs contract administration for the Federal Aviation Administration. In that environment, budget data could be fed into GIFIC to show whether procurement funds were running low.

"You could see the colors come up yellow or red," Krieg said, indicating how much money was left to make purchases.

While the exact meaning of the colors depends on the questions that the data is being used to answer, green blocks generally signify "normal" conditions; yellow, that conditions are lower than normal; and red, that conditions are higher than normal. Flashing red or yellow blocks are the equivalent of a "panic button," although the information presented by such a block is not necessarily negative. A flashing red block "would be good if it [shows] profits," Gilger said, because it would mean profits are extremely high.

Red, yellow or green triangles and ovals inside the blocks indicate a trend or direction in the underlying data.

Users who want to see the information under the pictures can drill down to the spreadsheets, databases, notes or charts from which the graphics are derived. This capability is included in Identitech's recently released Version 3.0 of FYI.

This summer, the company will integrate GIFIC with FYI's workflow capability so that customers can launch an automated work process based on the data they are presented, according to Gilger. "If someone does a process based on certain pieces of information, [GIFIC] can start a workflow process automatically whenever it sees these steps," he said.

Identitech started developing GIFIC four years ago. The initial idea came from a doctor who was using FYI and wanted a way to tell quickly whether a patient was ill. By converting patient test results into sets of colored blocks, it is possible to see easily whether those results are normal or not.

"We expanded that concept," Gilger said.

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