这家位于亚特兰大的公司是如何做的？他们研发了一个名为Orion的系统，这是道路优化与导航集成系统（On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation）的缩写，也是希腊神话中猎户座的名字。如果说现在有什么大数据分析学上的成就的话，那就是它了。Orion的算法诞生于21世纪初，并于2009年开始试运行。该系统的代码长达1,000页，可以分析每种实时路线的20万种可能性，并能在大约3秒内找出最佳路线。
西库勒相信这一冲击会波及很大范围。西库勒表示，可以看看通商航运业的例子：澳大利亚海事安全局（Australian Maritime Safety Authority）提供了实时的港口活动信息，船只可以据此改变航速，节省燃料，让港口服务费降到最低。海事局还使用了地理围栏（一种动态的数字定位区域）来触发和自动计算这些费用。她说：“通过公开数据，这一切都是透明的。”
The number of possible routes that a UPS driver could take on any given day is enormous.
Strike that—the number of possible routes that a UPS driver could take on any given day defies comprehension. That’s not an exaggeration.
A driver for the delivery company typically makes between 120 and 175 “drops” per day. Between any two of those, there are a number of available paths to take. It is, of course, in the best interest of the driver and UPS to find the most efficient route. And that is where things get complicated.
According to UPS, the number to describe the complete set of possibilities in the scenario outlined above, as calculated using combinatorial mathematics, would have 199 digits. The number of possible options would exceed the number of nanoseconds that the Earth has existed.
“It’s huge—unimaginably large,” said Jack Levis, the company’s senior director of process management. “This is as high as you can get in analytics.”
For UPS, it was nothing if not a daunting optimization challenge. But the motivation was powerful: a reduction of just one mile a day per driver would save the company as much as $50 million.
The Atlanta-based company’s answer? A system called Orion, short for On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation, named after the hunter in Greek mythology, and a big data analytics effort if there ever was one. Orion—whose algorithm was developed in the early 2000s and piloted through 2009—uses 1,000 pages of code to analyze 200,000 possibilities for each route in real time to deliver the optimal route in about three seconds’ time.
“At first, the mathematicians thought it was going to take about 15 minutes to run,” Levis said. “They were pleased.”
UPS is working to deploy the system to all of its 55,000 North American delivery routes. By the end of 2013—after being applied to just 10,000 routes so far—Orion had already saved 1.5 million gallons of fuel and 14,000 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions. The company expects to complete the rollout by 2017.
There are two “rather inconspicuous” industries that are being disrupted by big data, according to Svetlana Sicular: transportation—which includes a logistics company like UPS—and agriculture.
Sicular, a Gartner analyst, believes that disruption is happening on a broad scale. Consider the commercial shipping industry: the Australian Maritime Safety Authority provides information about port activity in real time so that ships can vary their speed to save fuel and minimize port fees, Sicular said. The authority also uses geofencing—dynamic, location-based digital zones—to trigger and automate those fees, “and this is all transparent through open data,” she said.
It’s not just big data technologies that are causing this transformation, Sicular said. The convergence of mobile devices and cloud computing also play a major role.