February 5, 2024

Real-time Situational Awareness


Call it what you want, but everyone loves setting up an operations centre. CCC, EOC, SOC, TOC, MOC, UOC and more. Getting cross-functional teams in the same room to accelerate the resolution of issues is essential for critical operations.

But how can we get the information needed to understand what is happening now? Not what happened yesterday, or even an hour ago, but what is happening right now. If we know what is happening across our operation in real-time, we can immediately take action to fix anomalies that are impacting customer experience, safety or the seamless delivery of services. This level of situational awareness provides reputation protection by allowing us to know what is happening before it becomes public knowledge.

Monitoring tools for technology infrastructure and applications are both common and extremely advanced. Measurements of response time, availability, transaction times and capacity are possible at very granular levels. That monitoring drives alerting and notifications to tech operations teams to investigate and resolve incidents.

In the physical world, things are a little harder to measure, but as software and sensors become more embedded in physical infrastructure and components, the concept of real-time observability will become common.


Real-time situational awareness is essential for city operations, major events and in many enterprise scenarios. But it must go beyond monitoring CCTV cameras and vague maps towards providing relevant business metrics. To generate alerts and notifications when service level thresholds have been breached and identify insights and dependencies from the data. Some examples include:

  • Crowd analytics at major events and stadiums to identify crowd count, site capacity, crowd density, and queue wait times.
  • Vehicle analytics for traffic flow, parking capacity and as an upstream predictor of crowd flows into a venue.
  • Environmental monitoring for weather status, weather forecasting, air quality and noise levels. These may affect event or transportation schedules, visitor numbers and often the level of enjoyment of an event itself.
  • Event schedules track upcoming and in-progress events to understand the dependencies between events, crowd levels vehicle traffic, and weather.
  • Utilities monitoring for power, water, HVAC and CO2 emissions to identify anomalies and areas to optimise. Power is a critical upstream dependency for most services so it is essential that power interruptions can be understood in the context of all other operations taking place.
  • Customer experience metrics captured from social media channels, dedicated contact centres and surveys to understand current sentiments. The first indicator of a wider problem may come via a social media post or an irate customer calling a contact centre.
  • Logistics  service performance to determine if committed delivery schedules are achieved. Are we meeting our on-time delivery SLA? Where is the delivery currently stopped?

Key Elements of RT Situational Awareness

A good situational awareness tool should incorporate the following elements:

  • Real-time measurement  - the metrics should reflect the real world that is being monitored. In some cases, this requires updates every second (e.g. crowds, traffic, parking, utilities) while others can be updated every few minutes (e.g. weather, event schedules, logistics, air quality).
  • Business-relevant metrics - the data must be meaningful and drive actions when needed. So, flashing up pretty pictures or irrelevant numbers has no use except to showcase your ops centre.
  • Monitor the golden signals - when monitoring technology infrastructure, 4 types of measurements are useful as outlined below. These can also be applied for real-time situational awareness.
    • Errors – when is a threshold reached or performance target being missed?
    • Latency – how long does an activity take?
    • Traffic – what are flow rates for people, vehicles, contact centre calls, etc
    • Capacity – how full are we? E.g. venue, car parks
  • Alerts & notifications - relevant alerts that are instantly visible in the operations centre and directed to the right people via their preferred communications tools.
  • Insights - identification & display of key insights based on data trends and outliers.
  • Identify dependencies - between metrics of the same- or different types to understand what may be causing an alert and what are the downstream impacts.
  • Integrations - with tools used for issue management, collaboration, and team communications.
  • Reporting - most operations teams require daily reporting in various formats and this should be a simple operation.
  • Forecasting - What do we expect will happen today, tomorrow, this week based on prior data? Understanding the predicted effect of different activities.

Arguably, the most essential element of a real-time situational awareness capability is for it to unify different data sources and business metrics into a consistent and integrated view. Having everything in different siloed tools limits the ability to understand the dependencies between activities and the business impact of incidents as they occur.

Making the operations centre useful

Operations Centres represent a significant investment. Not only of the initial build but also the ongoing maintenance and resourcing. While operations can be monitored remotely, there is still real value in bringing a cross-functional operations team into a room to break down silos and deliver seamless operational performance. But to do that well, it’s essential to have business-relevant, real-time information that provides a full picture of what is happening now. This is what a good real-time situational awareness capability can deliver.

Introducing Skylight

We built a solution that helps to shine a light on operational performance. It provides clear, understandable and actionable real-time data tied to relevant operational metrics for events, cities and venues.

Learn more about Alkira Skylight