The Arizona State University Smart City Cloud Innovation Center Power by AWS (ASU CIC) recently collaborated with the Arizona State University Decision Theater to apply Amazon’s Working Backwards Innovation Process to explore how to scale it’s Pulse tool to satisfy an ever increasing demand for real-time data analytics.  

The Decision Theater (DT) at ASU is focused on designing and building solutions to complex problems that require a strategic approach. The Decision Theater works with researchers, policymakers, and businesses to understand and explore solutions to issues facing society. The DT employs a team of experienced designers, developers and academics to streamline big data and transform it into interactive data visualizations.



One of the recent key projects coming out of the Decision Theater is it’s Pulse tool - a distributed platform with real-time data ingestion, analytics and visualization. Today Pulse is hosted on ASU premises and is constrained by the University's ability to scale servers to meet the demands of the data community. Without access to cloud computing, processing and storage the Pulse tool will be limited in what it can deliver to a global customer base.         




The Decision Theater contacted the ASU CIC to conduct a challenge with the intent of moving Pulse to the cloud thus enabling greater scale, reliability and ultimately increased societal impact on complex problems. The ASU CIC and ASU Decision Theater collaborated on a joint Innovation and Solutioning workshop that focused on the Cloud framework for hosting an application of this scale in the cloud. The outcomes from this workshop - the Press Release, FAQ and Visual - were then referenced to architect a framework for both moving the application and optimization in the cloud.

Supporting Artifacts

The Amazon Working Backwards process produces three artifacts - a Press Release, a list of Frequently Asked Questions and a Visual depiction of the user experience. You can find the Decision Theater artifacts here: 

Next Steps

With direction from the ASU CIC the Decision Theater is currently developing a prototype environment for testing the Pulse tool. Once the cloud environment is built and validated the tool will be migrated over a period of weeks enabling new insights, analytics and data models to combat some of the most complex global challenges.

About the ASU CIC

The ASU Smart Cities Cloud Innovation Center (CIC) is a strategic relationship with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and is supported by AWS on ASU’s Innovation campus - SkySong. The mission of the CIC is to drive Innovation Challenges that materially benefit the greater Phoenix metro area and beyond by solving pressing community and regional challenges using shareable and repeatable technology solutions from ideation through prototype as a service for the greater human good.

The CIC also provides real-world problem-solving experiences to students by immersing them in the application of proven innovation methods in combination with the latest technologies to solve important challenges in the public sector. 

The challenges being addressed cover a wide variety of topics including homelessness, evidence-based policing, digital literacy, virtual cybersecurity laboratories and many others. The CIC leverages the deep subject matter expertise of government, education and non-profit organizations to clearly understand the customers affected by public sector challenges and develops solutions that meet the customer needs.

For more information on the ASU CIC, to read about projects or to submit a challenge, please visit