Temporal and Active Databases

In the field of Database Management Systems (DBMS), two important concepts are temporal databases and active databases. These concepts have revolutionized the way data is stored and managed, allowing for more efficient and powerful data analysis and manipulation. In this article, we will explore these concepts in depth and understand their significance in the world of data management.

Temporal Databases

Temporal databases are designed to store and manage time-varying data, where the temporal aspect of the data is crucial. Traditional databases only store the current state of the data, but temporal databases go a step further by capturing the history of changes that have occurred over time.

In a temporal database, each record is associated with a timestamp that denotes the time of its validity. As a result, temporal databases enable us to query and retrieve data as it existed at a specific point in time. This capability allows for analysis of trends, patterns, and historical changes in the data.

Benefits of Temporal Databases

Temporal databases offer several benefits, including:

  1. Data Auditing: With every change in the database recorded and timestamped, it becomes easier to track and audit data modifications. This can be particularly useful for compliance, regulatory, or legal requirements.

  2. Historical Analysis: The ability to access past versions of data provides opportunities for historical data analysis. This can help in identifying patterns, understanding trends, and making informed decisions based on historical insights.

  3. Temporal Queries: Temporal databases introduce the concept of temporal queries, allowing us to retrieve data based on its valid time or transaction time. These queries are powerful tools for analyzing temporal data, providing a new dimension for data analysis.

Implementing Temporal Databases

To implement temporal databases, various extensions have been proposed for traditional DBMSs. Two common approaches are:

  1. Valid Time Model: In this approach, each record has two temporal attributes denoting its validity interval. The valid time denotes the period during which the data is considered correct or true.

  2. Transaction Time Model: Here, each record has two temporal attributes representing the transaction interval. The transaction time denotes the period when the data became valid or when the change occurred.

By combining these temporal attributes, temporal databases allow for precise querying and efficient storage of time-varying data.

Active Databases

Active databases, on the other hand, focus on the active behavior of the data management system. They allow for the execution of predefined actions in response to specific events or triggers. These actions can include updating data, sending notifications, or invoking external processes.

The active database system monitors events occurring within the database and triggers the corresponding actions. Events can be database-level events (e.g., data insertion, deletion, or modification), time-based events, or even user-defined events.

Benefits of Active Databases

Active databases provide various advantages, including:

  1. Automation: By automating actions based on specified events, active databases reduce the need for manual intervention. This improves efficiency and eliminates the risk of human error.

  2. Real-time Responsiveness: Active databases can react to events and triggers in real-time, ensuring timely updates and notifications. This is particularly valuable in applications that require real-time data processing, such as financial systems or monitoring systems.

  3. Complex Workflow Management: Active databases enable the definition and management of complex workflows involving multiple actions and dependencies. They can coordinate and execute tasks in a structured and controlled manner, enhancing overall system functionality.

Implementing Active Databases

To implement active databases, additional components are added to traditional DBMSs, including event condition action (ECA) rules, event monitors, and rule engines. The event monitors continuously monitor the database for specific events, and when triggered, the rule engine executes the associated actions.

The flexibility and extensibility provided by active databases make them powerful tools for managing complex systems and workflows.


Temporal databases and active databases have greatly expanded the capabilities of traditional database management systems. Temporal databases allow for precise querying and analysis of time-varying data, while active databases automate actions based on specific events or triggers.

The application of these concepts has wide-ranging implications across various domains, including finance, healthcare, manufacturing, and more. By leveraging the power of temporal and active databases, organizations can harness the full potential of their data to gain valuable insights and drive informed decision-making.

noob to master © copyleft