In our regular BI Tools News feature, Passionned Group, publisher of the popular Business Intelligence Tools Survey 2019, walks you through a selection of the most interesting announcements made by BI vendors over the last two months. This is the May 2019 edition of our BI Tools News Alert.
During the SAS Global Forum 2019 in Dallas, SAS made several announcements. Key among these is the company’s praiseworthy (if not entirely selfless, of course) attempt to democratize the field of (big) data analytics further. The software vendor is offering free AI software to teachers; launching a new analytics simulation game (at a price); and awarding AI certificates and badges. SAS is also investing in the Boys & Girls Clubs to teach kids the tricks of the programming trade.
Online simulation game
Using Cortex, an online simulation game, users can learn data analytics and predictive modeling skills. The game provides students access to data mining tools and data sets, among other things, at a small fee.
In order to qualify for the jobs of the future, young students in America and Europe need to have a strong foundation in STEM fields and coding. The emphasis is on popular open source software languages such as Python and R. Students can use these to learn how to explore data, discover insights, and employ AI and machine learning models. SAS Viya for Learners offers teachers free supporting tools like online chat, web tutorials, e-learning opportunities, documentation, communities, and technical support. This enables them to focus on their didactic tasks: stimulating critical thinking and creative problem-solving.
Aside from all the philanthropy, it was also business as usual in Dallas: SAS launched the latest commercial version of its SAS platform. The new version automates several functions: data cleansing and transformation; selecting the best variables; and building, comparing, implementing, and adjusting models. Using Natural Language Generation (NLG), the best analytical results are displayed in plain language. This allows business users and managers to interpret the results and generate a well-documented report so that they can make better and faster decisions.
Big Data for Small Babies
Some promising case studies from the medical sector garnered a lot of attention in Dallas, too. SAS is working together with the Amsterdam UMC hospital on an AI project to better map colon cancer spreading to the liver. Manual research into tumors was a costly and long process which was also subject to the interpretation of medical professionals. A medical imaging application on the SAS Platform which makes use of computer vision and predictive analytics makes the evaluation more objective and accurate than ever before. Also, the UMC Utrecht started the Big Data for Small Babies project, the goal of which is to use advanced analytics, machine learning, and AI technologies to treat or even prevent infections in premature babies. Ten years of anonymous patient data from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit went into this project.
Tableau, specialist in visual analytics solutions, executed a data-driven project at the European Investment Fund (EIF). The Luxembourg-based EIF, with Tableau’s help, built an interactive map that is intended to show what the software vendor is capable of. The cloud application offers people direct access to investment data in the lead up to the European elections. The service also comes with case descriptions and videos, although the videos can prove tricky to find. The map lets European tax payers easily see how the EIF invested over 136 billion euros in various small and mid-sized European companies over the last 25 years. The real-time data shows, among other things, that at least 1.2 million companies have benefited from the EIF’s investments. On the map, users can click through to specific countries, European NUTS regions, and geographically-coded business addresses.
Room for improvement
The client was the European Commission, one of the major stakeholders of the EIF. The use of interactive data visualization makes it possible to make public policy more transparent at a time when many citizens question the relevance of public institutions to their daily lives. The interactive map attracted a modest 1000 visitors per month in the first year of its life. Cumulatively, over 13.000 user sessions have taken place at this point. Somewhat remarkable, because the map isn’t quite as user-friendly as one would hope, in addition to being rather slow to respond. There’s room for improvement, in other words.
AI within Power BI
Fashion retailer Shoeby explored the new possibilities of using artificial intelligence (AI) within Microsoft Power BI. Shoeby was part of the so-called Partner Preview Program, which gives selected partners access to new functionalities that haven’t been widely released yet. To explore the new Power BI features, Shoeby built a business case supporting the optimization of the supply distribution model.
This exploration led to greater insight into the workings of Power BI’s new features and the potential impact of applying self-service AI within the organization. Using their new knowledge, Shoeby can access new machine learning possibilities for the business and take some pressure off its data science teams. Also, the retailer says that AI and machine learning become much more accessible to end-users. The company will also gain faster insight into important trends and developments, turning them into a more data-driven organization. Earlier this year, Microsoft introduced new Power BI features supporting machine learning, making self-service AI easier, and organizations can deploy AI across more of the organization. These features have since been released by Microsoft and made available to all customers, as it should be.
Passionned Group is the publisher of the Business Intelligence Tools Survey, a 100% vendor-independent analysis report into the various tools. We also provide Business Intelligence advice and consulting.