Microsoft Debuts Cortana Analytics Suite To Unify Big Data, Analytics
Most organizations today have access to more than enough data to help improve their operations -- the challenge is sifting through and analyzing all that data to find hidden insights so they can make better decisions about the future. That's why Microsoft on Monday announced plans to combine a variety of its current services into a new, subscription-based package: the Cortana Analytics Suite.
While it's named for Microsoft's personal digital assistant, Cortana, the new suite will feature more than just an intelligent interface that lets users speak commands to their computers and other devices. The suite will also offer tools for big data management, machine learning, business intelligence visualization, and forecasting. Microsoft is not yet providing any pricing information for the suite.
Set for release sometime this fall, the Cortana Analytics Suite is already being used by a few early adopters such as the New Hampshire-based Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System and the North American Eagle project, which aims to break the world's land-speed record later this year. The announcement was one of several made Monday by CEO Satya Nadella during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Orlando.
Moving from 'What Happened?' to 'What Should I Do?'
Users faced with large volumes of data need to make sense of the information they're gathering to "move from seeing 'what happened' and understanding 'why it happened' to predicting 'what will happen' and ultimately, knowing 'what should I do,'" said Corporate Vice President for Cloud and Enterprise Takeshi Numoto in a post on the Microsoft Azure blog. The new Cortana Analytics Suite is designed to help them do that, he added.
Developed based on years of research and innovation in areas ranging from advanced analytics to face and speech recognition, the suite is designed to help enterprise customers "make better, faster decisions to accelerate their speed of business," Numoto said. Integrated with the natural language and speech capabilities of Cortana, the suite will "enable businesses to get things done in more helpful, proactive, and natural ways," he added.
Retail users, for example, will be able to use the Cortana Analytics Suite to develop demand forecasts, loyalty programs and customer acquisition plans while also gaining a better understanding of things like fraud threats, pricing strategies and customer demographics at individual stores, according to Microsoft. A manufacturing company, on the other hand, would be able to use the suite to optimize its supply chain, manage performance risks and enable predictive maintenance of equipment.
Enabling Real-Time Health Monitoring
The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System is using the Cortana Analytics Suite (shown above) to develop a data-driven and personalized healthcare solution called "ImagineCare," which is set to roll out to 6,000 patients in October. Dartmouth-Hitchcock eventually plans to offer the system as a technology platform that can be used by other healthcare organizations.
The idea behind ImagineCare is to make healthcare more proactive by using data from sensors and activity trackers to help nurses and health coaches monitor people's health in real time. Information is monitored via a Cortana Analytics Suite dashboard that gives healthcare professionals a personalized view of each patient.
"Imagine if you had a system that is looking at each person's data -- hundreds of data points over time," said Robert Greene, Dartmouth-Hitchcock's chief population health management officer. "Now imagine that we have 10,000 patients. Machine learning gives us an opportunity to continuously improve our care plans based on a deep understanding of all that data, so that when patient number 10,001 comes along, we can do exactly what’s best for them."