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Analytics Experience 2019: Transforming businesses with AI and analytics

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Speaking at Analytics Experience 2019 in Italy, software company SAS announced it is enhancing its easy-to-use artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to help organisations improve efficiency – with the event exploring the different ways in which AI can transform businesses across the globe.

The company’s updated platform delivers new functionality including automated data management, automated machine learning and interpretability features, underscoring SAS’s commitment to making AI more transparent and accessible for all.

“We’re making technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing real,” said SAS CEO Jim Goodnight at an Analytics Experience event in Milan. “We are making them attainable and helping our customers accelerate their digital transformation.”

Available in the fourth quarter of 2019, the newest release of the SAS Platform offers the latest AI and advanced analytics techniques, accessible to both data scientists and business users. These enhancements provide an intelligent process to automate many of the manual and complex steps required for data transformations and to build machine learning models.

SAS automates the analytics life cycle – from data wrangling to feature engineering and algorithm selection – in a single click. And according to the company, to add a layer of transparency, the software will produce a visual pipeline to eliminate the black box that can accompany automation. Then, through natural language generation, results are presented in easily understood business terms. Once a model is finalised, it can be deployed with a single click.

In March, SAS announced it was investing $1bn (£772m) in AI over the next three years through software innovation, education and expert services. This investment is intended to encourage business executives to embed these technologies into their organisations and business models.

At the Analytics Experience event held at the MiCo Convention Centre in Milan, Goodnight said: “In the past several years, organisations have created individual data science of groups, often working in incubators and labs. Here, they come up with interesting models. Perhaps a new forecasting model that could transform the organisation.

“But when it comes time to put those models into production, there is no easy way to do that. As SAS we are taking advantage of massively parallel computing, to take analytics models out of the lab and into reality.”

Goodnight uses the example of money laundering, where hundreds of SAS customers around the world are embracing this technology to help identify problematic or illegal transactions.

“By adding AI and machine learning to these solutions, we are seeing a lot of false positives like 50 to 70 per cent,” Goodnight added. “That means fewer transactions for manual intervention.”

During the keynote, Goodnight expressed how one of the most exciting areas is the field of artificial intelligence, and technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing and computer vision are finding new and exciting uses each day. “Today AI is everywhere... All of us have access to AI,” he said.

Being in what is deemed to be the fashion capital of the world [Milan], Goodnight demonstrated how computer vision could be used to get a read on what fashions were trending in shopping centres. Here, they used image recognition software on local models which showed the different brands they were wearing on stage.

Fashion show at Analytics Experience 2019 in Milan, Italy

Image credit: Siobhan Doyle

Also at the event, executive vice president, chief operating officer and chief technology officer at SAS, Oliver Schabenberger, delved into how organisations have integrated the digital age into their business strategies.

“Digital transformation creates a new operating system for organisations,” he explained. “For many organisations to shift to data-driven decision making, it’s a heavy, heavy lift. And it’s no accident that cloud technologies plays a major role in this operating system for digital transformation.

“Because the cloud supports these urgencies of the digital economy, accessing computing resources, the cloud is easy that only content stored in the cloud is what is shared across the organisation – this also increases connectivity.”

Schabenberger also agrees with Goodnight, expressing how AI plays a play role in businesses digital transformation. “When I mentioned analytics it is often synonymous with AI,” he said. “And no discussion of the digital age would be complete without it.”

“Today it’s about integrating technology, process and people,” Schabenberger added, “and that brings analytics to life.”

During the presentation, Schabenberger pressed an example of an Italian start-up, known as the Yolo Group, that fully embraces the digital age and uses SAS’s AI solutions.

The company’s digital insurance platform provides on-demand access to policies for travel, products, health and pets. And using SAS machine learning, Yolo’s platform can customise a temporary insurance policy offer to a customer without lag time, according to the company.

“As a digitally native company, our customer's experience is paramount,” said Gianluca De Cobelli, co-founder and CEO of Yolo Group.

“With SAS, our platform is able to process a customer’s request to ensure their vacation or their smartphone using all available data in real-time, allowing our financial institution and corporate partners to provide their clients with a customised and dynamic mobile experience.”

At Analytics Experience 2019, other examples of where SAS AI solutions have been integrated into different organisations have been presented.

For example, the Government of Rajasthan in India is using SAS AI and machine learning software to protect its tigers from poachers and human-wildlife conflict. Furthermore, Cancer Center Amsterdam (Amsterdam UMC) and SAS joined forces two years ago in a collaboration which is hoped to improve treatment strategies for patients with colorectal cancer using artificial intelligence.

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