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4/4/2017
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Get Ready for the Analytics Bot Invasion

Bots are carving out a new role in analytics, utilizing natural language generation to address questions raised by business people and consumers.
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Image: Zapp2Photo/Shutterstock
Image: Zapp2Photo/Shutterstock

One of the hottest emerging trends in analytics is to integrate natural language generation (NLG) with existing reporting tools. Modern NLG systems can automatically generate data narratives and explain reports in easy-to-understand human language. This technology allows anyone to simply ask questions and get highly relevant answers from their data that they can act upon. NLG takes data-driven decision making to the masses.

NLG is a type of natural language processing (NLP) often referred to as computational linguistics (CL). NLP includes all software that interprets or produces human language, in either spoken or written form. You most likely have already been using text-based chat bots or speech-to-speech applications such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa, and other intelligent personal assistants. Now get ready for the invasion of analytics bots.

Initial Early Adopters

Pioneers that embedded NLG in analytics started with search-based data discovery. Thoughtspot and Microsoft led the way. Popular Google-like search capabilities allowed to users to type queries using natural versus technical terms. These applications would intelligently display results using an appropriate data visualization. Humans would still interpret what was shown.

Taking it one step further, we saw the combination of speech-to-text query capabilities with analytics. Mobile phone personal assistants were integrated with analytics applications, allowing users to ask questions instead of typing them.

As the NLP technology continued to evolve, we started seeing deeper applications in the analytics market with solutions such as Narrative Science and BeyondCore intelligence that could interpret the results and even provide actionable recommendations.

Bot, Bots and More Bots

Today numerous analytics vendors have developed analytics bots or provide NLG APIs for the visual representation and interpretation of data. Analytics bots are being offered as stand-alone solutions or as integrations into collaboration apps such as Slack. A variety of solutions include voice query with Amazon Alexa and other personal assistants. Here are several currently available analytics bots.

[Jen Underwood will be presenting Best Practices for Developing Real-time Dashboards on May 17 at the Interop ITX conference in Las Vegas.]

Jen Underwood, founder of Impact Analytix, LLC, is a recognized analytics industry expert. She has a unique blend of product management, design and over 20 years of "hands-on" development of data warehouses, reporting, visualization and advanced analytics solutions. In ... View Full Bio

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