Vocal Commands Arrive for Analytics


The whole purpose of analytics is to translate raw data into something that's understandable to the human eye and can be actioned in a meaningful way. That involves collating that data and actually forming it into something that's easily readable by a person who isn't necessarily versed in parsing complex collections of information. It's not always easy.

One method of making it easier to understand could be on the horizon though: voice commands. Google announced back in July that it was bringing voice controls to its analytics platform, letting users ask natural language questions of their data, removing the need for dashboard navigation and for custom graph making.

One of the key reasons that Google spent as long as three years porting over its vocal translation services to its analytics platform was to enable anyone within a company to make use of the reams of data they store and analyze. You don't need to be an expert in analytics to ask a question of the system, which means less middle-management between individual employees and more direct access to the data which can make a huge difference to how people do their jobs.

This should come as no surprise though. With the expansion of consumer products such as Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana and a host of other smart, digital assistants, voice commands are part of a distinct evolution of how we interact with our devices -- there should be no reason we don't do the same with analytics.

(Image: Amazon)

(Image: Amazon)

Indeed there's a true crossover of consumer and data analytics with services such as Sisense Everywhere, which recently integrated its analytics engines with Amazon's Alexa, and Slack. As VentureBeat highlights, it's made it possible for users to make natural language requests of their data. It does point at the potential limitations of such a system -- visual representations of data are still far more efficient than auditory ones -- but the interaction itself is certainly enhanced through voice commands.

Another aspect that will be certainly bolstered by this sort of interaction is machine learning. Although a system can learn our preferences through the data we look at through traditional means, that restricts learning to users who are already well versed in accessing, curating, and analyzing data themselves, even with the assistance of an analytics system. With vocal commands making it possible for comparative laymen to also make use of analyzed data sets, there's a real potential for analytics systems and the data they spit out to become much more user friendly.

That layman access covers the whole gamut of users, too. While those on the lowest rungs of a business' ladder can make use of it then for their own jobs, regardless of data qualifications, it also means that board members can leverage data more than ever before. They don't need to call in the IT guy just to have them present certain data sets to them. As Economic Times India explains, this could lead to much greater data-driven leadership from the top, which is where it could ultimately be the most impactful.

Data is becoming democratized, not necessarily through its analytics alone, but through a more naturalistic way to read it in a way that's most actionable for the user.

Jon Martindale, Technology Journalist

Jon Martindale is a technology journalist and hardware reviewer, having been covering new developments in the field for most of his professional career. In that time he's tested the latest and greatest releases from the big hardware companies of the world, as well as writing about new software releases, industry movements,and Internet activism.

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Re: beh
  • 10/16/2017 9:52:53 AM
NO RATINGS

I think we're on the same page, SaneIT. When word processing apps can't keep up with basic dictation, not to mention the natural language of conversation between two people or a multi-party discussion, I don't think we need to worry too much about this trend overtaking analytics packages.

Re: beh
  • 10/10/2017 4:12:19 PM
NO RATINGS

@kq4ym: The worst is when I verbally ask my phone to call a certain number in my contacts, but because the contact is or sounds like a business, it gives me a shpiel about activating localization instead of actually dialing the number I have in my contacts.

Re: Awaiting voice commands
  • 10/10/2017 4:10:44 PM
NO RATINGS

@Lyndon: There are also industry-specific concerns.

I just attended a conference where clinical researchers in pharma and the life sciences were bemoaning the state of voice-recognition software for their purposes because of the complexity of scientific language.

Re: beh
  • 10/5/2017 11:52:53 PM
NO RATINGS

..

Tomsg ponders

I wonder if a query will result in a response like" your data is inadequate to respond. Please review your needs with a data prfessional to acquire the proper data".

Or a little further in the future:

"Your query is unintelligible. Please rephrase it so it can be understood and processed by superior intelligence systems ..."

..

Re: beh
  • 10/5/2017 10:51:15 PM
NO RATINGS

Oh wow. I'd add those to the junk folder too!

Do people actually pay someone to show them how to use Alexa more effectively?

Re: beh
  • 10/5/2017 8:29:15 AM
NO RATINGS

Or it could be: "Danger Will Robinson".

Re: beh
  • 10/5/2017 8:22:34 AM
NO RATINGS

Isaac Asimov covered this one,

Five words were printed: INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER.

Re: beh
  • 10/4/2017 9:40:52 AM
NO RATINGS

I wonder if a query will result in a response like" your data is inadequate to respond. Please review your needs with a data prfessional to acquire the proper data".

Re: beh
  • 10/4/2017 9:17:51 AM
NO RATINGS

It does seem that there's still an abundance of the canned responses to simple queries. Once some really sophiticated machine learning takes on voice programming, it should make for some elegant ways to access data and get answers efficiently and quickly.

Awaiting voice commands
  • 10/3/2017 11:33:04 PM
NO RATINGS

..

Maryam writes

I support any update that makes data access faster more accurate and powerful; that said voice commands are still not very accurate and could cause issues with the data produced. Also, all datasets have quirks that need to be understood when making queries and analysis- so these would need to be taken into account with voice command infrastructure.

Having worked with Dragon and several IVR systems I can recognize that voice commands have a way to go before being fully ready for primetime. Nevertheless, when primetime comes, it could certainly be a huge benefit and a relief from some of the tediousness of data searches and analysis.

..

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