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Painting a picture with data

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Visual data analytics is a lot like painting a picture. The image might not look like much in the beginning, but after time a picture starts to take shape and you’re left with something that speaks louder than words, writes GREATERMAN NKOMO of SAS.

Visual communication is nothing new. Our ancestors used paintings and carvings to make sense of their environment, and it seems they were on to something – research has found that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and that visuals are processed 60 000 times faster in the brain than text.

Much like cave dwellers back in the day, today’s businesses are also trying to make sense of the data-driven world they operate in. But there’s a bigger picture involved. If they want to increase their competitiveness, it’s not enough just to understand the environment; the real value lies in the ability to use data to improve decision-making and performance, predict the future and mitigate risk.

Yet businesses still struggle to cope with the exponentially increasing volumes of data generated internally and externally by clients and partners. They are still looking for more efficient ways to store and retrieve data rather than focusing on the value hidden in that data. Traditional architectures are also not designed to deliver the fast analytical processing needed for rapid insights, a problem that is worsened by the fact that data is still stored in silos in many organisations, providing a fragmented view of the business and any potential opportunities or risks.

Fostering a culture of analytics

Businesses can no longer afford to operate this way – and they don’t have to. Modern visual analytics tools provide a complete platform for analytics visualisation, enabling businesses to identify patterns and relationships in data that were not initially evident. Drag-and-drop functionality and automatic visualisation puts business intelligence into the hands of even the most statistic-averse team member, allowing anyone to visually explore data without having to call on the data scientist or IT department.

This creates a decision-making culture within organisations, equipping people with the tools they need to gain insight into complex problems in order to make well-informed, business-changing decisions.

Follow the data breadcrumbs

Just as artists experiment with different techniques and colour combinations to produce different effects, so can people play around with data to uncover the unexpected. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to visual analytics. Bring whatever data you have – your oils, pastels and acrylic paint, if you will – integrate it with social media and other web data, and see what happens. The data doesn’t have to make sense at first – the beauty of visual analytics software is that everything is automatic – you only need to follow the data’s lead and let it paint its own picture. Automated analytics makes value extraction easy. In-memory processing makes it fast. Businesses can explore billions of rows of data, without the need to subset or sample it, to identify new patterns, explore hidden relationships, test hypotheses in seconds, and share those insights with the right people, at the right time, in a format that they can understand, whether that’s on a desktop or mobile device. These reports enable collaborative, engaging discussions that can drive deeper insights – and better decisions.

Don’t know why you’re losing customers? Analytics can show you where the churn is happening and you may be surprised to know that it has something to do with the service they get from your call centre, for example. How do you know this? By analysing the sentiment of what people are saying about your business on social media and comments on other online platforms, which can be conveniently displayed in a format that the decision makers understand. By digging deeper, you may find that it’s not the call centre staff that are providing the bad service, but perhaps dropped calls and poor quality lines due to ageing infrastructure. The knee-jerk response might have been to retrain your call centre staff rather than replace your equipment; through scenario planning and predictive analytics, you can save thousands in lost time and money.

Ultimately, everyone, in any role, is a decision-maker. Having tools that present data in a way that is visual, easy to understand, fosters collaboration and supports mobility enables savvy businesses to recognise trends and use them as competitive differentiators. Visual data analytics might be messy at first, but with a bit of creativity and exploration, you could be left with a masterpiece that’s worth more than any amount of money could buy.

* Greaterman Nkomo, Account Executive, Visual Analytics, SAS

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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