SAS has been delivering analytic tools and solutions since it was formed in 1976, and even longer, with the core SAS product initially commencing in 1966 at North Carolina University.
Depending on when you measure the start date, SAS software has been turning data into actionable insights for over 40 or 50 years.
Yet, in many ways, SAS was ahead of its time, with a vision for what could be achieved with data that was constrained by the computational power available.
This is a problem SAS says it can help with, kicking off its annual SAS Global Forum in Dallas on Sunday under the theme “analytics in action".
“Analytics is at the heart of human progress,” said SAS chief executive Dr Jim Goodnight. “It lets you start with an idea like building a smart city and expand to a global effort to combat climate change. It lets you automate mundane tasks and help everyone be more efficient.” “SAS is providing a platform to allow everyone to work with analytics.”
During the Global Forum, the world’s largest analytics conference, SAS staff and customers will share real-world examples of the impact of advanced analytics and artificial intelligence applications of machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing and more. SAS will also offer training to data scientists, business executives, students and academics.
One such real-world example is the New Hanover County Department of Social Services, in the state of North Carolina, affected by a rising tide of opioid-related abuse and neglect. A shocking one in eight residents of the county are abusing opioids — the highest in the US — with a terrible impact on children, becoming drug-dependent themselves, or left alone while their parents or carers have overdosed, or other awful scenarios.
Working with SAS, the county has implemented automation across data collection, machine learning discovery of children at risk, and deployment of real-time alerts to social workers allowing appropriate immediate actions to be performed.
John Deere has applied analytics to computer vision to manufacture equipment which sprays only weeds, not the whole field, delivering economic and environmental enhancements. A jet engine manufacturer is using analytics and computer vision to find defects invisible to the human eye, while an Amsterdam medical centre is using the same technologies to determine the best course of action for cancer patients, and at the same time, a utility company is applying it to vegetation management encroaching on power lines.
Analytics does these things; it protects people, it detects abnormalities, it knows exactly what your customers want, builds a better road at less cost, redefines what conservation looks like in the future, keeps the lights on and the power grid stable, and can aid your business also.
“There’s a renewed focus on data and analytics today, driven by increased computing power, a more connected world, and powerful technologies like AI and machine learning,” said Dr Goodnight. “Our challenge is to make use of all data to solving the biggest issues. SAS provides analytics for every kind of user that’s open to all the technologies they have. And these powerful analytics that can help them anywhere, in any business, and scale to the size of any problem.”
SAS chief operating officer and chief technology officer, Oliver Schabenberger, said many organisations have not advanced their digital transformations as far as they want because while they know they have to do something they don’t know where to get started.
“If you are starting on your analytics journey, start with three projects,” he offers, explaining to select projects in your industry, achievable within a year with available skills and technologies, and then when this has been successful extend that success by bringing in external parties to help take it further.
The writer is attending the SAS Global Forum in Dallas, Texas, as a guest of the company.