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SAS Boosts AI Capabilities Of Upcoming Release Of Its Business Analytics Platform

Artificial intelligence automation of data preparation and modeling tasks will help customers – and the solution providers that serve them – devote more time to data analysis.

Business analytics software developer SAS is embedding artificial intelligence capabilities into its flagship SAS analytics platform and Viya visual analytics software, part of a broader effort to leverage AI technology across its product portfolio.

The new AI functionality, announced at the SAS Global Forum conference in Denver, will automate data preparation tasks, the often time-consuming steps of cleaning, formatting and transforming data before it can be analyzed.

Additional AI capabilities in Viya will automate some steps associated with building and deploying analytical models.

[Related: 6 Ways IT Vendors Are Using Artificial Intelligence To Strengthen Their Product Portfolios ]

SAS' channel partners are expected to benefit from the AI additions, reducing the amount of time they have to spend on data preparation tasks and allowing them to devote more time to higher-valuable analytical tasks.

"We need people who understand the use cases, the [industry] domain issues, to be solved," said SAS Chief Marketing Officer Randy Guard in an interview at SAS Global Forum about the role of partners in leveraging the AI capabilities.

Solution providers, Guard said, help customers tailor the analytical functionality in SAS software and build the analytical models, based on their expertise in vertical industries or in functional areas like fraud prevention and customer intelligence.

CT Global, a Portland, Ore.-based solution provider and Gold-level SAS partner, could be one such beneficiary. CT Global President Peter B.B. Turney said AI and machine-learning technology would make it easier to leverage the SAS platform's capabilities to help customers derive more value from their data.

"We benefit from that by being able to do more remarkable things," Turney said in an interview with CRN at the conference. His company develops profit analysis solutions around SAS financial and inventory management analytical software and the Viya platform.

Meanwhile, Accenture, which develops financial and risk management solutions around SAS software, will be able to provide customers with more accurate financial risk scores by using AI and machine learning models, said Luther Klein, an Accenture partner and the company's North American banking risk lead.

SAS has also improved the natural language processing abilities of the new Viya release by automating sentiment analysis and document classification using recurrent neural networks, a type of machine-learning technology.

"In today's analytics economy, enterprises require a powerful analytics platform with end-to-end capabilities, from data preparation and data management to creation and deployment of models," SAS' Guard said, speaking more broadly about the new Viya release in a statement.

"The SAS platform and its SAS Viya capabilities provide an open foundation from which data scientists, business users and executives can transform raw data into intelligence," he added.

The new edition of Viya, due out in June, also offers improved data governance functionality through improved data lineage visualization across the analytics life cycle. It provides model performance dashboards and offers an improved user experience through an enhanced user interface.

SAS also announced the creation of a global Fraud and Security Intelligence Division that will develop advanced analytics and artificial intelligence technology to expand the company's fraud and cybersecurity product portfolio. Stu Bradley, previously SAS vice president of cybersecurity solutions, will head up the new division.

Leveraging advanced capabilities, including artificial intelligence, in SAS analytical products to improve people's lives is an overarching theme at the conference. Sunday's keynote, for example, included a demonstration of how SAS analytics can be used to battle the opioid crisis by identifying healthcare providers that over-prescribe opioid drugs.

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