darren whittingham - Fotolia

Microsoft buys R language vendor Revolution Analytics; FTC on IoT

This news recap looks at Microsoft's planned purchase of R analytics software vendor Revolution Analytics and a new report from the FTC on securing Internet of Things data.

In a move aimed at strengthening its portfolio of advanced analytics tools, Microsoft plans to acquire Revolution Analytics, a software vendor whose products are based on the open source R language and statistical analysis environment. Also in this news recap: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has released a report with a set of recommendations for companies on protecting customer data collected via the Internet of Things.

Microsoft says it wants a Revolution

Microsoft announced its planned acquisition of Mountain View, Calif.-based Revolution Analytics in a blog post. Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of machine learning at Microsoft, wrote that the move would help the company take advantage of the growing need among businesses for simplified yet powerful data science capabilities.

"We are making this acquisition to help more companies use the power of R and data science to unlock big data insights with advanced analytics," Sirosh wrote.

The R programming language, which Revolution Analytics' software is based on, is extremely popular among data scientists. In recent years, Microsoft has been losing ground among this group, even as many businesses have looked to increase the role that data science plays in their decision making processes.

For example, Gartner Inc.'s initial Magic Quadrant for Advanced Analytics Platforms report, published last February, said that Microsoft's SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services software fails to deliver adequate functionality when compared to market leaders like SAS Institute and IBM. Gartner ranked Revolution Analytics significantly higher than Microsoft in the report, citing the ability of its Revolution R software to support more advanced statistical analyses.

That's not to say Revolution R is without drawbacks. For one thing, its reliance on R coding requires extensive knowledge of the analytics programming language, which could force prospective users to invest in new skills and resources.

Aside from updating Microsoft's advanced analytics offerings, the acquisition will also expand its open source technology lineup. In a separate blog post, David Smith, chief community officer at Revolution Analytics, acknowledged that Microsoft "might seem like a strange bedfellow for an open-source company."

But Smith said that Microsoft has been making efforts to get more deeply involved in open source technology, as seen in initiatives such as its support for Linux on its Azure cloud service and its work with Hadoop distribution vendor Hortonworks on adding enterprise computing features to the big data processing framework. Smith added that Microsoft's "big-company resources" will enable Revolution Analytics to expand its customer base and invest more money in its software and the R language open source project.

FTC weighs in on IoT data privacy, security

The Federal Trade Commission issued a report this week with recommendations for businesses on keeping customer data private and secure as they adopt Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

The primary recommendation of the report involves data minimization, an idea that calls on businesses to collect only the data they need for specific purposes and to delete consumer data after a set period of time.

Additionally, the FTC advised businesses that are considering IoT technology to:

  • Build security into devices connected to the IoT
  • Provide employees with training on the importance of security and how to properly handle consumer data
  • Only work with business partners that are capable of securing consumer data
  • Examine ways to enhance network security
  • Monitor the security of connected devices throughout their lifespan and provide security patches when necessary

In a statement on the report, the FTC pointed out that consumers are rapidly adopting IoT devices, including health monitors, home security systems and other equipment. The situation requires businesses that handle data from such devices to do so with care, the agency said.

The report stopped short of calling for official regulations regarding IoT data, a position endorsed by the Future of Privacy Forum, an advocacy group supported by a variety of large companies. In a statement, the FPF said new regulations could crush innovation in the IoT market just as it's starting to develop.

The group also praised the FTC for recognizing the potential for "beneficial uses" of IoT data that could strain data minimization processes or warrant out-of-context usage of some information. However, the FPF said the agency was being "overly cautious" in worrying "that allowing companies alone to judge the bounds of such uses without legislation would lead to mistakes." The group added that the FTC already has the power to take action against companies that cross the line, and it called on the Obama administration to include in an upcoming Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights proposal provisions that would "frame the parameters for out-of-context uses or data retention" through codes of conduct and the use of so-called consumer subject review boards.

Ed Burns is site editor of SearchBusinessAnalytics. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter: @EdBurnsTT.

Next Steps

Commercial applications featuring the R language are growing

See how Revolution Analytics is bringing R coding to AWS

Dig Deeper on Internet of Things (IoT) Privacy and Data Governance