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New products cross IoT with business analytics software

The internet of things is generally thought of as a data source, but new business reporting software from Sisense is leveraging the concept for data consumption.

Looking at a computer screen is no longer the only way to consume data or reports from business analytics software.

This month Sisense Inc., New York-based maker of data preparation and business intelligence software, released two new products that bridge the gap between traditional business intelligence (BI) and the internet of things.

The first is a connection to Amazon Echo, the voice-controlled speaker that is supported by a natural language processing platform. By linking Sisense BI software to this platform, business users can query their data by speaking. Users can ask the device to tell them about any parameters established in the data connected to their Sisense software.

The second is a connection to an IoT lightbulb that changes colors based on performance against key performance indicators (KPIs). Again, a business can link its Sisense software to the IoT lightbulb and if performance on a KPI is strong, it will illuminate green. If performance is weak, it will turn red.

Together the new products represent a bit of a departure from traditional BI software. Even the company's CEO, Amir Orad, admitted he initially wondered if the ideas were a bit gimmicky. He wasn't alone.

"When I first heard about it I kind of thought it was gimmicky," said Todd Winton, development manager at supply chain management company CTSI-Global, based in Memphis, Tenn. The firm is a Sisense customer that recently started using the IoT lightbulb connector. "I really didn't put any thought into it until they asked us if we wanted to be in the beta, and then I started thinking about the different areas where this could be a benefit."

It's turned out putting the product in place has paid off. He deployed to the company's customer support team. There is one bulb set up in a central area for the group and it tracks a KPI measuring how often the team logs into the BI software. If the team collectively logs in fewer than five times in a day it shows red. But if the team uses the software more than 20 times it's green. He said user engagement with the BI software has increased by 500% since deployment of the lightbulb.

"We had a real problem getting our internal users to log into the tool," Winton said. "There's something about seeing that red light that makes you take an action."

IoT products like this aren't going to replace traditional desktop-based reporting software, Orad said. But he said he does expect this kind of blended environment to become more common over time. We're already seeing people becoming more comfortable talking to virtual assistants on their phones -- and soon this could become a standard way to interact with technology.

"What we're seeing now is the beginning of something bigger," Orad said.

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