Cortana now gets business data from Microsoft's Power BI service

New integration puts business analytics at users' beck and call

Microsoft is bringing the Cortana virtual assistant deeper into the business world by combining its capabilities with those of Power BI, the company's business intelligence and analytics service.

With the new integration, Power BI users running the latest version of Windows 10 can ask their computers questions about information stored with the business intelligence service and get answers back in the form of simple numbers, charts and even complex reports, depending on how they have the system set up. 

To get started, administrators just need to select a data source in Power BI (like a SQL Server database), and allow Cortana to access the data set. Once that's done, the assistant will be able to pull information from the data for any user who has access to it in Power BI.

The new features are driven by Power BI's Q&A feature, which means administrators who want to make sure their data is tailored for use with Cortana can use Power BI Desktop to design custom answer sheets that pop up in response to particular questions. Microsoft even released a new template for Power BI Desktop that provides a canvas exactly the size of Cortana's window.

In addition to the Cortana integration, Power BI also received a new Quick Insights feature that runs a variety of algorithms against data that is being passed into the system in order to try and give users an easy look at interesting information. If users like what they see, they can pin it to an analytics dashboard inside Power BI to continue tracking the information. Quick Insights is created as part of a partnership between the Power BI team and Microsoft Research, which plans to provide more new algorithms as time goes on. 

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Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
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