Robin Bloor and I were briefed by SAS about some of its visualization technologies last week as part of the research we’re undertaking in innovations in BI.
SAS has thought a lot about visualization. In fact, the company has an interesting user centric UI model that actually looks at classes of users across various visualization techniques including dashboards, reporting, application graphics, and interactive graphics. What was particularly intriguing to us was this interactive graphics product called JMP.
It’s not new
I admit that I was unaware of this visualization tool. I suspect that I am not alone. SAS actually developed JMP in the late 1980s in order to link graphics and data. The product now runs with an in memory data structure that can handle upwards of 32 gigabytes of data (depending on your set up). The visualization options that SAS provides run the gamut from the basic to the sophisticated, with links to its more complex analytics. The latest version of JMP provides a data-filtering feature that allows users to focus on subsets of data and highlight across attributes. JMP 7.0 also provides some well-designed bubble plots and some new three-dimensional scatter plots and non-parametric density contours (and spinning features with live scales!). You can see some examples by clicking here.
Particularly exciting to both Robin and I is how SAS is incorporating animation into the product. Robin wrote about this in his blog this past week. The folks at SAS (correctly) appreciate that people can understand information better through animation and that the actual visualization of how data changes can be very helpful in analysis. JMP provides an easy way of automating this animation by a series of sliders.
Visualization techniques must continue to grow in importance because people need a better way to gain insight from data than simple charts and reports can provide. We’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg with SAS and I’m sure we’ll both have more to say on the topic. Stay tuned.