Exposé – the 2019 Microsoft Worldwide Partner of the Year, runner up in the category of Power BI

We are delighted to announce that Exposé has been named as the runner up for the 2019 Microsoft Global Partner of the year award in the category Power BI. We’re proud to add this global award to our two previous Microsoft Australian Partner Awards in 2016 and 2017. This achievement is no small feat given how young we are and is truly a testament to our talented and committed team; both in Adelaide and Melbourne.

The SA Water solution we submitted for this global award, followed our tried and tested best practice approach, ensuring a thorough understanding and delivery of business outcomes first, with the technology simply being the enabler. We constantly bend and push the envelope on technology, in this instance Power BI, to deliver the required outcomes, rather than make outcomes bend to technology.

“The modularity and scalability provided by the Power BI and the larger Azure platform allowed us to tailor something pretty unique to our customer and their challenging requirements. It allowed us to create a truly scalable, responsive and extendable IOT based analytical ecosystem that can be scaled out to thousands of devices, leveraging complex alarm rules controlled by users, visual remote monitoring and responsive actions, visual analysis, and now deep learning over the data.” Etienne Oosthuysen, National Manager, Technology and Solutions

“I am incredibly proud of our team for delivering a solution for SA Water which has not only over delivered on our customer’s requirements, but has now been recognised globally as a best of breed solution. Thank you to SA Water for trusting us with your data and allowing us to develop a forward thinking solution.” Kelly Drewett, General Manager

See the nominated SA Water solution case study here.

See a short video of the solution here.

Artificial Intelligence and Occupational Health and Safety – AI an enabler or a threat

We increasingly hear statements like, “machines are smarter than us” and “they will take over our jobs”. The fact of the matter is that computers can simply compute faster, and more accurately than humans can. So, in the short video below, we instead focus on how machines can be used to assist us do our jobs better, rather than viewing AI as an imminent threat. It shows how AI can assist in better occupational health and safety in the hospitality industry. It does however apply to many use cases across many industries, and positions AI as an enabler. Also see an extended description of the solution after the video demo.

Image and video recognition – a new dimension of data analytics

With the introduction of video, image and video streaming analytics, the realm of advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence just stepped up a notch.

All the big players are currently competing to provide the best and most powerful versions;   Microsoft with Azure Cognitive Services APIs, Amazon with AWS Rekognition, Google Cloud Video Intelligence as well as IBM with Intelligent Video Analytics.

Not only can we analyse textual or numerical data historically or in real time, we’re now able to extend this to use cases of videos and images. Currently, there are API’s available to carry out these conceptual tasks:

  • Face Detection

o   Identify a person from a repository / collection of faces

o   Celebrity recognition

  • Facial Analysis

o   Identify emotion, age, and other demographics within individual faces

  • Object, Scene and Activity Detection

o   Return objects the algorithm has identified within specific frames i.e. cars, hats, animals

o   Return location settings i.e. kitchen, beach, mountain

o   Return activities from video frame i.e. riding, cycling, swimming

  • Tracking

o   Track movement/path of people within a video

  • Unsafe Content Detection

o   Auto moderate inappropriate content i.e. Adult only content

  • Text Detection

o   Recognise text from images

The business benefits

Thanks to cloud computing, this complex and resource demanding functionality can be used with relative ease by businesses.  Instead of having to develop complex systems and processes to accomplish such tasks, a business can now leverage the intelligence and immense processing power of cloud products, freeing them up to focus on how best to apply the output.

In a nutshell, vendors offering video and image services are essentially providing users API’s which can interact with the several located cloud hosts they maintain globally. All the user needs to do, therefore, is provide the input and manage the responses provided by the many calls that can be made using the provided API’s. The exposé team currently have the required skills and capability to ‘plug and play’ with these API’s with many use cases already outlined.

Potential use cases

As capable as these functions already are, improvements are happening all the time.  While the potential scope is staggering, the following cases are based on the currently available. There are potentially many, many more – the sky really is the limit.

Cardless, pinless entry using facial recognition only

This is a camera used to view a person’s face, which then gets integrated with the facial recognition API’s.  This then sends a response, which can be used to either open the entry or leave it shut. Not only does this improve security, preventing the use of someone else’s card, or pin number, but if someone were to follow another person through the entry, security can be immediately alerted. Additional cameras can be placed throughout the secure location to ensure that only authorised people are within the specified area.

Our own test drive use case

As an extension of the above cardless, pinless entry using facial recognition only use case, additional API’s can be used to not only determine if a person is authorised to enter a secure area, but to check if they are wearing the correct safety equipment. The value this brings to various occupational health and safety functions is evident.

We have performed the following scenario ourselves, using a selection of API’s to provide the alert. The video above demonstrates a chef who the API recognises using face detection.  Another API is then used to determine that he is wearing the required head wear (a chef’s hat). As soon as the chef is seen in the kitchen not wearing the appropriate attire, an alert is sent to his manager to report the incident.

Technical jargon

To provide some understanding of how this scenario plays out architecturally, here is the conceptual architecture used in the solution showcased in the referenced Video.

Architecture Pre-requisite:

·        Face Repository / Collection

Images of faces of people in the organisation. The vendors solution maps facial features, e.g. distance between eyes, and stores this information against a specific face. This is required by the succeeding video analytics as it needs to be able to recognise a face from various angles, distances and scenes. Associated with the faces are other metadata such as name, date range for permission to be on site, and even extra information such as work hours.

Architecture of the AI Process:

·        Video or Images storage

Store the video to be processed within the vendors storage location within the cloud, so it is accessible to the API’s that will be subsequently used to analyse the video/image.

·        Face Detection and Recognition API’s

Run the video/images through the Face Detection and Recognition API to determine where a face is detected and if a particular face is matched from the Face Repository / Collection.  This will return the timestamp and bounding box of the identified faces as output.

·        Frame splitting

Use the face detection output and 3rd party video library to extract the relevant frames from the video to be sent off to additional API’s for further analysis.  Within each frames timestamp create a subset of images from the detected faces bounding box, there could be 1 or more faces detected in a frame.  The bounding box extract will be expanded to encompass the face and area above the head ready for the next step.

·        Object Detection API’s

Run object detection over the extracted subset of images from the frame.  In our scenario we’re looking to detect if the person is wearing their required kitchen attire (Chef hat) or not.  We can use this output in combination with the person detected to send an appropriate alert.

·        Messaging Service

Once it has been detected that a person is not wearing the appropriate attire within the kitchen an alert mechanism can be triggered to send to management or other persons via e-mail, SMS or other mediums. In our video we have received an alert via SMS on the managers phone.

Below we have highlighted the components of the Architecture in a diagram:

Conclusion

These are just a couple of examples of how we can interact with such powerful functionality; all available in the cloud. It really does open the door to a plethora of different ways we can interact with videos and images and automate responses. Moreover, it’s an illustration of how we can analyse what is occurring in our data, extracted from a new medium – which adds an exciting new dynamic!

Video and image analytics opens up immense possibilities to not only further analyse but to automate tasks within your organisation. Leveraging this capability, the exposé team can apply our experience to your organisation, enabling you to harness some of the most advanced cloud services being produced by the big vendors. As we mentioned earlier, this is a space that will only continue to evolve and improve with more possibilities in the near future.

Do not hesitate to call us to see how we may be able to help.

 

Contributors to this solution and blog entry:

Jake Deed – https://www.linkedin.com/in/jakedeed/

Cameron Wells – https://www.linkedin.com/in/camerongwells/

Etienne Oosthuysen – https://www.linkedin.com/in/etienneo/

Chris Antonello – https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopher-antonello-51a0b592/

 

Internet of Mice

Advanced analytics

The Internet of Mice – Our IoT and Advanced Analytics Solution

Understanding how animals involved in research move and eliminating as much human handling as possible makes for a much more humane environment for the animals. The outcome is more accurate results for the researchers. See how our IoT and Advanced Analytics solution developed for our customer strives towards a humane research environment and delivers more intelligent insights to researchers.

See more about IoT

Our YouTube channel

Our youtube Channel

We have a growing list of videos on our YouTube channel where you can find some selected case studies, test drives and solutions. Get an inside look at the world of Smart Analytics.

Topics include:  Advanced Analytics, Cognitive Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented- and Virtual Reality, IOT and Business Intelligence

Feel free to subscribe as we are constantly adding new videos.

Our YouTube channel

 

Power BI Report Server – A Quick Walk Through

Power BI

Just about any implementation of a reporting environment within an organisation will have different styles of reports for different purposes. These reports may be operational\paginated, self-service using Excel, and\or highly interactive and user-friendly Power BI reports. The central question then beckons, how do all our users access these reports within one location which is easily accessible?

Typically businesses that are heavy users of Microsoft products would use SharePoint to provide a portal to the various documents and reports that need to be shared within the organisation; including Self Service and Operational style reports. SharePoint has been an ideal intranet tool for over 15 years and continues to provide an excellent service for content management. However, Power BI is taking a substantial share of the BI Reporting market, even more so with organisations already heavily invested in Microsoft products.  Therefore having a portal that interacts with this reporting tool is becoming more and more necessary.

For organisations that want to have a one-stop shop for their entire suite of reports, including Power BI, as well as those who’d like to provide a portal for accessing reports without the overhead of a SharePoint installation, then you’ll be happy to learn that as of July 2017 there’s something for you!

We are happy to announce that SQL Server Reporting Services Portal, which was released with SQL Server 2016, has a more enhanced version which is named Power BI Report Server. The Power BI Report Server provides a portal for several types of Microsoft reports, including Excel, but most importantly, is its interactivity with Power BI reports. Previously, Power BI had no mechanism to be interacted with on premises, along with other types of Reports.

In this article, I will:

  • Discuss what this means for businesses.
  • Explain why you would use Power BI Report Server.
  • Provide some examples of what the portal looks like.
  • Highlight this as a great stepping stone from on Premises Power BI desktop Reporting into off premises Power BI as a Service Reporting

What does this mean for businesses (business benefits)

For organisations who already have SQL Server Enterprise with Software Assurance:

The Power BI Report Server is available to you as part of your Software Assurance licensing agreement with SQL Server Enterprise Edition. Your business is primed to make use of the benefits that Power BI Report Server provides with a relatively simple installation process.

Instead of using a network file share or other methods to provide access to report files, upload the reporting files to the Power BI Reporting Server Portal. Folders and security can be applied within the portal to restrict what AD members can see and do. Documentation files and other files types can also be uploaded much like a content management system.

For organisations already using SharePoint for their Reporting Portal:

It is no longer necessary to use SharePoint as a portal to provide access to the suite of reports your business uses. Transitioning from SharePoint to Power BI Report Server can save a considerable amount from licensing, but also time spent maintaining and having skills on hand to manage your SharePoint server. Instead of continuing to be dependent on a complex and costly on-premises content management system, the Power BI Report Server is almost like for like for accessing Reports. It has one other significant benefit; interaction with Power BI.

For organisations wanting to use Power BI on premises:

Power BI Report Server is the on-premises portal of Power BI. Power BI is also the replacement of Power View which has existed since SQL Server 2012, and it is a significantly more feature rich tool in comparison. Therefore, if wanting to deploy Power BI Desktop Reports on-premise within your organisation, alongside other reports such as Reporting Services and Excel, and primarily make these reports accessible to a range of users using a portal, then Power BI Report Server is your best option.

See this short video on how the single Power BI Report Server hosts Excel, Power BI and Reporting Services reports and how the Portal is used to access all three.

Why Power BI Report Server

Power BI Report Server is the content management system for Power BI Desktop Reports and other Microsoft compatible reports, although it can store other file types too. It is an on-premises solution which provides a portal and integration of several reporting services in one location. This includes Power BI Desktop, SSRS and Excel among other types. The Power BI Reporting Server is more or less the SQL Server Reporting Services Portal, except it provides for the first time, a portal, for the entire suite of reports that Microsoft offers. Power BI Report Server is SQL Server Reporting Services Portal on steroids!

  • Power BI Report Server is compatible with SSRS, Excel and Power BI Desktop files.
  • Other report styles are also offered within this portal such as:
    • Mobile Reports which are mobile device friendly
    • Report Builder for ad-hoc report generation
    • KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) are simplistic reports which can give an indication of a simple trend.
  • Data Connections can be created and subsequently used throughout the reports uploaded to the portal. Direct Connections include:
    • Microsoft SQL Server
    • Microsoft Azure SQL Database
    • Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services
    • Microsoft SharePoint Lists
    • Oracle Essbase
    • SAP BW
    • OLE DB
    • ODBC
    • XML
  • Documents can be uploaded to the portal for use as training guides.
  • Branding, including colour schemes, can be applied
  • Active Directory User Groups\members can be used to set access controls to allow what users can see, and\or connect to.
  • PowerBI essentially replaces the need for PowerView except PowerBI is a much more powerful tool
  • Power BI Desktop (on-prem) doesn’t have all the functionality of the Power BI as a Service (Cloud) has, such as Natural Language Queries, Dashboards and PBI Apps.
  • The Power BI Desktop files will render within the Reporting portal but can be downloaded as a file and opened in Power BI Desktop allowing the user to make changes to the report, which can then be uploaded as a new report.
  • An Excel Worksheet\Template can be uploaded with a particular look and feel ready for Users to interact with, without starting from scratch. The Excel file can be rendered within the browser if Office Online Server (OOS) has been installed on the server, otherwise, will need to be downloaded to the user’s PC before it can be manipulated.

An example of what the Portal looks like

Power BI Report Server is a great stepping stone towards Power BI as a Service

An alternative to using Power BI Desktop is Power BI as a Service, which is the cloud offering of Power BI. Power BI in the cloud has its own style of the content management system, but this is off premises. Using Power BI Desktop on premises with Power BI Desktop Server as the portal to share these reports, is a great stepping stone towards a transition to using Power BI in the cloud, as the power BI Desktop reports are fully compatible with Power BI in the cloud, therefore can be uploaded when ready in the future.

Conclusion

Power BI Report Server is the recommended portal to access reports generated by the entire suite of Microsoft Reporting tools. PowerBI is an industry leader in BI functionality and is highly recommended to be leveraged. The Power BI Report Server therefore seamlessly integrates SSRS, Excel and Power BI desktop together along with other reporting styles like Mobile and KPI’s. It responds similarly to SharePoint for content management, but with much less overhead for installation and administration. Security within Windows AD Groups will also be able to be applied like for like compared with SharePoint which makes for a quite a simple transition from SharePoint to Power BI Report Server. Using Power BI Report server and getting used to developing BI Reports within Power BI is also future-proofing your organisation, as Power BI as a service will readily accept any Power BI reports developed for this platform and be usable within the cloud.

* Update – 5th of November 2017

As mentioned in this video walkthrough, Power BI Report Server has its own release cycle, ensuring updates and enhancements are more frequently provided than would be if associated with SQL Server releases. The latest release of Power BI Report Server was in late October 2017 with these features:

  • Support for imported data in Power BI reports
  • Ability to view excel workbooks within the web portal. This is done by configuring Office Online Server.
  • Support for the new Power BI table and matrix visuals.
  • REST API support

More detail about the release notes is provided on the Power BI Website.

See another blog post about Power BI Here

Get more from your Retail data with Predictive Analytics

This case study showcases our solution that allows Sales and Marketing to match customers to the products they are most likely to buy using retail data and predictive analytics. This case study is just as relevant today as it was just shy of one year ago when we created it. Combining this solution with Cognitive Intelligence such as facial recognition (as shown in the article here) provides even more opportunity in the retail sector.

Better Client Care with IoT – Our Eldercare Case Study

Utilising Internet-connected devices and real-time Advanced Analytics, we created a solution that provides better client care, a reduction in cost, time and potential health risks.

The solution helps the organisation overcome customer wellbeing challenges. Medication and Food must be kept at constant temperatures. This clever solution uses Azure IoT Suite and Cortana Intelligence Suit of technologies to create a proactive monitoring solution and ensures the maximum wellbeing of aged care clients.

See the video case study here:

See the full case study here: exposé case study – Eldercare