Microsoft on Monday announced the general availability of Power BI Pro and HD Insights data visualization tools and a preview of its Cognitive Insights on the Azure Government cloud.

“HDInsight and Power BI bring exciting new capabilities to Azure Government that enable organizations to manage, analyze, and visualize large quantities of data,” wrote Tom Keane, general manager for Microsoft Azure, in a blog post announcing the capabilities. “HDInsight unlocks the ability to build data and machine learning applications that run on Apache Spark and Hadoop. Power BI allows for the aggregation of data and visualization with easy to operate dashboard functionality.”

Susie Adams, CTO of Microsoft Federal, explained that the capabilities enable non-experts within the government to more easily visualize data and detect trends or anomalies.

“When you go in and start slicing and dicing the data, you no longer have to be an Excel guru to be able to do this. You can do it in the cloud tech’s visualizations, and then export it to cubes or export it to ways that you’re used to dealing with that data,” Adams said in an interview with MeriTalk at the Microsoft Tech Summit in Washington, D.C. “This is basically democratizing business intelligence. You no longer really have to be a power user.”

She added that even NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab was using Excel spreadsheets to execute complex calculations, which could take days to complete. Using the cloud, however, the same process can take a matter of minutes.

“Using data-driven insights to help make faster and more informed decisions is increasingly important: Power BI can help agencies visualize and analyze data in one place, and create personalized dashboards to quickly monitor and drill down into their most important information without running legacy reporting solutions,” wrote Curt Kolcun, vice president of Microsoft’s U.S. Public Sector.

Microsoft also announced a preview of its cognitive services, a suite of artificial intelligence capabilities that, according to Keane, “have enabled scenarios such as audio and text translation into other languages as well as facial (gender and age) and emotion recognition with Computer Vision and Emotion.”

“We call it our cognitive services, because most people think of AI as this computer that is like a human and will take over the world. We’re not there yet, we’re just in the beginning of artificial intelligence,” said Adams.

According to Adams, these cognitive services have the ability to aid in real-time translation and facial recognition for border patrol and law enforcement, and to help predict when potholes in roads or problems with military equipment need repair before they fail.

“All of a sudden you could start bringing items out of service before they break, to save people’s lives,” Adams said.

The announcement also adds to Microsoft’s FedRAMP and Department of Defense compliance profile, which Adams said they work to accomplish quickly for every new capability.

“We have 32 services now, we just added 12 more services to our FedRAMP High scope for Azure government, and I think that’s huge,” Adams said. “You’ll start to see, as our services roll out for Azure government, that shortly after they go to general availability they’ll also be in our FedRAMP scope.”

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Jessie Bur
Jessie Bur
Jessie Bur is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Cybersecurity, FedRAMP, GSA, Congress, Treasury, DOJ, NIST and Cloud Computing.