Next time someone says the numbers are speaking to them, take a second look. They might be speaking to you, too.

No, you don't need to have changed into a data scientist overnight. Instead, it's the data that are transforming, going from tables and charts to sentences and stories. The change is happening automatically, without direct intervention of any human translators. The result is compelling narratives that give meaning and context to big data, written entirely by robotic algorithms. For workers of the Industrial Internet age, this is huge, because for the first time, machines are speaking right to us in our own language. And that gives us the clarity and insight to make better decisions.

Reporting Live from the Edge of Analysis

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times broke news of a 4.7 magnitude earthquake--citing its location, time, epicenter, and distance from major cities--all only three minutes after the quake happened. How did the paper break the news so fast? A robot. More specifically, Quakebot, the L.A. Times' news-generating algorithm that's designed to get out basic information on earthquakes quickly and accurately. Quakebot gathered and interpreted information sent out by the U.S. Geological Survey's Earthquake Notification Service and quickly generated an informative report in plain English.

What's interesting about the Quakebot story is that over time, its auto-generated copy got fleshed out with written insights from flesh-and-blood reporters, turning into a full news piece. That's encouraging because it shows how bots can actually aid and complement human judgment and productivity, rather than compete with them.

Spell-It-Out Statistics

Just-the-facts news reports are one thing, but what happens when the data involved are far more complex and technical? The Industrial Internet's applications of big data are used to make major decisions about industrial-scale problems. Can algorithms make it easier to understand complex business intelligence?

At Narrative Science, algorithms deliver written insights into business data through an artificial intelligence platform called Quill. Narrative Science has been using quill to generate narrative reports with prescriptive recommendations in industries from finance to government to marketing. Similarly, the Wordsmith platform by Automated Insights has been delivering compelling reports for business intelligence, tailored to various levels of management throughout an organization.

While these narrative platforms aren't being used to handle massive, time-critical industrial-scale data just yet, they represent important forays into making big data more accessible. That's important because data are becoming a routine part of working life. As it gets easier to interpret big data, we can start drawing better conclusions from them, and as a result, we can make better decisions about complex problems.

About the author

GE Digital

Driving Digital Transformation

GE Digital connects streams of machine data to powerful analytics and people, providing industrial companies with valuable insights to manage assets and operations more efficiently. World-class talent and software capabilities help drive digital industrial transformation for big gains in productivity, availability and longevity. We do this by leveraging Predix, our cloud-based operating system, purpose built for the unique needs of industry.