SAS continues its unbroken streak of revenue growth dating back to its founding in 1976 with $3.2 billion in sales for 2016. And in looking ahead for 2017, its top marketing officer sees big opportunities for the software giant coming through artificial intelligence as well as the hot Internet of Things.

In the first of a two-part exclusive Q&A, Chief Marketing Officer Randy Guard talks about the Cary-based firm’s outlook after SAS as is its customs presented an annual recap on its annual performance. (Part one: What to expect in 2017 – modest hiring, possible Asia expansion)

Revenues edged up to $3.2 billion from $3.16 billion in 2015. (Read more about that in the related blog.)

As for future opportunities, Guard talked about what IoT means for analytics and SAS as well as the increasing growth of artificial intelligence and cognitive computing, perhaps best symbolized by IBM’s Watson.

Our Q&A:

  • Is Internet of Things a major opportunity for SAS? If so, how? Does pushing intelligence to more devices not make analytics more accessible?

We definitely see IoT as an opportunity for SAS. Our customers are dealing with massive amounts of data from sensors and real-time data streams.

Our software can analyze streaming data, for example from a sensor in your car, and generate split-second decisions that happen at a speed and volume impossible for humans.

We and our customers see the value in pushing the decisioning to the edge where appropriate. That is why our platform is architected to allow for analysis and distribution of decisioning – for example, embedded in the connected device.

  • How about Artificial Intelligence such as IBM’s Watson and cognitive computing? How can SAS capitalize on these opportunities?

SAS has supported cognitive technologies in analytics for decades and already contributes critical components to the cognitive computing mix.

These include unparalleled natural language processing and open, deep learning API (application programming interface) libraries sitting on top of advanced analytics, including the new SAS Viya platform.

[What is Viya? SAS pitches it this way: “From the world leader in analytics comes a modern, open platform that conquers analytics challenges – from experimental to mission-critical. SAS Viya is a single, cloud-ready environment that serves everyone – from data scientists to business analysts, application developers to executives – with the reliable, scalable, secure analytics management and governance essential for agile IT.” Read more at: ]

Combined, they help developers create cognitive computing systems and apply them to high volumes of fast-moving data from text and images. The goal of cognitive computing is to help people and machines interact in natural ways.

AI and cognitive computing will be continued areas of investment for us in 2017.