Universities may use voice recognition technology similar to Apple’s Siri to analyze data collected about students, faculty and staff.
John Rome, deputy chief information officer at Arizona State University, spoke Monday to a crowd of about 40 business intelligence professionals from colleges and universities around the world. Business intelligence, also known as BI, is the use of data systems to improve decision making.
Rome’s talk about voice recognition technology was part of the Higher Education Data Warehousing Conference hosted by UT April 15-17.
Rome said the convenience and accuracy of technologies like Siri prove that universities will inevitably apply voice recognition tools to business-oriented tasks.
“The future, sooner rather than later, is that we will use something like Siri on top of BI,” he said. “There will come a day when we can use phones for data analytics.”
Rome said universities use data analytics to more effectively recruit students, identify struggling students and differentiate between good and bad teaching techniques.
As content and businesses become more geared toward smartphones and tablets, so too will data analysis tools, Rome said.
“By 2013, 33 percent of BI will be consumed on mobile devices and 80 percent of businesses will support tablets,” he said. “By 2014, there will be more mobile devices than laptops or desktops.”
IT professional Carrie Shumaker of the University of Michigan, one of UT’s peer institutions, said students demand more data-driven applications from her university.
“Students want to develop apps and to access data to build their apps around,” Shumaker said. “We will develop the app if it’s worthwhile, but if it’s something our university puts out, it needs to follow our standards.”
Jeff Stark, a data warehouse manager for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an organizer of the conference, said the field of data analytics is trying to find a balance between usability and technical depth.
“Many of our tools are too robust for mobile apps because they were developed for researchers and statisticians,” Stark said.
Among universities, UT is at the forefront of developing data analysis tools and making those tools more accessible, said Vijay Thiruvengadam, the director and data architect of the University’s Information Quest project.
“Our mantra is ‘Crawl, walk, run,” he said. “We take an incremental approach and do smaller things first.”
In the opinion of other universities, UT is more than running — it is flying, Thiruvengadam said. But only high-level faculty and staff currently have access to UT’s business intelligence tools, and the Information Quest project has a lot more scaling up to do, he said.
“[Information Quest] has 1,800 users who can look at financial, student and faculty data,” Thiruvengadam said.
“People want us to be at the fly stage, but we’re at the walk stage now.”