New types have been added to Excel that rely on AI to recognize rich data types such as countries. The first data types to be added are Stocks and Geography, but more will be added in the future.
The AI behind the new types comes from Microsoft Knowledge Graph, the same intelligent service that powers Bing. This allows Excel to recognize, in context, whether there’s a specific meaning for a piece of text so it can be converted to a specific type of data. The feature relies on Excel having a cloud connection, hence the introduction into Office 365, Microsoft’s online Office offering.
The Geography data type includes information such as States, Countries, Zip Codes and Cities. The Stocks data includes ticker symbols, fund names, and company names. Most importantly, the current stock price is also included and can be fetched when required.
The Geography data type means Excel would recognize that Colombia was a country, and as such as attributes such as population size and gross domestic product. Users will be able to take those properties and use them in other cells or formulae, and if the details change, the up-to-date figures will be reflected in the cells. The new feature appears in the Excel Data tab, and when a choice is ambiguous, Excel will offer different options to the user. More organizational data types are planned to be added in the future.
The facility draws not just on the Knowledge Graph, but on a new service called Skydance that sends strings to the graph. There are also new elements to the user interface to allow users to work with the Knowledge Graph’s results.
Knowledge Graph (aka Bing Satori) is based on work by Microsoft Research. It is a graph-based repository that uses the Resource Description Framework and the SPARQL query language. It is based on Trinity, Microsoft Research’s distributed, in-memory, large graph processing engine.