The ability to forecast events at scale, given a set of variables, is something most companies would find useful. So Amazon is aiming to make prediction more accessible with a fully managed service called Forecast that uses AI and machine learning to deliver highly accurate forecasts. It’s now generally available through Amazon Web Services in US East (Ohio), US East (N. Virginia), US West (Oregon), Asia Pacific (Tokyo), Asia Pacific (Singapore), and EU (Ireland) regions, after debuting in preview during Amazon’s re:Invent conference in Las Vegas last November.
As Amazon explained in a press release, Forecast — which is based on the same technology the Seattle company uses to anticipate demand for hundreds of millions of products every day — can be used to build precise forecasts for virtually any business condition, including product demand and sales, infrastructure requirements, energy needs, and staffing levels. It automatically provisions the necessary cloud infrastructure and processes data, building custom AI models hosted on AWS without requiring an ounce of machine learning experience on the part of developers.
Amazon says the API or a console allows the average person to build custom machine learning models in less than five clicks and achieve accuracy levels that would normally take months in as little as a few hours. Moreover, it says Forecasts’s predictions are up to 50% more precise than traditional methods.
Why the accuracy advantage? Two reasons, according to Amazon: (1) Forecast incorporates very large volumes of historical data, ensuring it doesn’t miss out on important signals from the past that are otherwise lost in the noise, and (2) it takes into account related but independent data, which Amazon notes can offer important context. Specifically, Forecast discovers how variables such as product features, seasonality, and store locations affect each other. It leverages those relationships to quickly recognize complex patterns and improve forecast accuracy, setting up a data pipeline, ingesting data, training a model, providing accuracy metrics, and performing forecasts.
“Amazon Forecast now offers the forecasting expertise from Amazon’s first 25 years of building the world’s largest ecommerce business in a managed service for any company to leverage,” said Amazon Machine Learning vice president Swami Sivasubramanian. “We’ve built sophisticated machine learning forecasting algorithms over many years that our customers can now use in Amazon Forecast without having to know anything about machine learning themselves. We can’t wait to see how our customers use the service to reduce operating expenses and inefficiencies, ensure higher resource and product availability, deliver products faster, and lower costs to delight their customers.”
Amazon says that Puget Sound Energy, Washington State’s largest utility with over 1.1 million electric customers and 825,000 natural gas customers in 10 counties, uses Forecast to predict electric and gas consumption at a typical residence as far out as 30 days. Another AWS customer, integrated transportation and logistics service provider CJ Logistics, taps the service to optimize the amount of manpower, transportation, and warehouse space it provisions to meet demand.
The launch of Forecast follows on the heels of Textract, which became generally available in May. In a nutshell, it’s a cloud-hosted and fully managed service that uses machine learning to parse data tables, forms, and whole pages for text and data.