FreeSight is currently in version 3.1. It runs on Windows and it has an interface that looks and feels like - but is considerably easier to use than - Microsoft Excel. For example, you have to be a pretty experienced Excel user to deploy and manipulate pivot tables whereas FreeSight's equivalent requires far less expertise. The product is available on a 30-day free trial and subscriptions (which include maintenance and upgrades) are just USD $295 per annum per computer. There are effectively three different markets for FreeSight:
- As a stand-alone self-service data preparation platform, potentially linked to a third party front-end visualisation tool.
- As a data collection, preparation and reporting platform, that goes all the way from data capture through data integration and cleansing through to reporting (with charts but not sophisticated visualisations).
- As a platform for capturing and automating what would otherwise be repetitive and error-prone Excel processes.
FreeSight uses a direct marketing approach and does not currently have any channel partners or overseas distributors. Given the price point for the product and that it can be downloaded directly from the company's website (www.freesightweb.com) this is hardly surprising. That being said, there is ample opportunity for technical services providers to add FreeSight to their tool-kit in offering the services they provide, and the company is open to channel opportunity discussions.
Just post "start-up" phase, FreeSight currently has customer numbers measured in three figures. A selection of these are quoted on the company's website and Bloor Research has spoken with others. Users range from banks and finance companies through manufacturing and not-for-profit, to universities. Among FreeSight's most well-known customers are Bank of Montreal, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia and Telus, the Canadian telecommunications company. In principle, FreeSight is applicable across all industries.
FreeSight is a 64-bit Windows-based product that could arguably be described as a (significantly superior) replacement for Microsoft Excel. Specifically, FreeSight is two things: an end-user tool for data preparation and analytics, and, for more advanced users, a development tool for automating reporting and other business processes. The company's users claim significant time savings compared to Excel and that the product is "much more visually appealing and easier to understand from a visual perspective, and is much easier to explain to a non-user or Excel user". Specifically, users work in FreeSight via a visual canvas where all data manipulations are performed, resulting in a process workflow that is live (each node in the workflow provides direct access to underlying data and operations) as opposed to just a picture. This supports both data governance and auditing, as well as the ability to restore to a former state. It is a significant differentiation compared to some other data preparation tools in that with FreeSight you can drill down from nodes in the process flow, and FreeSight also supports the ability to reverse any operation at any time.
From a data preparation perspective FreeSight has extensive semantic capabilities though no machine learning. On the other hand, the company has a number of patents to its name with respect to automated joining and cleansing (the software automatically analyses source data for relationships), as well as strong inferencing and profiling capabilities, all based on the product's semantic strengths.
With respect to Excel, FreeSight supports formulae in much the same way but has an extended catalogue of capabilities with some 80 additional capabilities for things like date and time, text manipulation and so on. The product has auto-charting capabilities that are much easier to use than pivot tables and which makes this sort of capability accessible to business analysts who are not Excel experts. Another notable feature that is lacking in Excel but present in FreeSight is the ability to analyse across different versions of the same spreadsheet (for example, where you have each monthly set of data stored under a different tab).
FreeSight provides custom training as desired, and has a technical services arm that builds custom FreeSight driven applications - often used as part of a training exercise. As the company is located in Toronto, non-local technical services, training and support are offered through web-delivery. There are also a number of tutorials and Help services that are available online and within the product itself.