Since Power BI’s release in late 2014, Microsoft has been tinkering under the hood to make its entirely cloud-based platform faster, easier to use, more powerful and more accessible through the introduction of increasingly effective dashboards.

This week, Microsoft took a giant step forward by unveiling new preview functionality for Power BI that will allow it to pump real-time data into those dashboards.

Real Fast in Real-Time

Power BI’s real-time dashboards — known as Real-Time Dashboard tiles — builds on the earlier Power BI REST APIs release to create real-time tiles within minutes. The tiles push data to the Power BI REST APIs from streams of data created in PubNub, a real-time data streaming service currently used widely for building web, mobile and IoT applications.

The functionality promises to be so fast that it should be possible to generate insights while customers are still browsing a retail store.

Quick Decisions on Time-Sensitive Information

And that’s what this is all about: Although many analytics applications currently on the market claim to offer real-time insights, those insights haven’t truly harnessed the ability to reflect — and then act upon — customer behavior on a real-time basis.

“Real-time data empowers users to make quick decisions on time-sensitive information, and to identify emergent trends as they happen,” Sirui Sun, program manager for Power BI wrote in a post earlier this week.

Sophisticated but User-Friendly Insights

What’s even better is that the tiles appear to be really easy to create if you are already a Power BI user, building on the massive traction Microsoft has gained in the business intelligence space through its commitment to making Power BI extremely user-friendly.

Learning Opportunities

One of Power BI’s major enterprise selling points has been that users can design and visualize data without needing strong technical skills or having to involve IT.

Higher Functionality, More Cost-Effective

The release of the new real-time data capabilities follows the release at the end of last month of data-driven alerts that flag changes to important metrics by creating alerts on dashboards once the chosen metric exceeds a set threshold. Alert notifications are then sent as emails which appear in the notification center on the web and in mobile apps.

Add into the mix the fact that, as Gartner pointed out in this year’s Magic Quadrant for BI, Microsoft has substantially lowered the price of Power BI from its original $39.95 per user per month to $9.95 per user per month.

Combined, these upgrades continue to give Power BI an edge by making it a lot more sensitive to changes in customer behaviors and ensuring that any change in that behavior is flagged as soon as it happens.