Category Archives: cognitive computing

IBM takes Watson to Asia

The globe close up, Asia pastIBM has opened a new research centre in Singapore as it aims to expand its cognitive computing offering Watson into the Asian markets.

The Watson Centre will be located in IBM’s current office at Marina Bay Financial Centre will help commercialize the cognitive, blockchain and design capabilities through partnering with local organizations and co-creating new business solutions. The company claims the new centre will act as a hub for almost 5,000 IBM cognitive solutions professionals in the Asia Pacific region.

Although countries like Japan and China would be considered more mature in their adoption of cloud and next generation technologies, there are numerous others who are in the early stages of adoption. Countries like India and Indonesia have economies which are demonstrating healthy GDP growth at 7.3% and 4.7% respectively, as well as being the third and fifth most populous countries worldwide. Cloud adoption is beginning to accelerate in countries such as these representing a lucrative opportunity for companies such as IBM.

“Watson and blockchain are two technologies that will rapidly change the way we live and work, and our clients in Asia Pacific are eager to lead the way in envisioning and creating that future,” said Randy Walker, CEO IBM Asia Pacific. “Here they can leverage the latest in customer experience design, use cognitive technology to draw insight from vast quantities of data, and draw on IBM’s huge investments in research and development. In partnership with our clients we are nurturing local talent and building an ecosystem to accelerate the development of cognitive solutions and blockchain platforms.”

It would appear the IBM team will be focusing on the financial services, healthcare and tourism industries in the first instance, and the team already have a number of wins in place including Parkway Pantai, DBS Bank and ZUMATA Technologies. The Asian markets have seemingly been a target for Big Blue, and is one of the areas the company has been seeing positive results in recent months. Despite reporting its 16th consecutive quarterly revenue decline in April, the Asian markets were one of the few areas the team saw growth.

Watson has seemingly been the focal point of the company’s efforts to redefine their market position, as the team aim to position itself firmly in the cloud space. Last month the team announced it would teach Watson Korean in an effort to increase the usage and adoption of cloud computing within the region, and acquisitions over recent months have been geared more towards the IoT business unit.

“So where are we in the transformation?” said Martin Schroeter, CFO at IBM during the quarterly earnings call. “It is continued focus on shifting our investments into those strategic imperatives, it is making sure that the space we’re moving to is higher margin and higher profit opportunity for us and then making sure we’re investing aggressively to keep those businesses growing.”

IBM launches interactive ads on Watson

Robotic hand, accessing on laptop, the virtual world of information. Concept of artificial intelligence and replacement of humans by machines.IBM has announced the launch of Watson Ads to harness the AI potential of its cognitive computing platform and create interactive ads, personalized to individual customers. The first offerings of the initiative will be made available through The Weather Company sub-brand.

Personalized advertising has proved to be big business in recent months as brands aim to move away from the blanket marketing approach, as towards a proposition where one-to-one communications are the norm. IBM believe Watson’s ability to understand and comprehend natural language will enable advertisers to interact with customers on a more personal level, and also on a wide scale.

“The dawn of cognitive advertising is truly a watershed moment. Now as part of IBM, we have even more tools and technologies at our disposal to inspire innovations within advertising, artificial intelligence and storytelling,” said Domenic Venuto, GM of Consumer products at The Weather Company. “This is a huge opportunity to expose consumers to all of the surprising and delightful experiences that Watson has in store for them – and to make advertising a truly valuable interaction for both our fans and our marketing partners, which is always our goal.”

IBM claim the new proposition will aide advertiser in numerous ways including a better understanding of brand perception and customer favourability, helping customers make a more informed decision, improve overall experience, optimize creative and advertising strategies, as well as helping marketers use data more effectively.

As part of the initiative, the team will also create the Watson Ads Council, a collection of marketers from various verticals, who will act as a sounding board for the latest innovations leveraging Watson Ads and cognitive advancements in advertising.

“Transforming ourselves and industries is part of The Weather Company DNA,” said Jeremy Steinberg, Global Head of Sales at The Weather Company. “We’ve embraced big data and leveraged it to improve every aspect of our business, from forecast accuracy to ad targeting. Now we’ve set our sights on cognition. We believe human interaction is the new ‘search,’ and that cognitive advertising is the next frontier in marketing – and we’re leading the charge to make it a reality.”

Watson Ads will launch first exclusively across The Weather Company properties, but this is expected to have broad implications for other marketing channels, including out of home, television, connected cars and social media platforms.

IBM’s Watson takes aim at cybersecurity

Anonymous unrecognizable man with digital tablet computerIBM has launched a new cloud-based version of the company’s cognitive technology to tackle the rising challenge of cyber security.

The company’s R&D team have recently completed a year-long research program to teach Watson to understand the nuances of security research findings, which can be used to realize patterns and uncover evidence of hidden cyber-attacks which could have been missed. IBM plan to move the security-version into beta test later this year.

Watson’s new capabilities builds on the skills gap within the security job market, but also the idea that big data in a security perspective is too vast for human capabilities. Like other areas of the cloud industry, simple tasks are being automated, allowing employees to concentrate on the more critical areas of the business. IBM claim the average organization deals with 200,000 pieces of security event data per day, with enterprises spending $1.3 million a year dealing with false positives alone.

“Even if the industry was able to fill the estimated 1.5 million open cyber security jobs by 2020, we’d still have a skills crisis in security,” said Marc van Zadelhoff, GM at IBM Security. “The volume and velocity of data in security is one of our greatest challenges in dealing with cybercrime. By leveraging Watson’s ability to bring context to staggering amounts of unstructured data, impossible for people alone to process, we will bring new insights, recommendations, and knowledge to security professionals, bringing greater speed and precision to the most advanced cybersecurity analysts, and providing novice analysts with on-the-job training.”

The new offering is built on Watson’s ability to learn and reason from unstructured data, 80% of which cannot be processed by non-cognitive tools, and IBM claim the offering will learn from a number of different sources including blogs, articles, videos, reports and alerts. The company believe only 8% of this unstructured data is being utilized currently, making the concept of secure almost impossible. Once Watson for Security is released it will provide customers insights into emerging threats, as well as recommendations on how to stop them.

To further enhance the offering, the team have also announced eight partnerships with various universities to train Watson on the language of cybersecurity. The universities include California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Pennsylvania State University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; New York University; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC); the University of New Brunswick; the University of Ottawa and the University of Waterloo.

IBM teams up with SK C&C to teach Watson learns Korean

Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul, South Korea.SK C&C has continued Korea’s efforts to increase the usage and adoption of cloud computing within the region, announcing a new strategic alliance with IBM focused on the Watson cognitive computing platform.

As part of the agreement, IBM will train Watson to understand and comprehend Korean, and South Korea-based developers will create a number of localized API’s and services to increase adoption rates of such advanced cloud computing technologies in the region. Korean will be Watson’s eighth language, lining up with English, French, Italian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Japanese, and Arabic.

“Watson remains at the forefront of cognitive computing: advanced systems that learn at scale, understand with meaning, reason with purpose and interact with humans in natural ways,” said David Kenny, GM for IBM Watson. “The South Korean marketplace is moving quickly to embrace the disruptive opportunities from next generation technology.

“Our strategic alliance with SK Holdings C&C will put cognitive services in the hands of more businesses and developers, allowing them to apply Watson within their organizations to help transform entire industries and professions.”

Korea has been making positive strides in recent months to increase the adoption rate of cloud computing within the country, announcing a number of initiatives in March. Adoption rates are reported to be as low as 6.4% within the country currently, which could be perceived as low considering the number of tech companies which has grown out of Korea, though the government is planning to increase this to 13% over the next twelve months. Over the same period, the government also plans to increase the number of Korean cloud companies from 353 to 500.

While this announcement focused on cloud computing as a broader technology set, the government also announced plans to invest 100 billion won (approximately $87.2 million) to foster the development of supercomputers. The Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning said it would invest 10 billion won annually for the next 10 years to boost the growth of artificial intelligence, big data, the Internet-of-Things technologies and other emerging industries through supercomputers. The ambition is to create a supercomputer with a data-processing speed of 1 petaflop (PF) in five years, eventually reaching 30 PF by 2025.

As part of the partnership between IBM and SK C&C, the telco will run Watson and Bluemix from its Pangyo Cloud Centre, to foster the growth of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence. More specifically SK C&C is hoping the introduction of the technologies will improve mobile device experience, as well as consumers’ call centre interactions. SK C&C will also become IBM’s preferred distributor for cognitive solutions in South Korea.

“This alliance highlights SK’s dedication to growing our artificial intelligence-based data services business, strengthening our Ai leadership position, as well as spurring innovation and Ai adoption across Korea,” said Park Jung-ho, CEO of SK Holdings C&C.

The partnership between IBM and SK C&C is one of a number of examples of IBM’s efforts to broaden the appeal to the international audience. SK C&C will assist in developing Watson’s advanced conversational capabilities in Korean, in the same way SoftBank is aiding for Japanese, Mubadala for Arabic and GBM in South America. Each of these companies, including SK C&C, are developing local communities of developers to build, explore and create new applications in their native languages. Korean language Watson services are expected to become available early next year.

IBM launches quantum computing platform for public on cloud

IBM QuantumIBM has announced its quantum computing platform, Quantum Experience, will be available to the public through its cloud platform, who can access and run experiments on the company’s quantum processor.

The platform, which will be delivered onto any desktop and mobile device, will drive IBM’s efforts to redefine its perception in the industry. The company believe quantum computing is the future of computing and has the potential to solve certain problems that are impossible to solve on today’s supercomputers.

“Quantum computers are very different from today’s computers, not only in what they look like and are made of, but more importantly in what they can do. Quantum computing is becoming a reality and it will extend computation far beyond what is imaginable with today’s computers,” said Arvind Krishna, SVP at IBM Research. “This moment represents the birth of quantum cloud computing.

“By giving hands-on access to IBM’s experimental quantum systems, the IBM Quantum Experience will make it easier for researchers and the scientific community to accelerate innovations in the quantum field, and help discover new applications for this technology.”

IBM believes momentum driven from Moore’s law is ‘running out of steam’, quantum computing will be the next catalyst for innovation in the cloud computing era. The power available through quantum computing has the potential to take technologies such as artificial intelligence to the next level, as well as increasingly the long-term potential of IBM’s Watson.

Quantum computing is by no means a new idea, Richard Feynman proposed to build computers based on the laws of quantum mechanics in 1981, but is only now becoming a reality within the industry. A classical computer makes use of bits to process information, where each bit represents either a one or a zero. In contrast, a qubit can represent a one, a zero, or both at once, which is known as superposition. The outcome could result in a platform which can process calculations dramatically faster than classical computers.

Some corners of the industry could see IBM as one of the organizations who have been left in the pre-cloud era, though this announcement and the work done by the team to progress Watson is seemingly creating a new market for the business. As opposed to simply playing catch-up in the traditional cloud markets, IBM would appear to be looking further afield to redefine the perception of IBM.

IBM reports cloud growth amid 16th quarterly revenue decline

IBMIBM has reported healthy growth for its cloud and strategic imperatives business units, despite witnessing revenue declines for the 16th straight quarter.

The strategic imperatives units, which include the cloud, analytics, mobile, social and security services, delivered $29.8 billion in revenue over the last 12 months, accounting for 37% of total revenues, with cloud accounting for $10.8 billion.

“We delivered $18.7 billion in revenue, $2.3 billion in net income and operating earnings per share of $2.35,” said Martin Schroeter, CFO at IBM. “Importantly, we also made significant investments and took significant actions to accelerate our transformation and move our business into new areas.”

Specifically in Q1, total revenues for the group dropped by 5% to $18.7 billion, the strategic imperatives unit grew 14% to $7 billion, with cloud accounting for $2.6 billion, a 34% year-on-year increase. The company also announced or closed ten acquisitions during the quarter, investing just over $2.5 billion in new businesses including Bluewolf, a Salesforce partner, Truven, a provider of cloud-based healthcare data and The Weather Company’s digital assets.

While the company built its reputation in the traditional IT market segment, sliding revenues and enterprise attention to cloud solutions has enforced a transformation play for the tech giant, which would appear to paying off well.

“We’re continuing to expand our Watson ecosystem and reach,” said Schroeter. “Over the last 12 months, the number of developers using Watson APIs is up over 300% and the number of enterprises we’ve engaged with has doubled. Watson solutions are being built, used, and deployed in more than 45 countries and across 20 different industries.”

Watson would appear to be one of the main focal points for IBM’s new cloud-orientated business model, as the cognitive computing platform has formed the basis of numerous PR campaigns throughout the year, highlighting client wins from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and the McLaren Honda Formula One team.

“Our enterprise clients are looking to get greater value from their data and IT environment,” said Schroeter. “They’re not just focused on reducing cost and driving efficiency but using data to improve decision-making and outcomes. They’re looking to become digital enterprises that are differentiated by Cognitive. We’re creating Cognitive Solutions that marry digital business with digital intelligence. We’re bringing our industry expertise together with these cognitive solutions and we’re building it all on cloud platforms”

Geographically, the company highlighted business was relatively consistent worldwide, though the Asia-Pacific region did demonstrate growth. EMEA and North America demonstrated slight declines, though there have been improvements from previous quarters, though Latin America continued to prove tough for IBM. The company does have a large business unit in the region, though it quoted volatile economic and political environments in Brazil, as reasoning for declines.

Although the company has not halted the revenue declines which have been a constant for IBM in recent years, the strategic imperatives units would appear to be taking a stronger role in fortunes of the business. IBM has grown its capabilities in numerous developing markers in recent months, including cloud video platforms and user experience, though it does appear to be backing cognitive computing for future growth.

“As we build new businesses in areas like Watson Health and Watson Internet of Things, this requires different skills and to be in different places,” said Schroeter. “I mentioned earlier that over the last year we’ve added over 6000 resources in Watson Health and added over 1000 security experts. These are specialized skills in highly competitive areas. So this is not about reducing our capacity; this is about transforming our workforce.

“So where are we in the transformation? It is continued focus on shifting our investments into those strategic imperatives, it is making sure that the space we’re moving to is higher margin and higher profit opportunity for us and then making sure we’re investing aggressively to keep those businesses growing.”

While IBM is not out of the woods yet, the recent quarterlies did beat analyst predictions and its acquisition activities would appear to be more aggressive than others in the space. The company is seemingly not wasting any time in positioning itself firmly in the cloud space, though it does appear executives are backing the growth of cognitive computing, and Watson’s market penetration in particular, as the catalyst for future success of Big Blue.

Are decision makers thinking too short-term for cloud benefits?

Career ChoicesWhile cloud adoption maybe hitting the mainstream, the majority of projects are focused primarily around increasing productivity of employees through automation as opposed to the greater benefits of cloud computing.

Speaking at Cloud World Expo, Rashik Parmar, IBM’s Lead Cloud Advisor, highlighted that the benefits of cloud maybe currently underplayed by some organizations, as projects are initially too focused on productivity advantages. While automation could build an effective business case for cloud implementation, benefits such as performance and business predictability are often overlooked until projects are more mature.

“With performance we talk about speed. It’s the timing in which it takes to change, drive innovation in the market place and accelerate the way you deliver value to you customers,” said Parmar. “Predictability is one we often don’t think about. With the cloud you start to be able to understand the kind of outcomes you can achieve well before you put them out there. It’s that ability to be able to predict those outcomes and be confident that this particular journey is going to deliver value that gives people the inspiration and the ability to invest in cloud projects.”

Parmar highlighted that cloud is more than simply a tool for automation of software, but also the access to data, which has been healthily increased by the wider adoption of IoT technologies. Advances in cognitive computing are now enabling businesses to drive decision making through automation, taking time consuming tasks away from employees to ensure they can concentrate on core tasks.

“What we’re now starting to get into is a stage of machine learning, a stage of cognitive computing which allows us to see some of the broader patterns and automate further,” said Parmar. “Tasks which were being handed to humans are being replaced by automation. Radiography is a good example. A radiographer looks at an x-ray and decides whether there is a crack or a hairline fracture, and these are quite hard to automate without human skills. With the new cognitive capabilities and picture recognition analytics, we can use machine learning to pick out these anomalies and automate these tasks.”

While the initial benefits of cloud will always be automation and therefore and increase in productivity, as organizations mature through their cloud journey’s the long-term potential of cloud becomes more apparent.

IBM’s position would appear to be on the advanced side of cloud computing, seemingly wanted to accelerate customers through the adoption process and through to the performance and predictability benefits sooner rather than later. Though this does leave the question of how many organizations would be in a position digitally to capitalize on such concepts currently. Can organizations be fast-tracked to the advanced stages of cloud computing or does there have to be an internal learning curve? Could this be a case of IBM trying to encourage customers to walk before they can crawl?

IBM partners with Aberdeen University to bring Watson to medical research

IBM2The University of Aberdeen has recently announced a partnership with IBM, which will allow students and staff to utilise Watson Engagement Advisor.

IBM scientists are collaborating with researchers at the university on the EU Marie Curie K-Drive project, an initiative which explores a number of different use cases for big data and knowledge graphs, including the treatment of cancer. The results of the project will also form the foundation of any proposals put forward by the university for the EU Horizon 2020 Programme.

“Cognitive represents an entirely new model of computing that includes a range of technology innovations in analytics, natural language processing and machine learning,” said Paul Fryer, Academic Initiative Leader at IBM. “The collaboration between IBM and the University of Aberdeen, which builds on a long-standing relationship, aims to help nurture the next generation of innovators; and is the first initiative of this type in Scotland.”

The university is now one of four in the UK to have access to the Watson Engagement Advisor, which will be used by students and staff to forward their cognitive computing research.

“The partnership with IBM is an exciting opportunity to advance our research in this area,” said Dr Jeff Z. Pan, coordinator of the K-Drive project at the university. “Cognitive computing is empowering human decision-making processes by understanding and exploiting data which is structured and unstructured, and our research is focused on how to make the best use of both types of data.”

Watson’s marketing messaging has primarily focused around the commercialization of artificial intelligence and big data. The partnership with the University of Aberdeen and the K-Drive project builds on IBM’s efforts to demonstrate the real-world viability. Over recent weeks, IBM has announced a number of collaborations to utilize the Watson proposition, including with Mastercard and the Honda Formula One team.

IBM and Honda announced that Watson technology would be incorporated into the McLaren Honda Formula One cars and pits to improve performance and racing decisions in real-time. The sensors will collect data from a number of different sources including driver timing, fuel flow rates and engine performance. The partnership is in reaction to new regulations that required all Formula One cars to use hybrid engines and limited fuel consumption during races.

“With the rapid growth of the Internet of Things, by 2025, every car will be connected in some way exuding vast amounts of streaming data ranging from traffic updates to health of the vehicle, operations and more,” said Harriet Green, GM for Watson IoT at IBM. “We are excited to team with Honda to provide sophisticated cognitive IoT capabilities and analytics to combine data directly from the F1 racing vehicles with other sources, allowing Honda to not only enhance its vehicles that are built for speed, but to also be more friendly to our environment.”

IBM unveils plans for Watson supercomputer to lead the cognitive era

Toward Digital EncryptionIBM CEO Ginni Rometty used the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to showcase a range of new partnership projects that will help supercomputer Watson usher in the ‘Cognitive Era’.

Among the new advances promised are health and fitness programmes, robotic apps for banking retail and hospitality, intelligent home appliances and computers that understand and adapt to human behaviour.

Under Armour and IBM have jointly developed a new cognitive coach that gives athletes evidence-based advice on health and fitness-related issues, Rometty revealed. The system combines IBM Watson’s technology with data from the 160 million members of Under Armour’s Connected Fitness community.

Meanwhile Watson is being used by Medtronic to bring its analytics powers to diabetes management. A joint effort by both companies means that hypoglycemic events can be predicted three hours in advance and neutralise deadly health events.

The cloud has infused Watson into Softbank Robotics’ ‘empathetic’ robot Pepper, boosting its thought processing powers so it can understand and answer questions. This, argued Rometty, could be applied to businesses such as banking, retail and hospitality.

Rometty said IBM and SoftBank Robotics will tap into data and knowledge across the IoT so Watson-powered Pepper robots can make sense of the hidden meaning in social media, video, images and text. This, Rometty said, brings in a new era in computing where systems understand the world in the way that humans do: through senses, learning and experience.

Appliance maker Whirlpool is being hooked into the Watson IoT cloud to create new cognitive products and services, such as an oven that can learn about its user’s eating habits, health issues and food preferences. IBM demonstrated Whirlpool’s Jen-Air oven equipped with the Chef Watson cooking app.

The developments mark a new cognitive era of computing, where IT works around humans, a reversal of the standard practise, according to IBM. “As the first system of the cognitive era, Watson infuses a kind of thinking ability into digital applications, products and systems,” said John Kelly, senior VP of IBM Research and Solutions Portfolio.

A Watson software development kit (SDK) is available to give developers the chance to tailor the interaction experience. IBM will give clients access to Watson APIs and various pre-packaged applications designed to address a variety of personal and professional needs.

IBM aims to take Watson IoT to the next level with new global HQ

HighLight Munich Business TowersUS IT giant IBM has made a major statement of intent towards IoT by opening a global HQ dedicated to its Watson Internet of Things offering in Germany, reports

Watson is IBM’s cognitive computing unit, designed to use machine learning and natural language processing to analyse unstructured data. At the core of IoT will be the ability to collect vast amounts of data from billions of different sources and make sense of it. IBM is betting that positioning itself as one of the companies best able to help with that process is the way forward.

The Watson IoT HQ in Munich (pictured) will apparently employ 1,000 IBM developers, consultants, researchers and designers all exploring at the intersection of cognitive computing and IoT. IBM sees Europe as the hub of global IoT development and this HQ is its most extensive European investment in over 20 years.

“The Internet of Things will soon be the largest single source of data on the planet, yet almost 90 percent of that data is never acted upon,” said Harriet Green, GM of Watson IoT and Education. “With its unique abilities to sense, reason and learn, Watson opens the door for enterprises, governments and individuals to finally harness this real-time data, compare it with historical data sets and deep reservoirs of accumulated knowledge, and then find unexpected correlations that generate new insights to benefit business and society alike.”

One early Watson IoT partner is the smart building arm of Siemens. “By bringing asset management and analytics together with a deep technical understanding of how buildings perform, Siemens will make customers’ building operations more reliable, cost-optimized and sustainable,” said Matthias Rebellius, CEO of Siemens Building Technologies. “We are excited to stretch the envelope of what is possible in optimizing building performance by combining the asset management and database technologies from IBM’s Watson IoT business unit with our market leading building automation domain know-how.”

IoT is perhaps the defining technological trend for the next decade, encompassing every part of the ICT spectrum. IBM is right to say that all these embedded sensors and smart devices are pointless unless we use all the data they will generate to make useful decisions. In many ways this is the natural evolution of Big Data and it will be no less challenging to demonstrate ROI on IoT.