Cognitive — the most used word at this year’s World of Watson demonstrated a shift away from terms like artificial intelligence and machine learning in what felt like an attempt to almost “humanise” the overall proposition.
Keynote speakers, such as New York Times columnist Tom Friedman (@tomfriedman), talked about Industry 4.0 as the “cognitive era,” predicting that we will see the rise of Intelligent Assistants to augment us in our daily work life. One of Tom’s visions is for workers being “raised up” by the surrounding technology. He gave a great example from the award-winning Qualcomm campus, which has been fully IoT-enabled. The example focused on the role of a janitor who previously had a job much like any other janitor but now lives at the centre of this future in an IoT-enabled campus where they work more efficiently, smartly and even give guided tours.
Other keynote speakers, such as John B. King (U.S. Secretary of Education – @JohnKingatED), followed the same theme, covering a teaching-based intelligent assistant. This application was designed to help teachers with lesson planning. It uses machine learning to provide teachers with the most appropriate and best-rated material for their students from a vast repository.
Both examples were good, and there were many more over the week. One that stood out for me was how Watson is being used within healthcare, specifically in cancer treatment.
Professor Satoru Miyano from Japan discussed how Watson was helping change the way physicians select treatments for cancer. The problem for people like Professor Miyano is that there are more cancer treatment papers published than any human could physically read. Previously, he relied on a collaborative team to individually review each patient’s details and to select the correct cancer treatment based on the known body of knowledge. Watson steps in to do what the human cannot: It reads the papers, analyses the content and can then match up treatments to symptoms.
On paper this sounds great, but Professor Miyano had one last element to this story to bring it to life, literally. He talked about one patient who had undergone all of the prescribed treatments by his team but none had worked. As a final attempt they ran the patient through the Watson treatment assistant, which identified a treatment that had not been tried before. Amazingly, this treatment worked. Without Watson, it would not have been identified and the patient would have passed away.
At the core of IBM’s capability is the Bluemix Software-as-a-Service platform. This is the gateway into many traditional software components, such as authentication, storage, database, monitoring. It is also the gateway into the cognitive Watson services that carry out AI tasks such as speech-to-text, Natural Language Classification, Conversation, Language, etc. This flexible platform allows a fairly simple (if you’re a developer) plug-and-play approach to the services. You can simply select the services you require and bind them to the same application, and away you go.
During the week, I completed one of the many hands-on labs where I used a few services to create a rudimentary bot. Within an hour I had created my application, bound several services to it and, using the wonders of copy & paste, from GitHub, created my application. This very simple app combined voice to text with the weather service to provide updates based on a spoken query and demonstrated how simple it is to tie together a few different components.
To realise and tap into this market, IBM is investing heavily in chosen “moonshot” projects. The company is also backing many smaller projects that bring cognition to services across a wide range of industry verticals. IBM clearly positions itself as the business platform for Artificial Intelligence and it’s doing everything in its power to help customers adopt and use the technology.
As I walked around the cognitive concourse (the IBM and Partner stands) it was clear that not a single industry will miss out in this new cognitively enabled future. This includes cognitively enabled Bakeries, Crime Fighting, Computer Games, Cars, IT Support, Beer, Navigation, Weather, Music, Healthcare, Bots etc…
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty stressed that this was no longer a World of Watson but a World WITH Watson. She went on to say that by 2025, the market for better cognitively enabled decisions will be $2 trillion. From the size and scale of the IBM investment at the Watson event and the sheer number of examples, it is clear that this is a significant part of IBM’s strategy and they are banking big on this cognitively enabled future.
Mark Rotheram joined CSC in 2000 and has held senior operations, engineering and architecture roles across major accounts. He is currently working as one of the lead Enterprise Architect’s for the CSC MyWorkStyle offering. He has recently won the CSC award for Technical Excellence for complex integration and the hyper-productive workplace. Connect with him on LinkedIn.