Cognitive computing and business
Cognitive computing has been described as a set of technology platforms that combine machine learning and reasoning, natural language processing, speech, vision and human computer interaction to mimic the functioning of the human brain, aiming to improve human decision making.
So, can it help the so-called c-suite, or senior decision makers such as chief technology officers, chief organisational officers and of course chief executives, make smarter, more informed decisions?
According to Jason Burns, analytics architect with IBM Ireland, when IBM’s supercomputer Watson claimed victory on the American game show Jeopardy in 2011, IBM ended the latest so-called artificial intelligence (AI) winter and led the industry into the era of cognitive computing.
“The digital age of today, from mobile to online to the internet of things (IoT) and beyond, provides companies with a massive amount of data brimming with insights. But it remains a fact that most organisations struggle to unlock its full value,” he said.
So how can companies, especially members of the c-suite, bridge the gap between untapped opportunities and current capabilities? How can hidden insights that reside in their data, which is both structured in the form of databases and unstructured in the form of media such as video, be fully harnessed to support decision making?
“Enterprises today need cognitive solutions that turn vast amounts of data into insights and competitive advantage. They need access to a cloud platform not only for IT capability, but for speed and agility. Its architecture must be hybrid, spanning both public and private clouds, because businesses will want to leverage their existing investments in applications, IT infrastructure and, most of all, their data,” said Burns.
Since Watson was introduced in 2011, IBM has been developing a new generation of cognitive systems that can see and analyse massive amounts of data that have previously been invisible to computers and enterprises.
According to Burns, its cognitive systems have the capability to inject a kind of thinking ability into every digitised object, process and service, and to learn from interactions.
“For example, with Watson’s cognitive abilities, specialists for oil and gas companies can now predict and prevent pipeline failures almost a week in advance,” he said. “Our business partner Spark Cognition is using Watson to analyse thousands of pipeline sensors and monitor cracks, vibrations, overheating and other factors. Engineers are now able to predict and address pipeline failures as early as six days in advance, 24 times better than before.”
Burns has plenty more examples of cognitive computing in action. To start with, he explains that by 2020, an estimated 83 million cars will connect to the Internet, each with hundreds of sensors on board. With this future in mind, General Motors, BMW and Local Motors are using Watson to build the first generation of cognitive driving machines.
GM is expanding its OnStar AtYour Service offers and deals platform by launching new capabilities supported by OnStar Go with Watson.
“With customers’ consent, Watson will learn drivers’ preferences, apply machine learning and sift through data to recognise patterns in their decisions and habits to deliver individualised location-based interactions. These capabilities are expected to be available in millions of vehicles in the United States by the end of 2017,” said Burns.
“In the music industry, Grammy award-winning Alex Da Kid created the first ‘cognitive song’ to hit the top ten on a Billboard chart. His inspiration came from understanding the emotional state of the world, thanks to Watson’s analysis of five years of natural language texts from sources as diverse as social media, the New York Times and United States Supreme Court rulings, as well as the lyrics to more than 26,000 Billboard Hot 100 hits.”