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3/12/2015
09:36 AM
Doug Henschen
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IBM Watson: 10 New Jobs For Cognitive Computing

IBM Watson is adding language-processing, image-recognition, and reasoning services to power these 10 breakthrough applications that scale up human-like analysis.
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Computing power meets the human-like capacity to speak, seeing, reason, and learn. That's what cognitive computing is all about, as exemplified by the category leader, IBM Watson. But is this practical technology that can affordably handle important tasks?

Even before it acquired the AlchemyAPI platform last week, IBM's Watson business unit was busy adding language, speech, machine vision, and decision services aimed at powering breakthrough applications. AlchemyAPI expands and accelerates those efforts, bringing Watson a portfolio of language- and image-processing services, machine understanding of eight human languages, and, most particularly, a following of more than 40,000 developers who call on its application programming interfaces.

But a bundle of services won't necessarily add up to a useful cognitive computing app. The big idea with cognitive computing -- computing that can learn and improve, not just follow instructions -- is scaling up and accelerating human expertise. For example, our times have brought a deluge of information, so one big play for cognitive computing is quickly combing through troves of timely and potentially relevant information that even armies of humans couldn't possibly sort through in a matter of seconds.

[Read about the hottest skills IT pros need.]

For example, Watson powers medical diagnostic apps that "read" through the millions of research papers and clinical trials published each year to surface relevant insights on patient-specific treatments. Watson-based financial services apps introduced at ANZ Bank in Australia and CaixaBank of Spain offer investment advice, quickly combing through tens of thousands of potential investments and suggesting best-fit options based on customer-specific profiles detailing their life stage, financial position, and risk tolerance. Insurer USAA has adapted the IBM Watson Engagement Advisor, a learning app for complex service-and-support roles, to help veterans answer complex questions and find appropriate resources when they're considering leaving the military.

These are just a few examples of cognitive computing apps that are emerging, but read on for a peek at new types of applications and evolved applications that IBM expects Watson to power in 2015 and beyond.

Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio

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truthtableJCT
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truthtableJCT,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/20/2016 | 4:29:31 PM
Possible Scenarios of Cognitive Computing
No doubt, there can be many benefits to cognitive computing. There are also many potential impacts on ethics, society, and economics. One way to explore these is via scenario generation. Some of these are in "Turing's Nightmares" --- the two biggest dangers are not from technology per se, but from unrelenting greed coupled with hubris. The first means that, in the interest of making more money, no holds are barred. Anything that you can get away with in terms of hype, false advertising, buying governments, etc. goes. Hubris means that people will tend to design systems that fail to allow sufficient human over-ride and intervention. We see this today in much simpler lower function systems; e.g., audio menus that leave no option for contacting a human being. In many cases, "customer support" has been trivialized to a website with FAQ and a form to fill out with a set of category boxes (in other words, the designer PRESUMES that they have predeterimined every possible type of issue with a system). That is what makes "ethical" high function cognitive computing unlikely. Too bad, because the upside potential is fantastic.
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
3/25/2015 | 3:57:57 PM
Customer Service
I think I like the idea of a customer service rep as a cognitive computer. since most of the time I get an automatic message, if the computer that helped me could have the expertise to understand what I need an get it done, that could work better than some real life people acting as customer service reps.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
3/12/2015 | 9:57:28 AM
Inside Watson Apps vs. Outside Watson Apps
Watson needs both internal and external adoption and validation. For the community, IBM keeps ramping up the number and depth of services available thorugh the IBM Watson Developer cloud. Internally, IBM is focusing on projects leveraging the Watson Explorer, Watson Discovery Advisor, and Watson Engagement Advisor starting-points, all of which are geared to high-value use cases in medicine, biosciences research, financial services, customer service and e-commerce scenarios.


We are starting to see apps replicated at new clients. For example, the cancer diagnostic app co-pioneered by Memorial Sloan Kettering is being deployed at a hospital in Thailand. But it would be really nice to see a lot of the 2014 pilots -- like Fluid XPS, Sell Smart, WayBlazer, and LifeLearn -- validated and rolled out by new customers. We've seen lots of pilots and first-time projects, but not nearly as many documented winners that have delivered an ROI.
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