University of Southern California students brainstormed novel business uses for the big data-crunching supercomputer; a legal discovery application came out on top.
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Rather than matching wits with the IBM Watson computing system, how much better is it to enter a contest where Watson is on your side?
University of Southern California students are the latest to participate in an IBM business partner contest focused on brainstorming practical applications for the supercomputer that makes sense of huge volumes of unstructured information. This follows similar competitions with the University of Rochester and Cornell University.
Although the weekend exercise did not extend to actually trying to implement these ideas, the judges were charged with assessing the feasibility of the ideas, said IBM's Steven Gold, VP of Watson solutions.
"They looked at the diversity of data, the form of the data -- whether it was structured or unstructured -- the volume of data, and how students intended to use the data."
This was not an exercise just for computer science engineering students, instead inviting those from a variety of majors. In fact, each team was required to have at least one member from USC's business school and one from its engineering school. "That's exciting because this is one of the few times during their studies where they will work with and be exposed to other disciplines, which, when you think about it, is parallel to what they will work with when they get out into the workforce," Gold said.
Several teams came up with some variant on the winning idea, which reflects the vast numbers of company emails and documents attorneys sift through to support a lawsuit or defend against one. However, one team was better prepared to overcome a key objection. Stakeholder interests were "not aligned because lawyers charge by the hour," said Daniel Wang, a USC junior studying accounting, from the winning team. "We found research to show this is actually changing -- that more lawyers are using project or flat-fee pricing, which is one thing that would make them interested in adopting Watson."
"We want to inspire students to think about what new ventures or enterprises can they create on their own as they look at the technologies available to them today," said Ashish Soni, executive director of the digital innovation program at USC and a professor in its school of engineering.
The only thing better would be to give students some real hands-on experience with the technology, Soni said, and he hopes to make that happen.
Can data analysis keep students on track and improve college retention rates? Also in the premiere all-digital Analytics' Big Test issue of InformationWeek Education: Higher education is just as prone to tech-based disruption as other industries. (Free with registration.)
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