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10/26/2011
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IBM Unveils Analytics For Communications, Healthcare

Big Blue sees Big Data as the next frontier for its software and services businesses.

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Doubling down on its multibillion dollar bet on products and services that help organizations manage and use so-called Big Data, IBM used a Las Vegas event Tuesday to roll out software aimed at healthcare and communications industry players that need to tame their information workflows.

At its Information on Demand (IOD) conference, IBM introduced a network analytics appliance for communications service providers based on technology it gained through its $1.7 billion buyout of Netezza and its $4.9 billion acquisition of Cognos. And for healthcare providers, it unveiled a content analytics tool that uses artificial intelligence algorithms from the Jeopardy-playing supercomputer Watson.

It will be up to Ginni Rometty, who will replace Sam Palmisano as IBM CEO in January, to drive those products into the market.

"Organizations of all sizes are struggling to keep pace with the rate and pace of big data and use it in a meaningful way to improve products, services, and customer experience," IBM said.

[Learn more about IBM's Big Data plans unveiled at IOD. See IBM Beats Oracle, Microsoft With Big Data Leap.]

That's why, over the past five years, the company has spent about $14 billion buying up data management and business intelligence specialists. In addition to Netezza and Cognos, it's scooped up a host of smaller players, including Platform Computing, i2, and Algorithmics.

Its latest offerings are aimed at two distinct industries.

The IBM Netezza Network Analytics Accelerator appliance, for communications services providers such as XO Communications, is designed to analyze data from a wide range of sources, including mobile devices and social networks like Facebook. It can be bundled with Cognos analytics tools. The solution lets customers like XO predict peak demand times and adjust their networks accordingly.

"The ability to analyze customer data gives us a competitive advantage that is measured in reduced customer churn rates and increased customer retention," said XO executive director Jamey Molsbee, in a statement. "IBM business analytics helps us anticipate and stay ahead of industry changes at a time when consumers are demanding richer, more dynamic experiences from their mobile devices."

Also Tuesday, IBM launched software that uses Watson's AI routines to help healthcare providers analyze patient data to develop better courses of treatment and improve patient outcomes.

The IBM Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare package takes raw information, such as the incidence of disease outbreaks in a given area or efficacy rates for particular therapies, and transforms it into predictive information that clinicians can apply in practice.

"For example, by predicting readmission candidates, we can reduce costly and preventable readmissions, decrease mortality rates, and ultimately improve the quality of life for our patients," said Charles Barnett, president and CEO at Seton Healthcare Family. Seton recently piloted the software in its facilities in central Texas.

IBM plans to roll out more analytics and business intelligence tools for industries that are confronted with Big Data challenges.

The company noted that, on a daily basis, businesses and individuals generate more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data from sources as diverse as smart sensors embedded in bridges and tunnels to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

In other words, IBM is hoping Big Data will translate into big demand for its BI and analytics products.

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