October 31, 2018
Watson is an artificial intelligence computer system developed by IBM, that answers questions in natural language. It was named after the first CEO of IBM, Thomas J Watson. Completed in 2011, Watson’s first task was to compete on the television show “Jeopardy!”. Watson won, beating Brad Runner and Ken Jennings, the ranking champions. In 2013, Watson hit the market. Its first users were health industries who used it to treat lung cancer. The vast majority of nurses who use Watson today follow its advice for treating patients. That is one smart computer system! Now, thanks to the innovations of the Internet of Things – a connection of everyday devices equipped with sensors that stream data to the internet, Watson can pull data from all over the world instead of relying on information stored in its memory banks.
IBM’s Watson uses a new technique called QA technology, which refers to Question/Answer forms of communication. What is the difference between the foundation of Watson’s QA technology and something like a Google search engine? Search engines take a string of text and pull out keywords, which the search engine then looks for matches within a large group of documents for matching keywords. Watson’s QA technology takes a different approach. It begins with the task of understanding the question. That way it can give a specific answer instead of a list of “hits” that may or may not contain relevant information.
Watson uses this QA artificial intelligence technology to help businesses and industries in their research and development. It accelerates the research process and predicts problems and disruptions that may occur. Imagine for a moment having a researcher that could work 24/7 without tiring. How much would your productivity increase? Now imagine that this researcher could read hundreds of documents instantly. This is just a taste of what Watson can offer.
IBM Watson offers accelerated and focused research within specific domains. For customers, Watson provides enrichment of interaction and adaptive customer experiences. It monitors systems and not only can handle disruptions, but it can also predict and prevent them. It can translate speech to text and return it back as speech again… in any language you please. It can even recognize the tone in your voice. Watson does more than just type, and audible information visuals are recognized as well. Watson joins your team, learns from you, learns with you, and then leads you in new learning directions.
As mentioned, research becomes amazing with Watson. It combs through entire drives of information, pulling out relevant data and presenting it to you with keen direction, and that is just the beginning. Watson can take your research team communication and help you pool their knowledge together, helping you to coordinate their work in the most productive ways possible. It is not just their present knowledge you have to work with either. With Watson, you can combine any past knowledge, communication records from previous employees, plus the latest data available on the web together to form a super team of researchers to grow your company, prevent dysfunctions, and make extremely accurate risk evaluations based on the most current data.
That’s great news for any business. Manufacturers lose money on unexpected recalls every year. What if those malfunctions could be found before the product hit the market? Health industry professionals are continually battling viruses that continue to mutate and adapt to our treatments and medications. What if those mutations could be predicted and those drugs could be sent out the same time the new strains hit?
Watson can take those same evaluative abilities and diagnose interactions between your employees and customers, helping you understand where, when, why, and how you make conversions, and conversely, where, when, why, and how you do not. Think of the possibilities of that power turned to focused niches of the market. Vital services like cybersecurity are only as secure as the hackers they can employ to test and redesign system until now. Watson can collect, coordinate, and expand upon the knowledge of any number of hackers, present, and past, and create security measures that not only withstand present hacking actions but predict and prevent conflicts in the future.
The natural language capability of Watson makes this all the more accessible. Watson can work though chatbots that are almost indistinguishable from real people. That means Watson can do your customer service for you in ways that go far beyond running through scripts and responding to programmed requests. These same chatbots can be utilized to manage your employees as well. Imagine a system that can collect your employees hours worked, sales made, time requested off, and hours needed per person, and come up with the ideal work schedule that puts your best workers in the most productive hours. How much time would that save you each week?
Internet of Things Platform
How do these incredible tasks work?
First, Watson connects with the data. The thing that separates Watson from our human minds the most is that our human minds “download” data far slower that computers are able to acquire. We drink data from a water fountain, while Watson drinks from a firehose. More than that, Watson doesn’t really “drink” in data, it merely connects with it, and that data becomes part of Watson’s system. Think about how much information we have at our fingertips because of Google in the last two decades. Imagine the possibilities if you connect Watson to Google.
Watson is able to connect to many devices and acquire data through the Internet of Things (IoT). This allows it to gather data in real time, rather than wait until information is uploaded to a server it can access. Once Watson has connected to data, the next step is information management. This is where IBM’s AI really shines. Watson’s natural language translating interface is able to categorize this data in ways that are far more efficient and relevant than alpha by keyword. Watson can tell the difference between an article on growing flowers and one on bees using flowers so that your questions about how and where to plant flowers do not give you answers about the life of bees. That is unless you are looking for information on how to pollinate your plants, in which case, Watson can direct you to the relevant information without spitting out the whole document and make you dig through it yourself. Can you begin to see how Watson won Jeopardy?
After the information management step, Watson digs into its analytics and risk management. When Watson collects and organizes data, it looks for patterns and connections within it. It pays close attention to any changes in the data, marks them, and asks questions about why they occur. The more data and changes it measures, the more patterns it finds. It is able to run tests on that data in real time to predict future changes.
Once it can make these predictions, it can evaluate risk. When we see the word ‘risk,’ we often think about change. Watson can run tests to simulate and predict the effects of specific changes. But risk is more than just change. Sometimes the risk is staying the same. Watson can run similar tests to predict what will happen if there is no change to your processes. With these analytical tools at your command, you can find the best way forward for your business or industry.
Case Study: Watson Assistant for Marketing
Take Ingersoll Rand, for example. This world leader of industrial manufacturing uses Watson Assistant for Marketing in their work to improve decision making in their marketing campaigns. Watson allows them to access all their data sources in a single view. Rather than missing the forest for the trees or getting caught up in an overview and missing important details, Watson efficiently analyzes both micro and macro data and provides the results with appropriate suggestions.
What does this mean for Ingersoll Rand Marketing? They no longer send out email blasts. Instead, Watson has given them a fully automated, intelligent marketing campaign that reaches the right people at the right time and continually gathers data to improve its work.
“Watson Assistant for Marketing has been a timesaver and created greater efficiency in using the Watson Marketing platform day today,” stated Mark Becker, the Web & Digital Marketing Manager, and COE of Ingersoll Rand. “It truly is like having another person on the team. We can easily monitor database growth and mailing performance, and the AI-powered assistant is there to answer our questions.”
We don’t know what we don’t know, and Watson, connected to the Internet of Things, can help there as well. More data leads to more connections, which in turn, leads to more questions and more insights. Connecting Watson into the day-to-day details of our work can turn into innovations for efficiency, productivity, cost reduction, and revelations of strengths and weaknesses in our system that have gone under the radar.
“Watson Assistant is really becoming an essential asset to our team. It makes every-day tasks that are unnecessarily complex significantly easier,” said Mel Fox, Ingersoll Rand’s Digital Engagement Leader. “Watson Assistant for Marketing has been a game changer for our campaign managers. It helps us get access to marketing performance data quickly, helping us make smart marketing decisions. I have also started to gravitate to Watson Assistant to quickly review e‑mails, e‑mail performance, and retrieve insights we didn’t have access to prior.”
Watson uses the Internet of Things to learn from us, learn with us, and then lead us to be better than we can be alone. While some rightly raise concerns about the danger of following computer systems rather than doing our own thinking, what IBM’s Watson is really doing is bringing us together and helping us learn from one another without our own biases and prejudices getting in the way. We still set the ultimate goals. Watson is just our guide that shows us the best way to get to where we want to go.