IBM’s Watson Group held a “Watson Cognitive Computing Innovation Day” on the web and at their Innovation Center in Foster City on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. IBM is taking Watson to market by creating an “ecosystem” that includes a developer cloud, a content store, and a talent hub.
Stephen Gold, VP of Watson Ecosystem and Market Development in the IBM Watson Group pointed out that “Cognitive Computing” differs from previous technology in that it “is not programming.” It is comprised of three main elements: natural language understanding, hypothesis generation and evaluation, and machine learning. The machine learning component enables the system to adapt and learn from training, interaction, and outcomes.
Stephen gave several examples to show how difficult natural language is. For example: ”if vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat?” It would be difficult to write crisp logical rules to capture all the patterns and counterexamples in language. Statistics and probability are used in the learning and IBM’s SPSS is used in Watson.
Gold said he is most excited about the effort to bring Watson to the masses using partners, including companies like Fluid. Neil Patil, President of Fluid’s Software Group showed how Fluid uses information about specific shoppers plus Watson to drive personal shopping assistants. 85 retailers want to work with Fluid. It takes them 6-9 months to deliver a SaaS application for a new retailer. The majority of the effort goes into developing the user experience, rather than the machine learning.
Sridhar Sudarsan, CTO of Watson Ecosystem, works with partners to help them become become part of and use the ecosystem. He mentioned that IBM talked with the founder of Kayak, Terry Jones, and learned that he still uses travel advisers because he likes the conversation with them (probably also because he was a travel agent early on). I assume he was hinting that Watson could supply some of the elements still missing online.
In addition to working thru partners and working on health applications, IBM is also taking Watson to market in Call Centers, in particular to provide relevant information in a timely fashion to operators.
Javier Torres gave a demo of “Watson on Watson” (WOW), a specialized instance of Watson that answers questions about Watson.
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On May 7th, 2013, Ron Kaplan spoke at the CMU Silicon Valley Campus and claimed that now is the time for the “Conversational User Interface (CUI).” He claimed the Graphical User Interface (GUI) has “topped out” and showed an old cluttered and complex version of Expedia’s GUI to prove his point.
Forty years ago, Ron and colleagues at Xerox PARC published a paper about an early intelligent assistant called GUS (Genial Understanding System) that helped a user plan a flight from Palo Alto to San Diego. However it is only recently that the Conversational User Interface has become possible. Forty years ago, the quality of speech recognition was poor. Difficulties with ambiguity in natural language and with the sheer complexity of language slowed progress. The telegraphic nature of conversation and the fact that so much of what is communicated is unspoken also slowed progress. Ron argued that advances in speech recognition and in computational linguistics will soon make Conversational User Interfaces a reality.
Kevin Foster talked about Stream Computing in general and at IBM at the monthly meeting of the SVForum Business Intelligence Special Interest Group on December 4th, 2012. The slides are available at the BI SIG’s home page on SVForum’s website.
Stream computing is part of a paradigm shift from on-line transaction processing and analytical processing (OLTP and OLAP) to RTAP: Real Time Analytical Processing. IBM’s RTAP offering is called Infosphere Streams. It provides a programming environment that enables users to set up dataflow graphs. It takes advantage of eclipse and is part of IBM’s larger Big Data platform which also includes text analytics.
Tom Fawcett, Machine Learning Architect at Proofpoint, gave the San Francisco Bay Area ACM Data Mining SIG an insider’s view of email filtering on Monday, October 25th, 2010. Proofpoint has thousands of customers large and small and guarantees in their service level agreement that customers will get no more than one spam message per 350,000 emails. Tom pointed out that research on spam filtering has little to do with what companies do in practice in the “real world” and then he revealed a lot about how commercial spam filtering works.
Peter Farago and Sean Byrnes gave a juicy and surprising presentation about Flurry‘s mobile app analytics at the SDForum Business Intelligence Special Interest Group meeting on 10/19/2010 in Palo Alto. The title of their presentation was: ”Your Company’s Mobile App Blind Spot” and it provided both business and technical insights.
Flurry made a big splash in the news when Steve Jobs got pissed off at them and called them out by name in an interview because they outed Apple’s iPad when it was still a closely guarded secret. (See a short video outtake of the interview at VentureBeat.) Apple responded by changing legal agreements to exclude some third party analytics and some advertising.
Salesforce’s CRM analytics architect, Donovan Schneider, presented an overview at the SDForum BI SIG meeting on May 18th, 2010. Salesforce’s view of analytics is that it should deliver insight that is accessible to mere mortals, real-time, and trustworthy.
James Taylor, CEO of Decision Management Solutions, gave a talk on “Performance Management and Agility” at the monthly meeting of the SDForum BI SIG on Tuesday, April 20th. He argued that traditional BI and performance management result in dashboards that measure and monitor like instrument clusters in cars. But what is needed is something more like the cockpits in airplanes: there should be buttons and levers and so on that enable the “pilot” to act on the information presented by the dashboard. James argued for combining performance management with decision management (a term he pioneered) so that information supports decision-making that leads to action.
The first SDForum conference on analytics, “The Analytics Revolution,” was held in Mountain View on Friday, April 9th, 2010. The conference focused on recent advances in analytics, new opportunities afforded by these advances, and ways companies can take advantage of the analytics revolution in progress.
The “Competing on Analytics” panel at the SDForum Conference on “The Analytics Revolution” included people from companies using analytics to “compete at the highest level” according to the five stage maturity model in the book “Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning.” The panelists (Amr Awadallah, Cloudera; Joshua Klahr, Yahoo!; James Phillips, Northscale; Joydeep Sen Sarma, Facebook) represented a good mix from the relatively new Twitter to the larger, older, more established eBay. David Steier, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, moderated the panel.
The panel on “Analyzing Big Data” at the SDForum Analytics Conference on “The Analytics Revolution” included representatives of two companies that analyze data on a petabyte scale (Joydeep Sen Sarma, Facebook and Joshua Klahr, Yahoo!) and two software companies that stand behind open source infrastructure components that are often used to build analytics platforms (Amr Awadalla, Cloudera/Hadoop and James Phillips, Northscale/Memcached and Membase). The moderator, Owen Thomas of VentureBeat, started off by asking the panelists whether “big data” is a Silicon Valley phenomenon that will soon spread to the Fortune 500 and the rest of the world.