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IBM Watson: All you need to know about the A.I. superhero


This year many of the world’s most forward-thinking businesses are starting to get to grips with how they can inject IBM’s super-intelligent computing into their technology stack. Why all the interest?

Along with Google, who acquired the British A.I. company Deep Mind in 2014, and Microsoft Cognitive Services – previously known as Project Oxford, IBM Watson is leading the way into a new era of so-called ‘cognitive computing’.

Ever since the Watson grabbed the limelight by defeating the world’s best Jeopardy players, it has been making scarily rapid strides in fields as diverse as art, healthcare, cookery, analytics, marketing, customer service and sports.

So we are delighted that Deon Newman, CMO of IBM Watson and Internet of Things will be the opening keynote at this year’s Technology for Marketing to discuss how A.I. will transform customer experience (make sure you don’t miss out by reserving your free ticket).

Here is your briefing on all you need to know about the poster child of artificial intelligence.

What is IBM Watson?

Watson is IBM’s artificial intelligence (or cognitive computing) platform that “uses natural language processing or watching and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data”.

Unstructured data includes news articles, research reports, social media posts, most of the internet and other data sources. That’s why IBM quote that 80% of all data today is ‘unstructured’.

Watson can read 40 million documents in 15 seconds, which, frankly, puts Short Circuit’s Johnny Five to shame.

How does Watson work, in laymen’s terms?

To get started Watson needs to learn about a new subject, so needs to be given access to data. Word documents, PDFs and web pages can all be read using natural language processing to understand grammar and context. It also needs to be trained on example questions and answers.

Then Watson can start answering question by searching millions of documents to find thousands of possible answers. It collects evidence and uses a scoring algorithm to rate the quality of this evidence in order to come up with a best-possible answer.

Why is A.I. so hot right now?

In the last 12 months it feels as though A.I. and machine learning have moved beyond the realms of science fiction and into next years’ business plans with many more practical applications within reach.

We already know of at least one life Watson saved when he discovered a rare illness that doctors had missed, saving a woman from Leukaemia.

Having ingesting over 14,000 pages of detailed research into cancer risk reduction and early detection, Watson can be a real-time personal health advisor. And by processing 30 billion images of X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans, it can start to help doctors diagnose ailments like cancer and heart disease.

Watson is also accomplished at personality assessments. Watson recently analysed all Harry Potter books and movies to glean insights into the characters’ personalities. Amongst the findings Hermione “outshines Voldemort in assertiveness.”

What about marketing and customer service?

The interactive Benchmark Live dashboard showcases some of the marketing applications of Watson, updated in real-time with data about online shopping trends. This tool allows users to select ecommerce key performance indicators with customisable views based on live aggregated data from participating U.S. retail sites.

The IBM Watson Trend app aims to harnessing the collective knowledge of billions of people on social media to help shoppers understand what products are trending and why.

IBM Watson Analytics can help to understand which customers are most profitable to your business and provide highly targeted recommendations. One application is Tradeoff Analytics which looks at all the different factors that consumers consider when making complex decisions.

Gartner’s 2016 ‘Magic Quadrant’ for advanced analytics platforms highlights that IBM is one of a handful of analytics leaders who not only provide dashboards and visualization but can also provide predictive analytics tools that can be used for building solutions across industries:

For customer service, Watson’s Engagement Advisor is an automated self-service platform to interact with customers, listens to questions and offers solutions. Engagement Advisor learns with every human interaction and grows its collection of knowledge, quickly adapting to the way humans think.

In March Hilton and IBM made this physical form with “Connie” the first Watson-enabled Hotel Concierge robot. Connie helps with visitor requests, personalize the guest experience and give guests information to help them plan their trips.

Very interesting. Does Watson ever have fun?

It’s not all work, work, work, work, work. Recently Watson has started flex its creative muscles, a more challenging space for computers to compete with humans,

The results have been mixed. If his cognitive movie trailer for 20th Century Fox for wasn’t a huge success, and the experimental ‘Cognitive Cookery’ cook book featured an unpleasant tasting Chocolate Burrito, this can perhaps be forgiven.

Its early days. It is likely that these will be seen as the childish first doodles compared to what a mature Watson will be able to accomplish over the coming years. Expect to be able to commission advertising creative, music and artworks for a fraction of the price of the less reliable flesh and bone version. Based on the standard of a lot of digital ad creative at the moment, it can only be a good thing.

OK, I’m interested. How can I make a practical start on using A.I.?

If you’re curious about what artificial intelligence could do to your business, you could do a lot worse than head to TFM on 28-29th September for inspiration and practical case studies of how to make it work for you:

  • Deon Newman, IBM Watson will talk about how A.I. will transform customer service and transform lives
  • We will be running an hour long A.I. Masterclass with Black Swan, with real coding and everything.
  • Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer, Microsoft will talk about humans and machines should work together
  • Take part in a live experiment in the neuromarketing lab - have your emotional responses analysed when exposed to different websites and marketing messages
  • The Science of Content – new research from TFM and BuzzSumo, analyse the DNA of top performing content in 10 different markets
  • Grab your seat for The Marketing Cloud All-Stars Debate, featuring Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle, IBM and Marketo battle it out to tell you which offers the best cloud solution
  • Meanwhile in Customer Contact Expo, we will be looking at A.I. for customer service with sessions from and others.

Register for your ticket.

Luke Bilton, Director, Digital & Content, UBM

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