The pace of change in B2B advertising is closely tied to ongoing global business partnerships and the demand for new technology and innovation according to spokesman from two stalwart U.S. companies, General Electric (GE) and IBM who addressed the fourth annual Business Marketing Association series in New York City.
Libby Wayman, global director of Econmagination at General Electric Company (pictured) and Hilary Kerner, director of marketing and communication at IBM Watson illustrated how much of the motivation and support for innovation is due to the opportunities for global business partners in science, energy, medical and lifestyle sectors around the globe.
“Investing in innovation has and will remain a core strategy at General Electric,” said Wayman. “We focus on digital solutions that can deliver the economic outcome, new business models that can help our industry, Internet solutions and our global partnerships.”
One example of GE’s innovative partnership is its success in wind energy.
“Wind is a mature industry and wind energy technology needs unexpected solutions,” Wayman said. “Our scientists noted that the area of a wind turbine closest to the hub is the least productive. They came up with the ecoROTR, which showed a three percent efficiency improvement. We have field trials ongoing today. This is one example of centralized research and development thinking outside of the box.”
Wayman cited another example where GE reached beyond its borders with the open innovation challenge.
“We have ten open innovation challenges in our Ecomagination team,” Wayman said “If we don’t have the expertise – full time – we ask if someone from the outside can come up an idea. In one instance we wanted to reduce the weight of an aircraft engine bracket in a way our scientist had not thought of. An outside company came up with the design. Through open innovation, we are able to access expertise. “
On the digital/data side, GE is working to minimize the environmental impact of air travel on the environment. “We have been able to map the efficiency of aircraft engines to the tail number of different aircraft,” Wayman said. “We can then optimize the route schedule for the airline company and this becomes more fuel efficient and CO2 efficient.”
“Innovation is a very compelling reason why people want to come and work for GE,” Wayman said. “It becomes part of the culture. If we put our heads together we can offer different capabilities from GE and the result is better commercial products for businesses. “
At IBM, the breakout Watson system is an innovation that is dramatically changing the way people use technology. Although it was first introduced to the public during the popular TV quiz show Jeopardy, IBM Watson has evolved so rapidly that its senses will soon include the ability to see.
“At IBM Watson, we talk a lot about revolution. Today’s revolution is all about data. Data is created at an unprecedented pace and we don’t have the ability to keep up with it,” Kerner said. “Watson is a cognitive system that won Jeopardy. Today, it is a cloud-based technology that understands data, which applies reasoning strategies, and learns over time. “
IBM Watson’s business partnerships with research hospitals are an example of how Watson could help determine the best course of treatment for cancer patients.
“Watson has the ability to summarize patient data. A medical record is a mess. It is handwritten, with lab results, etc. that computers cannot always understand,” Kerner said. “What Watson does is go through reams and reams of data to come up with a possible method of treatment based on evidence. When you think about the possible implications of this at a smaller community hospital or in an overseas clinic where they don’t have an oncologist it is pretty powerful.”
IBM Watson can also help a chef determine the best ingredients for a delicious entrée.
“We applied IBM’s Watson to cooking using recipes. Watson can understand the flavor profiles and chemical compounds of ingredients. Watson can help a chef make better-combined tastes etc.,” Kerner said. “We are also exploring how this could work in the area of pharmaceuticals.”
Companies are embedding Watson in areas like choosing a breed of dog, wine choices, Fantasy Football, or for children. A company using Watson has developed a toy dinosaur that will answer a child’s question and spot warning signs for learning disabilities.
Kerner notes that “The wholly grail for marketers is to be able to develop a 360 degree profile of their customers. We are now partnering with companies that can help complete a more nuanced and authentic view of a customer. It collects and aggregates data, using Watson to help analyze a fuller picture of that person.”
Finally, Watson’s future ability to ‘see’ may help radiologists understand anomalies in an MRI, or capture data from wearables like an Insulin pump to determine how patients better manage their condition, etc.
For companies like GE and IBM, funding innovation and being ahead of the curve has paid off.
“We can fight against or resist change or be the competition,” said Wayman.
Clearly, both companies chose the latter.
Read more about the conference in New York that took place last week on 5 November here.