Pirtcure: Murphy/Jahn, Chicago

Pirtcure: Murphy/Jahn, Chicago

Smart Business

IBM‘s New Watson IoT HQ: The German Connection

IBM has chosen Munich as the new world headquarters of its nascent Watson IoT division, meaning that the Bavarian capital will lead the development of “learning” computers and novel insights into how business will work in the connected future.

by Tim Cole

When a company changes a slogan that it has been proudly displaying for over a hundred years and that has long become a household word, then you know something big is happening. “THINK” read a small sign that took pride of place on the desk of Thomas J. Watson from the day he was appointed chairman and CEO of International Business Machines in 1924 until he stepped down in 1956 a month before his death. According to corporate legend, Watson came up with the catchphrase as an inexpensive source of publicity, then saw it become the most widely quoted corporate slogan in history. In December 2015, standing in the top floor of a 34 story skyscraper in Munich, Germany, Watson’s successor Ginni Rometty, announced that IBM was changing its motto to “OUTTHINK” to signal the start of a new era. For one thing, the opening of the new world headquarters of IBM’s new IoT division at a location outside of the U.S. marked a big break from tradition.

IBM Watson IoT: Angela Merkel at IBM CeBIT

At CeBIT 2016 in Hanover German chancellor Angela Merkel got a quick lesson in cognitive computing from the head of IBM Germany, Martina Koederitz.

According to Rometty, the campus in the Bavarian capital is Big Blue’s largest investment in Europe in more than two decades and will eventually house more than 1,000 data scientists and consultants, half of the total the company has committed to its new Internet of Things group. IBM has said it will be investing $3bn over the next four years in IoT-related research and development, among other things eight “client experience centers” based in Beijing, Boeblingen (Germany), Sao Paulo, Seoul, Tokyo as well as Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas in the U.S. The move is highly symbolic, analyst Frank Gillett of Forrester Research insists; European companies, especially major ones in Germany, the continent’s largest economy, are concerned about American tech companies siphoning off their business data and acumen. “By plunking down in Europe, IBM is essentially saying, we are firmly with you, we are rooting ourselves in your environment and we intend to work with you’”, Gillet believes.
Even more importantly, Munich will be the official home of Watson, IBM’s fabled “cognitive” computer built to mimic the way human brains function. Watson, IBM claims, is intelligent enough to teach itself and reach new conclusions without being told what to do by human programmers. “Learning computers” such as Watson or Google’s AlphaGo are designed as self-teaching systems that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works. The goal is to create automated IT systems that are capable of solving problems without requiring human assistance.
In addition to the new business centers, IBM also announced additional application programming interfaces (APIs) for its IoT practice in areas such as machine learning and image analytics. These include: Natural Language Processing (NLP), an application designed to let users interact with systems and devices using simple language; solutions that understand the intent of human language by correlating it with other sources of data to put it into context in specific situations. For example, a technician working on a machine might notice an unusual vibration. He can ask the system “What is causing that vibration?”. Using NLP and other sensor data, the system will automatically link words to meaning and intent, determine the machine he is referencing, and correlate recent maintenance to identify the most likely source of the vibration and then recommend an action to reduce it.

IBM‘s motto is no longer „Think“, but „outThink“

Machine Learning processes data automatically, monitors new data and continuously and ranks data on user interactions based on learned priorities. Machine Learning can be applied to any data coming from devices and sensors to automatically understand the current conditions, what’s normal, expected trends, properties to monitor, and suggested actions when an issue arises. For example, the platform can monitor incoming data from fleet equipment to learn both normal and abnormal conditions, including environment and production processes, which are often unique to each piece of equipment. Video and Image Analytics which uses unstructured data from video feeds and image snapshots to identify scenes and patterns. This knowledge can be combined with machine data to gain a greater understanding of past events and emerging situations. For example, video analytics monitoring security cameras might note the presence of a forklift infringing on a restricted area, creating a minor alert in the system; three days later, an asset in that area begins to exhibit decreased performance The two incidents can be correlated to identify a collision between the forklift and asset that might not have been readily apparent from the video or the data from the machine.
Text Analytics enables mining of unstructured textual data including transcripts from customer call centers, maintenance technician logs, blog comments, and tweets to find correlations and patterns in these vast amounts of data. For example, phrases reported through unstructured channels — such as “my brakes make a noise”, “my car seems to slow to stop,” and “the pedal feels mushy” — can be linked and correlated to identify potential field issues in a particular make and model of car.
Connectors like these can plug into a client’s own systems to make Watson IoT insights available without the need to transfer information outside the company’s own data center. Harriet Green, IBM’s vice president and general manager for Internet of Things, will be moving from London to Munich later this year to head the new division. The decision to place its new headquarters in Germany, she maintains, is based on the fact that Germany, Europe’s largest economy, makes so much of the stuff (from cars to washing machines to giant industrial production systems) that researchers believe will someday connect to the Internet. The Munich site will be responsible for automotive, industrial automation and insurance sectors, while the planned sites in Beijing and Sao Paulo will handle markets such as retail and environment.
“Watson opens the door for enterprises, governments and individuals to finally harness this real-time data, compare it with historical data sets and deep reservoirs of accumulated knowledge, and then find unexpected correlations that generate new insights to benefit business and society alike,” Forbes, a business magazine, noted. This indeed, would be a whole new way to think about – or to outthink – your competition.

More about IBM Watson IoT


How’s the Weather? Just ask Watson IoT!

The Weather Company
Power outages are mostly caused by the strains of wind, rain, sleet, snow and ice. According to Brandon Hertell, a certified consulting meteorologist and a manager at IBM’s Analytics division, an aging grid and growing population makes the electrical grid seven times more susceptible to failure. 70 percent of storm-related outages to the U.S. are responsible for between $20 and $55 bn in damages annually, he estimates. In a world in which the climate is changing, and major weather ‘events’ are becoming more frequent, data suggests the number of weather-related outages will continue to rise.

IBM Watson IoT: David Kenny Weather Company

David Kenny Weather Company

Today, utility managers examine multiple sources of diverse and mostly unstructured data to figure out what the weather will be like. Then, in a separate analysis, they try to figure out what the impact will be. “If they missed one seemingly innocent feature or data point, like leaves still on trees”, Hertell says, “the whole scenario changes.” With the acquisition of The Weather Company, the owner of one of America’s most popular weather forecasting website weather.com, and with the help of advanced analytics, IBM hopes to create order out of chaos and in the process find a way to tell us in advance if it will rain or shine.
The Weather Company handles up to 26 billion inquiries to its cloud-based services each day. Using the data supplied by weather.com, IBM’s advanced analytics aims at combining the weather, infrastructure and historical impact information saving time and allowing you to focus on proactively responding to the storm.
Lead-time will be in days, not hours, allowing you to make the appropriate calls for restoration resources. Notifications can go out to employees so staffing plans can be developed. Improved customer communications will prepare them for potential outages. This will improve their experience with the utility providers and reduce regulatory scrutiny. If the weather forecast changes or you want to run scenarios on different storm strength, path, or timing it’s all possible with a cloud-based solution. You can even perform signature analyses and compare current weather to past events.
Weather will always be unpredictable, but the power of cognitive insight, combined with analytics can help utilities better prepare, and create new systems that reason and learn over time. Combining weather data with traditional business data from an unprecedented number of Internet of Things enabled systems and devices has the potential to significantly impact decision-making. Maybe we can’t change the weather, but at least we will know what’s coming our way.

Dr Watson will See You Now

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City
More than 14 million Europeans are diagnosed with cancer each year, and finding the right information on each patient to be able to manage their disease with any degree of success is a huge challenge. Filtering countless health websites for relevant, accurate and trustworthy information is daunting, as is drawing insights from multiple sources, not to mention advances and discoveries in molecular biology and genetics in recent years.

IBM Watson IoT - Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City

Together with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, IBM hopes to revolutionize how physicians get access to world-class information about cancer. The two organizations are combining IBM’s Watson’s natural language processing and machine learning capabilities with Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s clinical knowledge and repository of cancer case histories. The goal is to develop a decision support tool that can help physicians everywhere arrive at individualized cancer diagnostic and treatment recommendations for their patients based on the most complete and up-to-date information.
Watson is billed as a “self-learning system”. This means that after receiving an initial query, it can ask for additional information to help it understand more precisely what the human wants to know. Also, physicians can view the logic and evidence upon which Watson makes a recommendation.
Watson uses the patient’s medical information combined with a vast array of medical information gathered from the Internet and other sources, such as an extensive library of medical literature, diagnosis and treatment guidelines, a database of MSK cancer cases and the institution’s knowledge management system. Watson, its creators maintain, will be able to learn from its encounters with clinicians. It will also get smarter as it amasses more information and correlates treatments with outcomes.
If the team working on the Watson-based solution is successful in developing an effective decision support tool, physicians anywhere could potentially have access to the knowledge of some of the field’s top experts–and more cancer patients could get better care no matter where they live in the world.

Welcome to Watson IoT

Hilton McLean in Virginia
The perfect concierge‘s job is to make sure guests are happy – possibly the most satisfying job in the world. Now, enter the robo-concierge. “Connie”, named Connie after Conrad Hilton, the founder of the worldwide hotel chain, is the first Watson-enabled robot concierge in the world and draws on domain knowledge from IBM’s Watson supercomputer and WayBlazer, a cognitive service that uses natural-language information to answer difficult questions like, “I’d like to go to a four-star beach resort in January with my wife and two kids, and I’d like activities for two kids plus recommendations for good restaurants.”Based on the NAO humanoid robot infrastructure created by SoftBank Robotics, Connie will work side-by-side with Hilton’s Team Members to assist with visitor requests, personalize the guest experience and empower travelers with more information to help them plan their trips.

IBM Watson IoT: Connie Hilton Hotels Robot Concierg

Currently stationed near reception at the Hilton McLean in Virginia, Connie is learning to interact with guests and respond to their questions in a friendly and informative manner. By tapping into WayBlazer’s extensive travel domain knowledge, Connie can also suggest local attractions outside the hotel.
The more guests interact with Connie, the more it learns, adapts and improves its recommendations. “This project with Hilton and WayBlazer represents an important shift in human-machine interaction, enabled by the embodiment of Watson‘s cognitive computing”, said Rob High, IBM fellow and vice president and chief technology officer of IBM Watson IoT. “Watson helps Connie understand and respond naturally to the needs and interests of Hilton‘s guests – which is an experience that‘s particularly powerful in a hospitality setting, where it can lead to deeper engagement and happier guests.”

Battling Beijing’s smog with Big Data

IBM Research China
No other city in the world suffers from the kind of air pollution the residents of China’s capital Bejing have to endure almost every day. Smog and dust are believed to be the cause of thousands of premature deaths each year. Authorities in Beijing recently teamed up with IBM’s IoT division to create a project dubbed Green Horizon which is expected to provide, among other things, quality management, renewable energy management and energy optimization within China’s heavy industries. The plan calls for harnessing the power of Big Data analytics, supercomputing and weather modelling. Green Horizon will provide meteorological satellite data to be crunched by IBM’s Watson supercomputer to generate a map identifying smog patterns and the sources of contaminants at the local level.
But understanding pollution is one thing, reducing it is quite another. IBM intends to use weather modelling and Big Data analytics to forecast the availability of intermittent renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. This would help the city to limit the amount of wasted energy. At least in theory cutting down on energy use – particularly fossil fuels such as coal – should lead to less pollutants being pumped into Beijing’s air. In the short term, the focus on monitoring air quality should have a more immediate impact, at least in terms of showing people the government genuinely wants to tackle this problem. As Dr. Qing Wang of IBM Research China notes, many Beijing residents ignore measures designed to slash auto emissions, because they suspect the government is only using them to squeeze out more tax revenues. But because “IBM is renowned [for] advanced technologies [the government] will be able to improve the accuracy and the authority of the analysis. People will have to realize they are part of the problem before they can to be part of the solution.”

 

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