Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Tuesday, September 29, 2020
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IBM Promotes Era of Cognitive Computing 

Cognitive computing, not digitization, is the destination enterprises should target, and employees should not worry about mass layoffs but rather seek out new career opportunities, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told overflow crowds at today's Gartner Symposium/ITXPO in Orlando.

"It's an era of technology and it's an era of business," she said. "As an era, think of this, these are systems that understand not just data, unstructured data, but are more differentiating. They reason and they learn. They understand, they reason, and they learn."

Rometty presented her keynote on the same day IBM included an eight-page insert promoting IBM's new Cognitive Business Solutions Group in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Designed as a replacement to the developer's Smarter Planet initiative, Cognitive Business incorporates – and goes beyond – big data and cloud computing into what Rometty described as the next level of competitive advantage for today's businesses.

"It is not a supercomputer. It's cloud," she said. "It is not one engine. It is 28, underpinned by 50 technologies. Think about it as the API world."

Led by Stephen Pratt, formerly of Infosys, the business unit's 2,000 employees will help clients tap Watson's artificial intelligence software to differentiate themselves through deeper customer engagement, improved research, and other capabilities, according to IBM.

Watson supports IBM's level one and level two service calls and is the power behind Blue Match, designed to unite IBM employees' skills with their best-suited jobs, said Rometty.

Gina Rometty, IBM (Source: EnterpriseTech)

Ginni Rometty, IBM
(Source: EnterpriseTech)

"It's a silver thread that goes through every part of our company and I think it will go through every part of yours," she told the Gartner audience.

Externally, Watson is working with Softbank to be the "brain of Pepper the robot," she said.

Other initiatives include teaming up with the Bank of Singapore to offer wealth management to lower income people, thereby creating new jobs and improved economics for a broader group of customers, said Rometty.

There's a real fear cognitive computing and artificial intelligence could eliminate millions of jobs, but Rometty disagreed. These solutions actually create new positions, she said.

"It allows people to do things they weren't able to do before," said Rometty. "It extends your reach and therefore it extends the kind of people you need. This is man and machine and together they perform even better than one or the other. This is learning and dialog. Every industry has data doubling every year. It is impossible for your colleagues or you to keep up."

The surge in data demands cognitive computing, agreed Stephen DeAngelis, founder of Enterra Systems, which also develops these systems.

"A tremendous amount of data is being collected today by organizations, but the challenge is that there are not enough data scientists to analyze it quickly. We saw a requirement for systems that could not only ingest a lot of data, but also reason, calculate, and generate actionable insights at machine speed in order to take actions within decision cycles," he wrote in a blog. "We developed a system to solve real-world problems much like a human would, by generating hypotheses and reasoning plans, executing calculations and then interpreting the results in context."

Cognitive computing enables organizations to ensure all call center employees, for example, perform at the level of their highest operators, IBM's Rometty said. Or that all investment firms' wealth advisors act at the same level as their most accurate, best-performing advisor, she added.

"We've got clients rethinking how to completely do research," said Rometty. "This completely changes the basis of what I call economic competition."

They're also creating new business capabilities. Enterra ECS is the cognitive computing engine behind spice vendor McCormick & Co.'s FlavorPrint (later spun off as Vivanda), which learns consumers' favorite tastes, then uses that information to improve the relationship between consumers and food companies.

IBM expanded its cognitive ecosystem last month when it released new and improved Watson cognitive services for speech, language, vision, and data insights, last month. These solutions meld AI, machine learning, and deep learning for the company's existing 77,000-plus developers and 350 partners, wrote Manish Goyal, program director for IBM Watson Developer Cloud, Product Development, at IBM Watson Group, in a company blog.

About the author: Alison Diana

Managing editor of Enterprise Technology. I've been covering tech and business for many years, for publications such as InformationWeek, Baseline Magazine, and Florida Today. A native Brit and longtime Yankees fan, I live with my husband, daughter, and two cats on the Space Coast in Florida.

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