Turbotodd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for October 2011

Watson To Take On Harvard And MIT

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Watson went to Boston earlier today to take on students from Harvard and MIT in a friendly game of "Jeopardy!"

At last week’s Information On Demand event in Las Vegas, we heard a lot about how the Watson technology is starting to permeate the marketplace.

There was much discussion around the use of Watson by Seton Hospitals using the new IBM Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare solution, and also about the continued expansion of Watson into other industries.

Today, we learned that IBM is headed to Harvard with Watson.  Not to go back to school, but to present a Watson symposium with the Harvard Business School and the MIT Sloan School of Management.

This event is bringing together some of the brightest academic minds to collaborate on the use of advanced analytics, like those powering Watson, to transform the way the world does business.

As part of the symposium, teams of students from Harvard and MIT will put their skills to the test in a demonstration of IBM Watson’s question answer (QA) capabilities in an exhibition game of the TV quiz show “Jeopardy!”

The commercialization of Watson technology means that today’s students will require new skill sets when they enter the job market. As future leaders in a wide range of industries and entrepreneurial ventures, students will need to combine business skills and knowledge with advanced analytical techniques to compete successfully in the world economy.

For example, when applied to banking and finance industry, Watson-like technologies can uncover hidden patterns in data that can rapidly identify market trends, and provide deep, integrated risk analysis. This provides financial services professionals a more accurate picture of their market positions, helping them better assess risk and hedge their financial exposures.

“Great technology companies like IBM are converting the seemingly impossible into reality these days, to the point that it’s hard to keep up with all the digital innovations and their business implications,”said Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist, MIT.

“So we thought it would be a good idea to devote a day to discussing them, and also seeing them in action. We’re going to spend the morning talking computer science and economics with the world’s leading experts in these fields, then cheer our students on against Watson in the afternoon. I predict at least a second place finish for the MIT team.”

Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan School of Management are the first two business schools where IBM will co-host a Watson symposium.

A team of researchers from MIT, led by Boris Katz, principal research scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, contributed code to the QuestionAnswer capabilities in Watson.

Harvard Business School’s Professor Shih recently wrote an in-depth case study of Watson that is will be used by MBA students in the School’s required first-year course Technology and Operations Management.

Follow the event and share your thoughts at #IBMWatson and the live blog at www.asmarterplanet.com, or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/ibmwatson

Written by turbotodd

October 31, 2011 at 5:30 pm

An Epic Game

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Never mind the fact that I’m a Texas Rangers fan.

Never mind that I grew up in north Texas playing the game of baseball, first as a pitcher, then later as an outfielder, a short stop, and finally a catcher.

Never mind that baseball in north Texas was almost a religion, and that for young boys growing up on its plains there was nothing like those lights surrounding the diamond at night.

Also, never mind the fact that for nearly 50 years, the Rangers could never seem to pull it all together at the same time — the hitting, the fielding, and the pitching.

Certainly not the pitching.

Never mind that I lived in and around New York City during the Yankees late 1990s heyday, even attending a World Series game against the Atlanta Braves, a nail biter in and of its own right.

Put all that aside. Last night’s game between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals was simply epic.

It was dramatic, it was heart-stopping, it was nerve-wracking…it was even heart-breaking at times.

But it was also all what baseball in October should be about.

Even though my team came out on the losing side, it’s a game I will never forget.

And apparently, this series is one that the fans won’t forget anytime soon as well.

I mentioned in a post a week or so ago that IBM had partnered with the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab to mine social sentiment for this year’s World Series.

In the last report, which covered games 3 and 4, the number of tweets increased from game 2 to game 3 as fans turned to Twitter to share the baseball experience.  I expect the Tweets in game 6 will be off the charts.

There are some other interesting highlights which you can read in the Smarter Planet blog post here.

I tried to keep an eye on the Twitterstream last night, recognizing that game 6 was something special. But I wasn’t alone, as the Twitterstream moved by so quickly, it was difficult to even read the individual posts.

I expect game 7 will be no different.

I’ll be firmly planted on the edge of my couch for its entirety.

Written by turbotodd

October 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Information On Demand 2011: A Data-Driven Conversation With Michael Lewis & Billy Beane

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At Information On Demand 2011, day 3, BBC presenter showed up onstage ready to play ball with Moneyball author Michael Lewis and Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane.

Michael Lewis and Billy Beane talk baseball, arbitrage, and sabremetrics with Katty Cay onstage at Information On Demand 2011 in Las Vegas this morning.

Fitting, considering we’re currently in the midst of this year’s World Series between the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals (Game 6 is tonight in St. Louis!)

Kay first asked Lewis why a book on baseball statistics, and Lewis explained that people are sometimes misvalued by markets, and that what Beane was doing with his team in Oakland in 2001 was a science experiment where “the lab rats [the players] didn’t really know they were lab rats.

Lewis went on to tell a hilarious story about first seeing the A’s players walking naked out of the showers, and how what he saw did not seem to be a gathering of muscle-ridden athletes.  They were fat, misshaped, and otherwise seemingly disfigured.

When Lewis approached Beane to ask him about this, Beane explained “that’s kind of the point. We’re in the market for defective people.  We’re in the market for players whose value the market does not grasp.  We’re a magnet for these unattractive bodies!”

Lewis says that’s the moment it hit him: Beane’s assembled the misfit toys of baseball, the people who have been discriminated against because of their appearance and who are greatly undervalued when compared to their actual player statistics.

Lewis went on to explain, “I realized there was this discrimination going on in the market for baseball players.  The way they had done it, with statistics, getting below it…the statistics though were besides the point.  You had to think of it as a business.  These baseball players, who do what they do, for the past 100 years, and there were all these people who considered themselves experts based on intuition instead of actual performance.”

So there they were, October 2001, the A’s v. The Yankees, and Billy Beane had some of the best players out there: Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon…but he knew he wasn’t going to be able to hold on to them, so he was going to have to throw the intuition playbook out the window.

Beane: “I remember thinking I will never have a collection of talent like this.  What the heck are we gonna do?  We knew they were gonna go (Giambi, Damon, etc.).  We knew the whole year that was gonna happen, but we were trying to find some solution and replace in the aggregate what they did.  So, we scoured guys who had A skill, not five skills.  And because we had no money…we had one of the lowest payrolls…we couldn’t afford to invest in the romance of a player, but really what they could do and with no biases for or against them, just their performance.”

Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane explains to the Information On Demand audience how data now trumps intuition in that great American of pastimes, baseball.

“Quite frankly,” he went on to explain,  “if we were ever going to trust the mathematics, this was the time.  We had nothing to lose!”

Cay then posed the all important question: How did you come to this way of looking at the data?

Beane responded that “we never claimed to have invented anything.  Numbers are historically scary to everybody, and math doesn’t come easy and doesn’t come from sports. Sports are more about the gut. But we had to be a disciplined card counter.”

Lewis elaborated: “The fact that they weren’t actually generating themselves a whole lot of new baseball knowledge, but that a lot of it was on the web, available to any team, and they recognized it as knowledge. And the use of analytics was so critical, as it took them to another decision point in the game of baseball.”

“This is why the market was so hostile,” Lewis went on.  “That there was a new and valuable way of analyzing baseball players, because it implicitly undermined their intuition and knowledge of the game.  All these years you did this job, spouting out an intuitive response. So it was finding a better way to measure baseball. Baseball stats are so clean, and it’s easy to assign them in the field of play.  The second thing was, sports are somewhat anti-intellectual, and baseball was really anti-intellectual.  Most of the kids who go on to play the game don’t go to college, and the game itself is not intellectually challenging.”

“You can’t be too stupid to play baseball,” Lewis explained, eliciting great laughter from the audience, and what had to be the most highly-Tweeted quote from the conversation.

The Information On Demand audience was packed into the Mandalay Bay Events Center to listen to Moneyball author Michael Lewis and Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane.

Then, to the heart of the matter in terms of bridging baseball analysis to business purpose: How did you get to the right numbers? asked Katty Cay.

Beane: “If you’re following metrics that have no correlation to business success, or in our case, winning games, you’re in trouble. The older the business, the more challenges and the more traditional and conventional thought.

“Baseball started in the mid 1800s. For us, it was simply put, out of necessity, if we had a dollar, where were we going to get the most efficiency from it.  Bill James really started this whole thing, but he didn’t have a venue by which to test this out.

“But I was in the game, and I had the forum and the platform, and really no other choice.  So, they had to be the stats that correlated the most to winning.”

Beane went on to detail his recipe: “We were able to pile all our chips to guys who got on base, and on base percentage had the strongest correlation to winning games.  For us, this was the statistic that had the most impact on winning.”

Cay: In the moments, you have moments of tension with the staff re: intuition.  Did you waver at all when you looked at the numbers?

Beane: “There was this perspective that it was risky, but it wasn’t, and the beauty of baseball over time is that there’s so many games you weed out the randomness and ultimately we thought we’d come out where we thought we could.  We thought there was more risk in NOT doing it, in going with our guts.”

“To go with our gut would have been the most irrational thing to do.”

Cay: Michael, how do you think Billy was able to get away with this?

Lewis: “He had to be able to intimidate his staff. It was just him and an assistant who were privy to what the goals were.  Re: the players, he said, we don’t tell them, it’ll just confuse them.”

“But he did get some resistance, yet it went away, because he was basically bigger than everyone else in the organization.  He could beat up everybody there.  There’s this law of the jungle quality to the clubhouse.  The players also knew he was a better athlete than they were. It came clear to me right away where reason was being imposed by violence.”

Katty Cay interviews Moneyball author Michael Lewis and his featured subject, Oakland A's Billy Beane, in a fascinating and relevant interview at Information On Demand 2011.

More laughter.

Cay: He looked like such a nice guy.

Lewis: “He’s mellowed.  He would chew tobacco, and his eyes would get red, and I would think, ‘Don’t get in his way!'”

Cay: Let’s translate that to the business environment.  You have to have the confidence to go with what your’e analyzing with the data.

Lewis: “It’s sort of like, did it work or did it not worth? The confidence comes from having the information and feeling like you’re right.”

Billy: “As Michael said, the tough thing is how you give out the information, and you have to be careful.  One of our directors in the back office, he said, ‘I don’t know what you guys are doing back there, but whatever it is, it works.'”

“If you were disciplined with it, you were going to be right to the end.”

Lewis: “There’s a huge amount of randomness, and you can have made a huge amount of decisions, but you can’t change the process of how you made that decision.  People make decisions based on outcomes in sports all the time.”

“If you’re the casino, and you stack the odds in your favor, and you play a really disciplined game, it’s going to be an optimum strategy.”

Cay: You described it as a flipping a coin….if you flip it a million times, it will come out well.

Beane: “The great thing is that the eight teams that get there, those are usually the best teams.  But then you get into a round robin series, and the best team doesn’t always win.  The Phillies were one of the best teams this year, but micro events did them in.”

“So a lot of decisions are made on those random events that happen in a short series.”

Lewis: “For me, this was not just a sports story, it was a market story.  It wasn’t the actual number crunching that interested me, but rather what it exposed about the world around me.”

“You could quantify a player’s value very precisely, but you could value what he’d done in the past.  How can a market be so misvalued for such an obvious thing as a baseball player.  What’s going on in markets is people are operating using intuition vs. statistics, and that influences their judgement!”

“People generalize from small sample sizes.  People overvalue things that are flashy and easy to see, like foot speed or arm strength.  And they underestimate things like plate discipline or ability to get on base.  The big thing is understanding those biases and you, the business manager, are making at least partially intuitive judgments.”

Cay: Why did you let him write a book about this?

Beane: “This is a long answer. There was a momentum that was already starting to happen, and other teams were out there.  Brian Cashman in NY, others, were already on their way. So the book maybe accelerated it a bit.  But the information was on the Web so fans could do the same work. And technology, there was just no way to ignore the fact that technology was creating data that they could go out and analyze themselves.”

Cay: Arbitrage only lasts for a small period?

Beane: “Yeah, other people catch on, even with Wall Street.  The other thing was, when my assistant came in, who was a Harvard graduate, there was now an avenue for people to come into the game who were highly intelligent. Smart people had an opportunity, and it became a meritocracy in the front office.”

“Today, the people who are running sports teams…well, I like to say, in 10 years, I won’t be employable.”

“And what really captured us about Michael, he said right away, ‘you guys are arbitraging the misevaluation of baseball players.'”

“We sort of viewed him as a resource to us as well.  And he was validating everything we did.  He became one of the guys.”

Lewis: “I just had a single question: How is this happening? And it was more than five minutes than I caught on, but it was the Wall Street story in the easy 1980s when a previously, not intellectual business, got complicated and people saw arbitrage opportunities in the market.”

“And in the course of the reporting, it became clear that other teams, especially the Boston Red Sox, had started learning what was going on.  The Boston folks tried to talk me out writing the book, and they wanted me to try and talk Billy into coming to work for them!”

“You could already see that the market was going to move, and the opportunities I identified in the book were going to go away.   So it would have been socially awkward to have thrown me out by this time.”

“So the book was all about them, and all about him [Billy], and he gets a galley, and he’s at spring training in 2003.  And he calls me, and he’s upset after reading it.  What’s disturbing you?”

“You had me saying ‘F—k’ all the time.  And I said, ‘But you do.’  And he says, ‘My mother is going to be furious!'”

“As a coda to the story, when I’m on the book tour, and I’m doing a reading in San Diego, and there’s a lady at the back, with her arms folded like this, and I thought, ‘Oh no…that’s Billy’s mother.'”

“She comes up afterwards and says, ‘My son doesn’t talk like that.’  And I covered for him.”  Lewis explained he went on to have the most awkward dinner with Beane’s mother for the next two hours.

Cay: So weren’t you concerned he wrote this blueprint for arbitrage?

Beane: “No.  Because I said to Michael, “You don’t think anybody in baseball is going to read your book, do you?”

Huge laughter from the audience.

Cay: But they did.  And the game changed…baseball changed…so how are they using analytics today in a way they weren’t 10 years ago?

Beane: “None of them are stupid enough to let Michael in so we don’t know!”

But seriously, Beane explained, “The Yankees now have 21 statisticians!”

Lewis: “Think about why that’s changed.  20 years ago, signed a player who didn’t perform, that was a $20K mistake. Now, that’s a $20M mistake.  So all the front offices have evolved and they’ve ballooned their analysis staff.”

“After the book came out, what’s amazing was how it changed. Baseball owners were getting calls from Wall Streeters, telling them they were wasting money. But the industry left to its own devices would have not changed.”

“The lesson?  If you got a business with an entrenched culture, you don’t know how entrenched it is.  There are so many disincentives to not changing what they know to what they don’t know. There’s a personal resistance to that.”

Cay: So are we seeing a generational shift in the game?

Lewis:  “Sure, all these 50 year olds have been lopped off, and all these 20 and 30 somethings are now running the game.  There’s a book entitled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which explains how middle aged physicists are hesitant to embrace ideas from the younger generation coming after them.”

Lewis concluded: “Progress is a funeral at a time.”

IBM Board Names Ginny Rometty New IBM President & CEO

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The IBM board of directors has elected Virginia M. Rometty president and chief executive officer of the company, effective January 1, 2012.

She was also elected a member of the board of directors, effective at that time. Ms. Rometty is currently IBM senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy. She succeeds Samuel J. Palmisano, who currently is IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer. Mr. Palmisano will remain chairman of the board.

“Ginni Rometty has successfully led several of IBM’s most important businesses over the past decade – from the formation of IBM Global Business Services to the build-out of our Growth Markets.”

“Ginni Rometty has successfully led several of IBM’s most important businesses over the past decade – from the formation of IBM Global Business Services to the build-out of our Growth Markets Unit,” Mr. Palmisano said.

“But she is more than a superb operational executive. With every leadership role, she has strengthened our ability to integrate IBM’s capabilities for our clients. She has spurred us to keep pace with the needs and aspirations of our clients by deepening our expertise and industry knowledge. Ginni’s long-term strategic thinking and client focus are seen in our growth initiatives, from cloud computing and analytics to the commercialization of Watson. She brings to the role of CEO a unique combination of vision, client focus, unrelenting drive, and passion for IBMers and the company’s future. I know the board agrees with me that Ginni is the ideal CEO to lead IBM into its second century.”

IBM Board of Directors Elects Virginia M. "Ginni" Rometty President and CEO of IBM

IBM Board of Directors Elects Virginia M. “Ginni” Rometty President and CEO of IBM: Samuel J. Palmisano and Virginia M. “Ginni” Rometty at IBM’s corporate headquarters in Armonk, N.Y.  Rometty, an IBM senior vice president, was elected by the IBM board of directors to become the company’s president and ninth CEO on January 1, 2012.  Palmisano, currently IBM chairman, president and CEO, has significantly transformed IBM.  During his tenure as CEO, the company has delivered record financial performance and breakthrough innovations, such as Watson. Mr. Palmisano will remain IBM’s chairman. [Photo: Jon Iwata/IBM]

Ms. Rometty said: “There is no greater privilege in business than to be asked to lead IBM, especially at this moment. Sam had the courage to transform the company based on his belief that computing technology, our industry, even world economies would shift in historic ways. All of that has come to pass. Today, IBM’s strategies and business model are correct. Our ability to execute and deliver consistent results for clients and shareholders is strong. This is due to Sam’s leadership, his discipline, and his unshakable belief in the ability of IBM and IBMers to lead into the future. Sam taught us, above all, that we must never stop reinventing IBM.”

Mr. Palmisano, 60, became IBM chief executive officer in 2002 and chairman of the board in 2003. During his tenure, IBM exited commoditizing businesses, including PCs, printers and hard disk drives, and greatly increased investments in high-value businesses and technologies. He has overseen the significant expansion of IBM in the emerging markets of China, India, Brazil, Russia and dozens of other developing countries, transforming IBM from a multinational into a globally integrated enterprise. In 2008, he launched IBM’s Smarter Planet strategy, which describes the company’s view of the next era of information technology and its impact on business and society.

Since Mr. Palmisano became CEO, IBM has set records in pre-tax earnings, earnings per share, and free cash flow. During Mr. Palmisano’s tenure, IBM increased EPS by almost five times, generated over $100 billion in free cash flow, and invested more than $50 billion in research and development – creating over $100 billion of shareholder value since 2002 through an increase in market capitalization and dividends paid.

As global sales leader for IBM, Ms. Rometty, 54, is accountable for revenue, profit, and client satisfaction in the 170 global markets in which IBM does business. She is responsible for IBM’s worldwide results, which exceeded $99 billion in 2010. She also is responsible for leading IBM’s global strategy, marketing and communications functions. Previously, Ms. Rometty was senior vice president of IBM Global Business Services. In that role, she led the successful integration of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting — the largest acquisition in professional services history, building a global team of more than 100,000 business consultants and services experts. She has also served as general manager of IBM Global Services, Americas, and of IBM’s Global Insurance and Financial Services Sector.

Ms. Rometty joined IBM in 1981 as a systems engineer. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree with high honors in computer science and electrical engineering from Northwestern University.

Written by turbotodd

October 25, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Information On Demand 2011: New Predictive Analytics For Healthcare

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This morning at Information On Demand 2011, IBM introduced new software for the healthcare industry to help health care providers and payers improve patient care and reduce costs.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, one in five patients suffer from preventable readmissions, which represents $17.4 billion of the current $102.6 billion Medicare budget. Beginning in 2012, hospitals will be penalized for high readmission rates with reductions in Medicare discharge payments.

The new software offering uses content analytics similar to what is found in IBM’s Watson technology. IBM today introduced new software for the healthcare industry to help health care providers and payers improve patient care and reduce costs. The new software offering uses content analytics similar to what is found in IBM’s Watson technology.

Seton Healthcare Family is the first client to adopt and use the technology, called “IBM Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare.”

The solution will allow healthcare organizations to extract relevant clinical information from vast amounts of patient data to better analyze the past, understand the present, and predict future outcomes.

Calling Dr. Watson

By combining IBM’s Watson technology with industry solutions offerings, Seton intends to focus the new content and predictive analytics solution on the root causes of hospital readmissions, and ways it can decrease preventable multiple hospital visits.

Most healthcare organizations are drowning in data but are challenged to gain reliable, actionable insights from this information. In fact, more than 80 percent of an institution’s data today is unstructured. In healthcare, this is in the form of physician notes, registration forms, discharge summaries, documents and more is doubling every five years.  Different from machine- ready data, this content lacks structure and is arduous for healthcare enterprises to include in business analysis and therefore is routinely left out. As a result, millions of patient notes and records often sit unavailable in separate clinical data silos. This content contains valuable information, but there’s historically been no easy way to analyze it.

IBM Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare enables doctors and healthcare professionals to go far beyond traditional search and analysis of unstructured data. They can advance diagnosis and treatment by accurately extracting medical facts and understanding relationships buried in large volumes of clinical and operational data.

The IBM solution transforms raw information into healthcare insight quickly by revealing trends, patterns, deviations and predicting the probability of outcomes, allowing organizations to derive insight in minutes versus weeks or months, or not at all. As a result, healthcare professionals can find more effective ways to care for high-risk patients, provide safer patient care, and develop new models for reimbursement for quality care.

Powered By POWER

The new IBM solution gives clinical and other knowledge workers and executives several ways to interact with analyzed information including searching, exploring, mining, monitoring and reporting. It delivers a set of proven technologies that meet the rigorous standards and requirements of the healthcare community.

The software is also compatible with IBM’s Health Integration Framework, which means healthcare organizations can realize more value from existing information system investments such as data warehouse, business intelligence, master data management and advanced case management.

IBM is offering new content and predictive solution services through its Business Analytics and Optimization initiatives, which includes a new center of competence for UIMA-based text analysis solutions. This center of competence draws on resources from IBM Global Services, IBM Software Lab Services, and the IBM jStart emerging technology team.

IBM Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare is optimized to run on IBM Power Systems, which are designed for high throughput and complex analysis of structured and unstructured data. Built on the foundation of IBM POWER7 processor technology, Power Systems are available at many different price points and can be tailor fit for purpose and rapidly deployed for a broad range of customer environments with leadership performance, ease of management and efficiency.

For more information go here. IBM Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare.

Written by turbotodd

October 25, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Information On Demand 2011: Steve Mills On Big Data

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Greetings from the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Convention Center in Viva Las Vegas, Nevada.

Steve Mills explains to the Information On Demand 2011 audience why "Big Data" will require new ways of working but also bring organizations new and valuable insights.

I’m pretty sure I saw Elvis in the hallway yesterday, joined by Marilyn Monroe, and they were taking pictures with IODers.

My mom would have been proud (Elvis used to write on her arm after shows at the Louisiana Hayride), but I was too busy getting my fill of big data.

Speaking of which, BBC presenter Katty Cay returned in this morning’s general session to remind us of some big data statistics, including this one: There are now over 34K Google searches per second!

And in our Information On Demand polling overnight, the most popular name at IOD 2011 was tomorrow’s keynote speaker and Moneyball author, Michael Lewis.  We’re all looking forward to his discussion with Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane.

And I, of course, will continue to root on my Texas Rangers as they go 3-2 in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now, enter Steve Mills on the big stage at IOD to tell us more about Big Data.

In his keynote session, Mills explained that we’re all living in a world where the reality is that the art of the possible has only been improving with the advent of new technologies.

Scott Laningham and I interviewed IBM senior vice president and group executive, Steve Mills, on a range of info management related topics, including Watson and "Moneyball." You can view this and other interviews from IOD 2011 at http://www.livestream.com/ibmsoftware

Mills recalled the days when he had to pick up extra RAM — all 128KB of it — to pick up from Endicott, NY, to deliver to IBM customers in Albany.

Nobody talks about data or RAM in terms of “Ks” anymore — these days, we’re talking petabytes.

The challenge, Mills suggested, is that we can now turn all that additional data into useful information, to hone in to identify patterns and relationships and what the data could be telling us.

It’s like mining for gold, Mills went on, but there’s a lot of dirt and rock you have to remove to get to get to the “vein.”

Mills explained that though data is increasing in volume, it’s also metamorphosing in a way: Data is no longer a static thing, but that increasingly we’re dealing with “data in motion.”  Think about traffic data, or sensor outputs from pipelines — the stream is never-ending, so the data is always moving.

There’s also the issue of variety we have to contend with, Mills explained: We’re dealing in all kinds of data types, from audio to video, and certainly no longer just numbers and text.

The big data challenge, then, is how to take advantage of all the possibilities, including high performance hardware and rich bandwidth, and pull together comprehensive solutions to enable governments and businesses to deal effectively with this new volume.

Watson, the IBM computing system that won the “Jeopardy!” match earlier in the year, is a good example of how all these different capabilities can come together. It included big data technologies like Hadoop, as well as DB2, language understanding, and an alert system that allowed Watson to iterate and improve. It was a system of elements brought together to target a specific problem.

Which is exactly what we’re doing with our customers, Mills explained.

Take Catalina Marketing, a supermarket chain that deployed real-time analysis of current transactions and past purchasing history to trigger printouts of customer specific offers — that’s some 300 million retail transactions per week, and some 195 million shipper households and 400+ billion market-based records!

The solution: IBM Netezza, which allows them to do real-time database analytics.

Or Banco Bilvao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), which deployed IBM Cognos Consumer Insight based on IBM InfoSphere BigInsights and Apache Hadoop to analyze internet and social media sentiment (5.8 terabytes of data) about the bank.

Mills went through several more examples, and his message was this: No problem is the same.

There is a constant need for customization, which IBM solutions can provide.

But, patterns do emerge and you can deal with them creatively, and it does require a very broad range of technical capability up and down the line.

“Let’s have a great big data day,” Mills concluded.

Blogger’s Note: Read this blog post by Steve Mills to learn more about the opportunities and challenges presented by Big Data.

Information On Demand 2011 Breaking News: IBM Accelerates Big Data Analytics

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Today, here at Information On Demand 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada, IBM unveiled new software that brings the power of managing and analyzing big data to the workplace.

Whether in the office or on the road, employees can now gain actionable insight anytime, anywhere from the broadest range of data and put it to work in real-time.

IBM Senior VP Steve Mills explains the "why" of business analytics at today's press conference here at Information On Demand 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The new offerings span a wide variety of big data and business analytics technologies across multiple platforms from mobile devices to the data center to IBM’s SmartCloud.

Now employees from any department inside an organization can explore unstructured data such as Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, weather data, log files, genomic data and video, and make sense of it on the fly as part of their everyday work experience.

With today’s news, IBM is placing the power of mobile analytics into the hands of iPad users with a free software download at Apple’s iTunes Store. The new software is designed to help employees in key industries such as financial services, healthcare, government, communications, retail, and travel and transportation use and benefit from business analytics on the go.

Organizations of all sizes are struggling to keep up with the rate and pace of big data and use it in a meaningful way to improve products, services, or the customer experience. 

Every day, people create the equivalent of 2.5 quintillion bytes of data from sensors, mobile devices, online transactions, and social networks; so much that 90 percent of the world’s data has been generated in the past two years.

Every month people send one billion Tweets and post 30 billion messages on Facebook. Meanwhile, more than 1 trillion mobile devices are in use today and mobile commerce is expected to reach $31 billion by 2016.

A 2010 IBM/MIT Sloan Management Review survey of 3,000 executives across 30 industries from 100 countries reveals that 60 percent of respondents said they have more data than they can effectively use.

A new IBM study of 1,700 chief marketing officers from 19 industries and 64 countries further exposes this issue with 71 percent saying their organizations are unprepared to handle the explosion of big data. 

To address these challenges, IBM is delivering new analytics and information management offerings, and skills resources to make it easier to explore and capitalize on big data:

  •  New Hadoop-based analytics software on the cloud that can be up and running in less than 30 minutes.  The new software helps employees tap into massive amounts of unstructured data from a variety of sources including social networks, mobile devices and sensors.
  • New mobile analytics software for iPad users that makes it easy to explore any type of data on the go with location-aware analytics. Clients can download the free app here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ibm-cognos-mobile/id455326089?mt=8
  • New predictive analytics software with a mapping feature that can be used across industries for marketing campaigns, retail store allocation, crime prevention, and academic assessment.
  • New software that sifts through all types of data behind the scenes and ranks its quality, makes it secure, and ensures business decisions are based on trusted data.

Big Data Analytics On The Cloud

IBM InfoSphere BigInsights on the IBM SmartCloud Enterprise makes big data analytics accessible for any user inside an organization.

Like the on-premise version, BigInsights on the cloud analyzes traditional structured data found in databases along with unstructured data — such as text, video, audio, images, social media, click streams, log files, weather data — allowing decision makers to act on it quickly. Bringing big data analytics to the cloud means clients can capture and analyze any data without the need for Hadoop skills, or having to install, run, or maintain hardware and software.

BigInsights on the cloud is available in both basic and enterprise editions with the options of public, private and hybrid cloud deployments. The basic edition is an entry-level offering available at no-charge that helps organizations learn how to do big data analytics including “what-if” scenarios with its BigSheets component.

Clients can seamlessly move to the enterprise edition when ready and set up Hadoop clusters in under 30 minutes to start analyzing data with low usage rates starting at $0.60 (US) per cluster, per hour. Both versions include a developer sandbox where clients can develop a new generation of business analytics applications complete with tools and a test and development environment.

Today, market leaders in banking, insurance, retail, communications and digital entertainment are using BigInsights on the cloud to analyze massive amounts of unstructured data.

These clients are analyzing data flowing from social networks, sensors, mobile devices, log files, and voice and video systems to understand consumer sentiment, make computing networks and smart grids more secure, and create new customer experience programs.

IT professionals and students looking to build Hadoop skills can take advantage of IBM’s BigDataUniversity.com, a new web site where users can learn the basics of Hadoop, stream computing, open source software development, and database management techniques to prepare for careers as Data Scientists.

The site includes hundreds of easy-to-use tutorials, videos, and coding exercises geared to build Hadoop, BigInsights, DB2 and WebSphere skills, and many courses are free. More than 8,000  students worldwide have already registered from countries such as Brazil, Russia, China, India, Korea, and South Africa and the US.

Analytics In The Office And On The Road

IBM continues to advance business analytics for the 21st century workforce by delivering expanded mobile device support with IBM Cognos Mobile software for the iPad.

The software enables mobile workers to take their business analytics on the road whether offline or online, allowing for uninterrupted productivity. iPad users can enjoy a rich, visual business intelligence experience to analyze any data about their business including sales, customer, and financial data with reporting, dashboard and scorecards.

Cognos on iPad is designed to help employees in key industries such as financial services, healthcare, government, communications, retail, and travel and transportation use and benefit from analytics on the go.

For example, doctors and dentists can use it to analyze electronic medical records and show patients customized treatment plans and explain procedures based on that analysis; social workers can check the health and well being of children in foster homes throughout a city and update supervisors, police and courts on their status in real-time; and bankers and insurance agents can use it to analyze loan or policy data to create individual products or services for clients.

Cincinnati Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the United States with more than 1.2 million visitors annually, uses Cognos on iPad to give management instant access, and a single view of visitor and business information to drive new revenue and improve member visits.

The flexibility of mobile business analytics allows managers to bring together sales and attendance data on their iPads from wherever they are inside the park to track purchase patterns and adjust marketing spend based on that information. Using Cognos software, the Zoo has increased in-park spending by 25 percent this year.

IBM Puts Predictive Analytics On The Map 

With today’s news, IBM is delivering new software that allows organizations to gain predictive intelligence on geographic data. Organizations can use the software to understand data, analyze trends, forecast, plan and validate assumptions to drive accurate conclusions.

SPSS Statistics 20.0 software includes a new mapping feature that gives users the ability to add a geographic dimension to analysis and reporting, and allows users to target, forecast, and plan by geographical areas.

This mapping feature can be used across industries to analyze data and create statistics for marketing campaign effectiveness, store allocation decisions in retail, to detect crime hot spots, and for student test score assessments. The software comes with views of the United States, countries, continents, and prebuilt map templates where users can quickly populate them with data including geospatial information from ESRI files.

Healthcare organizations can use the new software to visually pinpoint areas of high accident or illness rates, or identify differences in care across different regions of a state or country.

Government employees can analyze past and present census data by city block or in dense county populations, and identify high crime areas to allocate more law enforcement, or update tax and zoning changes. Direct marketers can locate their most profitable customer base and store locations to allocate advertising resources, and academia can use it to concentrate recruiting and alumni efforts geographically.

The scene from this morning's press conference at IBM Information On Demand 2011 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada.

New Software Speeds Governance of Big Data

Big data analytics can be a competitive advantage, however, the quality of the analysis is only as good as the data it’s fed, and the data itself has to be available to those who can use it.

IBM is the only vendor with a market-leading information integration and governance platform for big data that ensures only trusted information is delivered to business users and applications across the enterprise.

New IBM InfoSphere Information Server 8.7 software enables integration with Big Data as both a source and a target for information integration. The proven performance and parallel engine of Information Server provides the massive scalability required for big data. Also new in this release is a next generation connector to Netezza, built for balanced optimization and high performance, and packaged specifically for Netezza implementations, and an operations console to view system usage across all integration jobs, to improve productivity of integration projects.

New IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management 10 software unifies IBM’s market leading MDM capabilities into a single product that handles any MDM requirement. New features include integration with Business Process Management software for MDM-centric business processes, greater connectivity to consuming applications via adaptable service interfaces, and a shared matching engine that maintains the single version of the truth. MDM technology improves the outcome of Big Data analytics by providing a better understanding of customers, products, suppliers, employees and accounts for further analysis.

Clients Turn To IBM To Analyze Big Data 

With today news, IBM also announced that hundreds of new clients are turning to IBM to gain actionable insight on the broadest range of big data.

Whether it’s collecting data to manage the placement of windfarms, gauge customer sentiment on social media sites, or predict potentially fatal infections in hospitals, IBM is helping clients across every industry to put their data to work.

Clients such as Hertz, Beacon Institute, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Marine Institute Ireland, Technovated, [x+1], TerraEchos, University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Uppsala University are using IBM analytics technologies to address the growing volume, velocity and variety of big data, and use it to make decisions that are transforming their industries.

Additional examples include:

  • Danish energy company Vestas Wind Systems is using IBM’s big data software to analyze petabytes of weather data to improve wind turbine placement for optimal energy output. Analysis that used to take weeks can now be done in under one hour.
  • XO Communications has reduced its customer churn rates by nearly 50 percent using IBM SPSS predictive analytics software. The company can predict customer behaviors, spot trends, and identify those likely to switch to another carrier, allowing them to take steps to keep their most valuable customers.
  • [x+1], an end-to-end digital marketing platform provider, is helping their clients realize a 20 percent growth in digital sales by analyzing massive volumes of advertising data in real-time using IBM Netezza technology.
  • Worldwide advertising agency Ogilvy is using IBM’s analytics software for the iPad to help employees assign resources, track utilization rates, and identify new revenue opportunities on the fly.

To read about more clients that are tackling big data challenges with IBM analytics technologies, download the new IBM Big Data Book at http://www.ibm.com/bigdata.

Follow breaking news from Information On Demand 2011 on Twitter at #iod11.

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