Turbotodd

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

Archive for August 29th, 2011

Watson Redux

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If you missed your chance to watch the competition aired nationally in North America this past February between IBM and America’s favorite quiz show Jeopardy!, fear not: IBM announced today that Jeopardy! will broadcast an encore presentation of the first-ever man vs. machine Jeopardy! competition between IBM’s “Watson” computing system and the show’s two greatest contestants – Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

Millions of North American viewers will be able to again witness TV history as Watson successfully competes against two human champions in two matches played over three consecutive days, September 12, 13, and 14, 2011.

(Spoiler Alert: developerWorks’ Scott Laningham and I interviewed the principal investigator and project lead of the Watson effort, Dr. David Ferrucci, during this year’s SXSW Interactive conference in March of this year. Do NOT watch the video Q&A below if you haven’t yet seen the broadcast/re-broadcast if you don’t want to spoil the ending! In the interview, Ferrucci explains in some detail the AI methods behind Watson’s madness!)

“With the Jeopardy! challenge, we accomplished what was thought to be impossible – building a computer system that operates in the near limitless, ambiguous and highly contextual realm of human language and knowledge,” said Dr. David Ferrucci, IBM Fellow and scientist leading the IBM Research team that created Watson. “Watching the match again reminds us of the great power and potential behind Watson to be able to make sense of the massive amounts of data around us and to solve problems in new ways.”

Six months after the original competition, Watson’s Deep Question Answering (QA) technology has already driven progress in new fields such as the healthcare industry. IBM is working with Nuance Communications, Inc. to explore and develop applications to help critical decision makers, such as physicians and nurses, process large volumes of health information in order to deliver quicker and more accurate patient diagnoses. Working with universities and clients, IBM is identifying many potential uses for Watson’s underlying QA technology.

The technology underlying Watson analyzes the structure and wording of the question or challenge being investigated, and formulates an answer that it has the highest level of ‘confidence’ is correct.  Watson answers ‘natural language’ questions, which can contain puns, slang, jargon and acronyms that must all be evaluated as part of Watson’s confidence in returning an answer.

The Watson v. Jeopardy! man v. machine contest, featuring Jeopardy! champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, will be re-broadcast in North America in mid-September.

“We recognized the Jeopardy! IBM Challenge was not only a historic moment for television, but also for scientific discovery and innovation,” said Harry Friedman, executive producer of Jeopardy! “We wanted to provide the opportunity for more viewers to once again enjoy this ground-breaking exhibition match.”

IBM and the other contestants gave $1.25 million to charity, with $1 million coming from IBM.

What is Watson?

Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, is a breakthrough human achievement in the scientific field of Question and Answering, also known as “QA.” The Watson software is powered by an IBM POWER7 server optimized to handle the massive number of tasks that Watson must perform at rapid speeds to analyze complex language and answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence.

Beyond providing correct responses, Watson had to analyze Jeopardy! clues that involved subtle meaning, irony, riddles, and other complexities in which humans excel and computers traditionally do not. The system incorporates a number of proprietary technologies for the specialized demands of processing an enormous number of concurrent tasks and data while analyzing information in real time.

You can learn more about the Watson research initiative here.

Written by turbotodd

August 29, 2011 at 9:33 pm

IBM Introduces New Mobile Social Software

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If you’ve been following the communications around IBM’s smarter planet initiative, you’re probably aware of the major underlying themes.

When IBM shared its vision three years ago, we explained that a smarter planet presented an opportunity to infuse intelligence into every system through which the world works.

IBM introduced new software today to help organizations take social computing capabilities into the mobile space, continuing its focus on helping companies transform themselves into social businesses.

We explained that in such a world, everything is becoming instrumented with sensors and computational power.  That the world is becoming interconnected via vast, ubiquitous networks.  And that many things are becoming intelligent by applying analytics to the mountains of data they can collect.

One of those key underlying networks is made of people.  People connected to other people using social media and computing technologies, not as their own end, but as a means to the end of communicating with one another and creating new business value through those connections.

Just as the Internet changed the marketplace forever, the integration of social computing into the the enterprise represents another enormous shift in the landscape. Those organizations that successfully transform into social businesses can reap great benefits, among them the ability to deepen their customer relationships, drive new operational efficiencies, and optimize their workforce.

Today, IBM announced new software to help organizations continue on this journey by allowing them to embrace social networking using the broadest range of mobile devices.

Getting Social, Going Mobile

A shift is occurring in the enterprise. The adoption of mobile devices and social software is rapidly becoming a vital business tool, enabling organizations to transform virtually every part of their business operations from marketing, customer service and sales, to product development and human resources.

According a recent report from the Renegade firm, 86 percent of business people now use social media to help them make business decisions. With more than one billion mobile users combined with rise of social networking in the workplace, companies are looking for ways to better integrate these industry forces to help organizations accelerate collaboration, deepen customer relationships, generate new ideas faster, and enable a more effective workforce.

Being social often now also means being mobile, and with today’s news, IBM is delivering its industry-leading Connections social networking software and enabling people to download it from all the major app stores, including Android, Apple iOS, and RIM’s BlackBerry.

Connections enables your people to gain immediate access to blogs, employee data, status updates, and wikis, as well as share files, videos and photos.

As part of today’s news, IBM also is helping IT administrators simplify the management of corporate and personal data on employee devices.

With more companies allowing employees to use their own device for work, the time and management of securing personal data was becoming a burden to IT administrators.  A new IBM collaboration software “partial wipe” capability for Apple iOS devices allows IT administrators to wipe only the confidential company data from the device while preserving a worker’s personal email, photos, videos, and games.

No matter how applications are accessed, social businesses of all sizes need to communicate and collaborate on the fly across a global network of clients, partners and employees. To fully enable a social business, IBM is announcing these new mobile apps:

  • New social networking app: Available at no charge, the new IBM Connections app works just like the industry-leading IBM social software with added functionality for Google Android smartphones and tablets, Apple iOS devices and BlackBerry smartphones. In addition to the popular File share application, Profiles, and Activities, Blogs and generate-and-vote-on-ideas features, workers can now take photos with their smartphones and upload them directly to Connections. All three apps are available now in the respective apps stores.
  • Partial wipe for Apple iOS devices: New IBM software provides “partial wipe” capability for Apple iOS devices allowing an IT administrator to wipe only the company data from the device while preserving a worker’s personal data, such as personal email, photos, videos and games. Administrators can still initiate a full reset wipe if circumstances warrant it, as an alternative to this new partial wipe option.  Traveler enables IBM email, contacts and calendar information to be accessible from the most popular mobile devices.
  • Click-to-call from Android OS device calendar: Available in beta now, Lotus Notes Traveler will allow IBM email users to call people listed in their calendar views with just one click.
  • Unified Communications for Android devices: IBM’s Sametime software for Android extends presence awareness and instant messaging with new features including text-to-speech which can read incoming messages when the users cannot stop to look at the device, for example, when driving; send photos taken with the device through Sametime chats; and automatically update location status. Workers who also have Sametime Unified Telephony software reduce phone use costs by initiating calls to whatever phone happens to be nearby.
  • Online meeting support for BlackBerry: IBM Sametime meetings support allows BlackBerry users to participate in online meetings using their mobile devices.
  • Cloud-based meeting support for Android:  LotusLive Meetings support for the Android OS is planned to be available later this year.

IBM Clients Are Becoming Social Businesses

In an embrace of social business transformation in the enterprise, thousands of clients are adopting IBM social software on tablets and smart phones including Amway, Bekins Van Lines, University of Zurich, Virginia Commonwealth University and Cummins Inc.

Cummins Inc (NYSE: CMI) is a global leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel engines, power generation systems and related products and technologies.

Cummins, a global leader in diesel engines and power generation systems, uses IBM Lotus Notes Traveler software to increase the productivity of its farflung workforce.

A Fortune 500 company with 2010 revenues of $13.2 billion, Cummins has approximately 40,000 employees in 353 locations in 190 countries. Cummins is the largest independent maker of diesel engines and related products in the world.

The ability to collaborate from a smart, mobile device enables Cummins employees to be more productive in more places because they can access mail, calendar, contacts, and to do lists anywhere in the world.  In the future, the promise of mobile computing expands “true” business capability enabling new business paradigms ranging from performing diagnostic tests while working on top of large engines to taking parts inventory and finalizing parts distribution logistics to having instant access to comprehensive business analytics that reflect a business unit’s growth in a key market segment.

“Cummins’ workers have benefited from the use of IBM Lotus Notes Traveler and its functions have been well integrated into our model of how we work and help to increase the productivity of our workforce overall.  We look forward to expanding our use of IBM mobile collaboration applications in order to enhance the flexibility and on demand features that allow workers to work where they want to work,” said Eric Christian, Director, Global Architecture and Security, Cummins.

For information about additional mobile platforms supported by IBM (including Nokia Symbian) visit www.ibm.com/software/lotus/category/mobile-wireless/

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