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IBM's Watson Has 'Uncanny Abilities'

By TC Doyle
August 28, 2014 - Article

T.C. DoyleEver wonder who has the best job in the industry? IBM’s Lauri Saft swears she has it. Who is she? She’s director of the Watson Ecosystem at Big Blue. Her mission: Recruit, ready and reward business part­ners who build solutions around IBM’s revolutionary computing technology. In this one-on-one interview, Saft explains what makes cognitive computing different. She also outlines the partners she is recruiting and wraps with the best question anyone has ever asked Watson.

If you’re curious about the cloud-based platform and what it could do for your business, Saft has some deep thoughts to share in her keynote address, “Big Ideas for a Higher Cloud: The Cognitive Revolution in Advanced Computing," at Cloud Partners, a Channel Partners event, Sept. 8-10, in New Orleans. Here’s a preview:

Channel Partners: Let’s start with the technology: How does cognitive computing differ from other types of technologies?IBM's Lauri Saft

Lauri Saft: Cognitive computing is a revolutionary combination of three technological capabilities we see in the market today: natural language processing, evidence-based hypothesis generation and machine learning. By bringing these together, we created an entirely new class of computing. Unlike machines that calculate or rely on rigid code and logic, Watson is able to interact with people the way they interact with each other: It combines machine power with human cognition to serve as a portable expert.

CP: What types of business and organization problems does it help solve better than other types of technology?

LS: Watson has an uncanny ability to solve problems riddled with information overload. One instance of Watson can empower every single call center agent with expertise exceeding that of his or her most successful peer, another instance can help a doctor understand the implications of prescribing one treatment option over another and yet another instance can act as a personal trainer or a personal taste guide. These are all solving problems with customer conversion and reten­tion, best practice optimization, engagement and customer satisfac­tion in ways the market has never before seen, and these are just uses we’ve seen in the first few months of the Watson Ecosystem.

CP: Why is cognitive technology better suited to tackle these problems than traditional technologies?

LS: Cognitive computing isn’t better than traditional technologies; it’s tackling problems that traditional technologies aren’t intended to tackle. Watson understands the intricacies and nuances of human language, so it is able to answer conversational questions with a higher degree of accuracy than keyword-based systems.

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