by Divina Paredes

‘If you are digital today, cognitive computing will allow you to differentiate in the future’

Aug 20, 2017
APIsArtificial IntelligenceAugmented Reality

AI is about augmenting, not replacing human ability and intelligence. Dr Joanna Batstone, IBM

There is no shortage of data in organisations today, but they are in different systems, says Mike Smith, country manager of IBM New Zealand.

Thus, he says, there is enormous potential within the four walls of the business.

When you lay down real data over static data, things become interesting and options broaden for the business, he adds.

When you bolt real-time analytics on top of predictive data and you have got a big ecosystem of data, what do you do with all that data?

You wrap AI and cognitive data around that and you have a modern, data-driven enterprise, Smith told the audience, in the opening address at the inaugural Watson Summit in New Zealand.

The conference showcases how new and emerging technologies such as cognitive, AI and IoT, are transforming businesses everywhere.

Watson, the IBM supercomputer that uses machine learning and natural language recognition, can already see, listen, read and feel, says Smith.

The computer can feel, because it can analyse data on images and videos. It can listen to audio and natural language conversations in real time, and can recognise more than 12 written languages. It can absorb manuals, papers and handwritten notes, says Smith.

Dr. Joanna Batstone, CTO and vice president, research, IBM Australia and New Zealand, told the summit audience continuing advances in digital have profoundly altered how people and businesses interact.

“If you are digital today, cognitive computing is the future that will enable you to differentiate.”

She says cognitive systems are not just for large enterprises. There is the opportunity to transform the creative arts, science and technology sectors.

Clinicians, for instance, are using Watson to be able to do targeted melanoma cancer treatments. The finance sector is using machine learning to look at new ways of credit and risk modelling, while chatbot is offering customer support for various industries.

In New Zealand, Simon Gault worked with ‘chef’ Watson to design new dishes and drinks.

In Melbourne, designer Jason Grech worked with IBM to analyse several years’ worth of fashion design data, to produce the Cognitive Couture collection.

Watson has also designed the trailer for horror sci fi movie Morgan. It picked out critical snips of video from the movie and assembled the trailer.

She says IBM’s principles for AI is about augmenting, not replacing human ability and intelligence.

As well, there should be transparent, responsible application of data to establish trust and confidence with AI. There is also the principle of supporting workforce evolution and skills development, says Batstone.

For instance, in healthcare, a clinician wants to know how the cognitive system has reached a conclusion, and to understand the methodology of how the AI algorithm has come to the conclusion.

“We will need to invest in new skills and practices to enable us to build opportunities that AI offers,” Batstone states.

Tanmay Bakshi, 13, is the youngest working ‘algorithmist’ in the world and is an honourary IBM cloud advisor

Age of algorithms

Tanmay Bakshi, aged 13, shows how he is using cognitive technologies, such as AI and neural networks, to model the human brain and nervous system. They can improve lives in many different areas, especially in healthcare.

Bakshi, the youngest working ‘algorithmist’ in the world, is an honourary IBM cloud advisor. He discusses his work with IBM on an open source initiative, which applies cognitive technologies to help individuals who are unable to communicate or express their emotion.

He also teaches computing programming, machine learning and math science neural networks through his YouTube channel, which has more than 22,000 subscribers.

Jeremy Hubbard, head of digital and technology at UBank, says the bank held a hackathon in mid-2016, on how they could apply AI to solve existing challenges at the bank.

He told the summit audience they came up with 20 applications, which were whittled down to three.

No caption

One of these was a chatbot for home loans and these days, robochat is just another agent sitting within the home loans team.

Customers know they are interacting with a chatbot and can talk to a real person if they prefer. Or if the chatbot can’t get the question right after two questions, the customer is transferred to a live agent.

“Testing it with real customers is key,” says Hubbard.

Dr Jeff Carmichael, CEO of Promontory Financial Group, told the summit about how his company is using Watson’s cognitive capabilities to address massive operational effort, along with the manual cost of escalating regulation and risk management requirements.

Compliance costs are driving the need for a solution, he says. As well, there is a massive deficiency of people who have skills to do good compliance work, he states.

This is not about doing away with the compliance team, he says. If you can identify the critical areas, that is where the compliance resources can focus on.

The company also has a library of regulations around the world and the goal is to build a cognitive approach, to bring all these together as a global information resource.

“Cognitive solutions can also be used for transaction monitoring and reporting potential issues. If we cut down false positives, we can get a much sharper set of hits to be analysed by experts,” say Carmichael.

Dr Terry Sweeney, Watson health executive, IBM Asia Pacific, China and Japan, discussed the ways Watson is transforming healthcare.

No caption

Watson is helping clinicians detect cancers such as melanoma, earlier and more accurately, by seeing health data that was previously hidden.

IBM is working with Kiwi company MoleMap, to use AI in transforming the treatment of skin cancer.

Adrian Bowling, CEO of MoleMap, told the summit AI is helping filter out people who are not likely to have melanoma, so the doctors can concentrate on the people with likelihood of the cancer.

MoleMap CEO Adrian Bowling and IBM CTO Dr Joanna Batstone

He says MoleMap will augment the expertise of the dermatologist and allow them to focus on more critical skin lesions.

Over the past two years, the company has fed Watson with more and more data. The latest iteration recognises potential melanoma with 96 per cent accuracy.

The company hopes to take the system to GPs, so they can take advantage of the skills embedded into Watson..

“We will see more people. We will find more melanoma, we will save more lives. This is what our business is all about,” says Bowling.

No caption

Build iteratively, prove and growIan Jackman, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank

Strengthening the voice of the customer

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s vision is to be Australia’s most customer-connected bank. To achieve this requires an ability to effectively listen to and understand what customers are telling you and what they need.

Ian Jackman, head of customer voice at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, says the bank is evolving its capabilities to build seamless and integrated omni-channel customer experiences and measuring their outcomes.

As an example, they have shifted their campaigns from being mass-preplanned and manually managed, trigger based, ‘always on’, relevant customer engagement.

He says by leveraging customer data and insight, they are able to present the most relevant sales or service message.

No caption

Key pointers for organisations are to remain “customer led and insight driven.”

A single view of the customer relationships and interactions is critical, he states. “Build iteratively, prove and grow.”

“It is about continually listening, adapting, understanding the customers as we go,” he says. “We recognise we have a long way to go. What we have [are] core foundational assets and capabilities in place.”

No caption

There’s no part of the sports experience that won’t be radically impacted by advances in technology.Peter Gray, Tour de France

Data as game changer

This year, machine learning technologies were used to give cycling fans across the globe an unprecedented experience of the event, says Peter Gray, technical director at the 2017 Tour de France.

For decades, race organisers, rights owners and TV networks have had an unchallenged hold on broadcasting. The rise of digital is changing this dramatically, says Gray, who is senior director – technology, sports practice, Dimension Data.

Dimension Data is the technology partner of the Amaury Sport Organisation, which organises 70 sports events per years including the Tour de France.

He says the technology team was able to track the growth of audience through the digital channels.

For instance, there were 1.4 million downloads of the official ap in 2016, compared to 1.1 million in 2014. There were 55 million videos views on five digital platforms compared to six million views in 2014.

Dimension Data developed a data analytics platform which incorporated machine learning and complex algorithms that combined live and historical race data to provide even deeper levels of insight as the race unfolds.

No caption

The first step was to apply Internet of Thing technologies, putting devices and sensors on the bikes.

We used data to track the impact of weather conditions on the race, he adds.

“That has changed how broadcasters talk about the sport – they talk about the race in a different way because there is a whole raft of data available to them,” he says.

“We went from publishing data to telling stories,” he says.

No caption

In the digital era, you are competing with everyoneCaroline Taylor, IBM

Everyone is a competitor

Caroline Taylor, CMO, IBM Global Markets, says in the digital era, you are competing with everyone.

“The last, best experience anyone has, becomes the minimum expectation for the experiences they want everywhere,” she says.

“Once we have experienced it, you know it can be done.”

This expectation is a new challenge, but creates new opportunities for businesses to transform themselves and deliver amazing impact to customers she says.

“It is all about cognitive [computing],” she says. “If we fail to get insights, we kill that potential advantage.

“We need to embrace the data that helps us understand and serve our customers better,” she says.

“We can go from technology being an enabler, to technology being an adviser,” she says.

“How do you get started? Start small, with one business process that needs to be improved,” she says.

Put chatbots in the call centre, she cites. Start one piece at a time and build your knowledge and capability.

“Cognitive [computing] is going to make a difference,” Taylor states. “The trick is to get that before your competitors do.”

CIOs should help the organisation achieve the right balance of AI and human skills

Within 5 years, organisations will be valued on their information assets: Gartner

CIO guidebook: Will investing in machine learning help your organisation become smarter?

State of the CIO 2017: ‘Be prepared for anything’

No caption

Send news tips and comments to

Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter:@divinap

Follow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nz

Join us on Facebook.