IBM Watson is a cognitive system enabling a new partnership between people and computers. Today, businesses and organisations across 20 different industries are using Watson to build cognitive capabilities into their products, applications, processes and offerings, says Prativa Mohapatra, vice-president, Cognitive Solutions, IBM India/South Asia. In an interaction with Sudhir Chowdhary, she says organisations have just begun to scratch the surface of cognitive computing capabilities. Excerpts:
What is IBM’s strategy for cognitive computing?
In 2016, we took several key steps in our transformation journey because we realise that while ‘becoming digital’ is important for our clients, that is not the destination. Rather, digital business is converging with a new kind of digital intelligence—what you perhaps recognise as Watson. We call this cognitive business. With Watson, every digital application, product and process can understand, reason and learn. Our platform is the cloud and let me reiterate, the word platform is important. Much more than simply a faster and cheaper way to access IT, a cloud platform is a new model of innovation, manufacturing and distribution.
What has been the industry’s response to cognitive computing?
Business and governments are adopting IBM Watson pre-built offerings/products and solutions which have a distinct industry pattern or leveraging IBM Watson Developer Cloud as a platform and appropriate APIs (application programming interfaces) to built point solutions/capabilities. We have ecosystem partners including business partners, start-ups and developers who have adopted this mode and are scaling fast.
While industries such as telecom, financial services, healthcare are early adopters, we also see a lot of interest and applicability across emerging verticals such as fashion retailers, media and entertainment and education. Knowledge-based and services-centric businesses such as consulting, legal, BPOs are also rapidly adopting these technologies.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of this technology could be the public and government services. There are volumes of information residing in documents and journals across departments.
Can you give examples of how they are using cognitive technologies?
One example is North Face, it launched a new interactive online shopping experience powered by IBM Watson. Manipal Hospitals has adopted Watson Oncology to identify evidence-based treatment options—helping oncologists to provide cancer patients with individualised healthcare. IBM researchers in South Africa are exploring the use of cognitive computing, Internet of Things and Big Data to support South Africa’s national priorities, drive skills development and foster innovation-based economic growth.
What is the potential for cognitive technology in India?
The potential is immense and Indian clients are adopting this technology in a bi-modal way. We are seeing cognitive technologies being embedded into larger organisations as a part of their digital transformation journey. Organisations and institutions grappling with shortage of right skills are adopting new business models using cognitive assistants and advisors. On the other hand, we are also seeing organisations adopt cognitive technologies for specific use cases, applicable to a particular function or business issue.
Has IBM made any changes internally to be in line with its cognitive strategy?
IBM is emerging as a cognitive solutions and cloud platform company. In our digital transformation journey, we divested commoditising businesses and have dramatically accelerated the growth of our strategic imperatives—data and analytics, cloud, mobile, social and security—to help our clients become digital.
Are there any India-specific initiatives around cognitive computing?
We have a cognitive solutions team specifically focused on bringing this expertise and technology into the market. We are working with clients across industries to harness our analytics, commerce and IoT solutions and move the clients into various cognitive domains. We also have the Cognitive Centre of Competency here, which has the largest pool of data scientists, architects and cognitive solution consultants who are helping clients globally.
Our Research and Software Labs continue to engage with core teams to develop and enhance first of its kind projects in this space. We regularly have company-wide Cognitive Build and Hackathon events to harness ideas and hone skills across the company.