Access and Feeds

Big Data: IBM's Watson — A Killer Big Data Application?

By Dick Weisinger

It has access to over 200 million pages of both structured and unstructured content on four terabytes of disk storage, and is capable of performing sophisticated computer analtyics that can of unlock hidden meaning in the data.  Sounds like another Big Data application.  It is, but at IBM it also goes by the name of Watson — IBM’s super computer armed with natural language processing capabilities that handily defeated the two top all-time money winners of Jeopardy!.

Watson represents an impressive culmination in technology.  And now many wonder how this kind of technology can be best applied.  To try to come up with more ideas about what can be done  with it, and IBM has decided to search out suggestions for what kinds of problems can best be solved with this kind of technology.  IBM is posing the the question to a number of universities, partly as a means of soliciting some fresh ideas, but also as a means for bringing this kind of technology into the discussion at our schools.

University of Rochester business school was the first to take a crack at the assignment by holding a competition of ideas for how to apply Watson-like capabilities.  The top three suggestions were the following:

First Place –  Managing Data in the Eye of the Store.   The idea is to combine weather data with census information so that organizations can prepare for and better manage and allocate resources during weather crises.

Second Place – Mining for Insights.  Here the idea is that the technology can help to better model and understand the environmental impact of oil, gas and mineral reserve exploration and mining.  With the technology companies could better understand environmental and safety impact and reduce the risk and number of accidents.

Third Place – Unpacking Big Data Improves Travel Experience – The idea is that data could be utilized to better schedule resources to enhance security, reduce wait times at airports, and improve the general overall travel experience at airports.

Manoj Saxena, general manager of IBM Watson Solutions, said that “Our goal [with the competition] is to inspire the next generation of business leaders to think differently about how technology can be used to transform business and redefine industries.”

IBM plans to expand the competition to other schools in the near future.  One idea might be to just ask Watson what it thinks…

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