The Inevitable Cognitive Era
Marc Benioff wrote a very interesting foreword to the book Age of Context. He talks of a dream trip to Boston. On his flight to Boston he tweets about his plans to dine at Rialto and watch the Sox play. On reaching the hotel in Boston, along with his room keys, Marc is handed tickets to the Sox game and a table booking confirmation at Rialto! The story does qualify for a dream. The reality is not so sweet.
Customers have always appreciated and enjoyed that personal touch. Traditional mom-and-pop businesses found it very easy to personalize their products and services for customers because they served a very small, localized population. Through that personal touch, they created emotional bonds with customers. Now let us think big. Today’s global companies,have millions of customers ranging from individuals to large enterprises, spanning across continents. And in this global digital world, complexity of providing that traditional “personal touch” to your customers is as massive as its importance. Just think of the complexity! I call this the personal-touch problem.
Fortunately, this problem can be solved today. IBM CEO has recently laid a strategic foundation to create cognitive solutions for its customers. I also happened to read an insightful blog post from IBM’s Tom Rosamilia. Long story short — IBM believes that mankind today has a lot of valuable data floating around and it also has the tools and experience to derive meaningful insight from all the data — structured and unstructured — and make lives better. Code augmented with meaningful insights can solve complex, customer-specific problems and hence drives customization. IBM is ushering in a cognitive era of computing. I read Tom’s blog post twice and realized that all the infrastructure required to create a cognitive engine is already here.
Let us imagine how this cognitive engine works. At the core, we have the Cloud technologies providing compute flexibility to variable workloads. The Security provision is built into the Cloud and helps maintain data privacy and isolation. Mobility provides the visible human interfaces and that are the source of a data pipe. The Internet-of-Things technologies source data from another pipe — the sensors that form an invisible interface. Data analysis technologies consume and digest the data, churning out deep insights into various aspects. All the systems integration needed is achieved using APIs. And we have Devops that does a great job in keeping this cognitive engine updated. In short, the nuts and bolts and parts to create and maintain the cognition engine are already with us. An integration is all that is needed.
Watson is an example of what I call a cognitive engine! It has come a long way — from winning Jeopardy in 2011 to helping doctors with cancer diagnosis today. The systems of the future will be like Watson or even much better. They will observe, understand, deliver insights to users, learn and repeat. They will work hand-in-hand with human beings and help improve the quality life of the latter!
They say, when the time of an idea comes, the universe conspires to make it happen. And no force can stop it. The cognitive era is inevitable. It has arrived.