Deloitte and IBM co-hosted an event at the Deloitte Greenhouse innovation facility titled “Cognitive Analytics and the smartest machine on earth – experience the art of the possible with IBM Watson”.
Werner Swanepoel, Director at Deloitte explained that: “Deloitte and IBM have an international alliance that combines IBM’s leading technologies with Deloitte’s industry, business and technical knowledge to help global enterprises solve tough business issues.”
According to Deloitte, this event was held to showcase to South African companies how cognitive computing is a rapidly evolving technology that holds the potential to reshape how work gets done, how businesses grow, and how markets and industries evolve.
“The objective of this event, which is aimed primarily at analytics, risk and technology professionals, is to explore the real opportunities for cognitive technologies in business, with specific focus on IBM Watson’s role in unlocking these opportunities.” Watson is a cognitive technology that processes information more like a human than a computer.
“For more than a decade, Deloitte and IBM have had strong client and alliance relationships, and our collaboration around Watson is a natural extension of that. Our alliance offerings unite the depth and breadth of IBM’s technology portfolio with Deloitte’s leading methodologies and consulting experience. Through our ‘smarter teaming’ approach, Deloitte and IBM can help our joint clients create and capture more value from cognitive computing.”
While many technology players—large and small—are investing in developing cognitive computing or artificial intelligence (AI) solutions, IBM is the only company marketing a cognitive computing platform that’s specifically designed to support the development of a broad range of enterprise solutions. “For this reason Deloitte has joined IBM in investing time, money, and people toward applying Watson technologies to help solve our client’s business problems,” says Swanepoel.
Swanepoel says “Like many technologies, AI technologies can be applied either to save cost or to add value. There are already many examples of both kinds of outcomes in the marketplace. The technology doesn’t determine which outcome you achieve—the strategy does.
“Companies always want a pay-back on their investment. As to whether that is still possible with this technology, it is worth re-emphasising that we’re not talking about a single technology but really about a family of technologies that make it possible for computers to do things that only people used to be able to do: that is, to automate work that wasn’t even previously being done, and to generate new insights from complex, sometimes unstructured data formations. A properly chosen and scaled investment can indeed offer payback. I recommend starting small, with a clear sense of the goals and the business case being pursued.”
Swanepoel explains that AI capabilities are rapidly improving and becoming more important all the time. “Applications of the underlying cognitive technologies can already be found in every sector. As capabilities continue to improve and the technology appears in applications tailored to specific business issues, it will become ubiquitous over time. Strong examples of market disrupters are Uber and AirBnB, which both already use ‘machine learning’, which is a key cognitive technology. In addition, the concepts of driverless cars and digital healthcare rely on a host of these technologies, including computer vision, machine learning and planning.
“Eventually, all businesses will make use of these technologies, whether it be investing in building systems customised to their needs or buying packaged software (or software as a service) that embeds these technologies to provide superior capabilities.”
He cautions that companies that don’t start now to understand what these technologies are and how they are relevant to their business, risk being left behind. “We are seeing massive interest in AI technologies, with investment in the magnitude of billions of US dollars, whether in the US or globally,” says Swanepoel.
Every company needs to be debating the issue, he says, and this is the purpose of this event. Rapid progress in the field of AI has provoked intense debate about the implications of this trend for society, and lack of debate is evidenced by the sometimes violent response to market disrupters such as Uber. “Some see a driver of economic growth and boundless opportunities to improve living standards. Others see existential threats… [and] widespread technological unemployment. Though we believe the worst of the fears are overblown, cognitive technologies – the products of the field of AI – cannot be ignored,” says Swanepoel.