Watson Gets Schooled By College Students And Professors
October 29, 2012 Jenny Thomas
We all know IBM‘s Watson Q&A machine’s claim to fame is its 2011 debut on the TV game show Jeopardy! But just because Watson became a household name for stomping its human competitors into the ground with its superior intellect (well, data retrieval speed) doesn’t mean Watson can’t benefit from some good old-fashioned brain power.
You see, Watson was not built to entertain the masses and humiliate trivia champions. Its computing abilities allow Watson to cull through vast amounts of big data and process information in ways that mimic the human brain while understanding natural language and at least some of its nuances. IBM has long had an eye on analytics, and sees a growing demand for highly skilled analytics workers as the next big trend in computing. Big Blue seems intent to stay ahead of the curve here.
IBM points out that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a 24 percent increase in demand for professionals with management analysis skills in the next eight years, and also references a projection by the McKinsey Global Institute for a need for approximately 190,000 more workers with analytics expertise and 1.5 million more data-savvy managers in the U.S.
“Recognizing that a practical understanding of analytics is key for 21st century jobs and firm competitive success, we continue to work hard to inspire universities and students around the country to engage in the many programs we have to offer such as case competitions and faculty awards,” said Manoj Saxena, general manager, IBM Watson Solutions.
So recently IBM challenged college students from Cornell University to put on their thinking caps and submit proposals on how the Watson technology could be applied to solve complex challenges in professional fields including human resources, customer service, and R&D as part of the second Watson Academic Case Competition.
A select group of 55 Cornell business and computer science students were given just 48 hours to work as mock IBM Watson commercialization teams, each charged with selecting an industry and developing an application that could best use Watson in a real-life business environment. Three winning ideas were selected by a panel of judges comprised of faculty and IBM experts. The winners were:
First Place: Customer Service: Say Hello to Watson: Consumers struggling with electronic devices want to call, email, post, and/or chat with customer service representatives to get answers. And most consumers are aware that getting those answers generally means long wait times with less than 50 percent of first calls being resolved. The first place team created a case for Watson to look at unstructured and structured information to help consumer electronics firms answer inquiries with greater accuracy and faster response times, resulting in greater customer satisfaction.
Second Place: Watson Helps You Plan Your Next Beach Getaway Faster: There is an overwhelming amount of information available to travelers looking to plan business trips and vacations, including websites that aggregate flight and hotel rates, tourism sites packed with things to do, and millions of online reviews from fellow travelers. The second place team developed a system that would help travelers make better, faster decisions using Watson’s ability to analyze massive amounts of information and recommend the best options.
Third Place: You’re Hired! Big Data Helping HR: The Harvard Business Review points out that 80 percent of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions. The third place team developed an adaptive human capital management model that uses Watson’s abilities to quickly comb through data and make informed recommendations, to help businesses match open jobs with the best candidates.
IBM has also announced the winners of its 2012 Watson Solutions Faculty Award Program, which awarded 10 university professors from across the U.S. each a $10,000 grants to implement Watson-based curriculums. The 10 winning proposals ranged from introductory-to-graduate level courses, including an elective course in information systems at Carnegie Mellon University that challenges interdisciplinary student teams to apply big data, analytics, and IBM Watson’s technology toward advancing environmental sustainability, and a new graduate course at City University of New York City called advanced Natural Language Processing, which will introduce students to NLP methods while challenging them to present critiques and conduct practical experiments applying the techniques to problems.
IBM is currently working with more than 200 academic organizations specifically in the areas of analytics, big data, and cognitive computing as part of its Academic Initiative, which delivers coursework, case studies, and curricula to more than 6,000 universities and 30,000 faculty members worldwide to help students prepare for high-value job opportunities in the future. Schools include universities such as Fordham, Yale School of Management, University of Rochester, Northwestern University, Michigan State University, University of Southern California Annenberg, DePaul University, University of West Scotland, Deakin University, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Xi’an Jiao Tong University, University of Ulster, IAE Aix-en-Provence, EDC business school in France, and Ottawa University Telfer School of Management.
“IBM is leading the way for a new generation of thinkers by helping these academic institutions expand curriculums that enhance skills in analytics and cognitive computing. Graduates will enter the workforce with a unique set of skills giving them an early advantage as the next era of cognitive computing and analytics continue to impact every facet of business,” said Saxena.
Additional information about IBM University programs is available here.