IBM i Has A Cup Of Coffee With Watson
March 20, 2017 Dan Burger
As IBM steers its cognitive computing technology toward a profitable business process necessity, we are feeling the presence of Watson in the IBM i community. IBM’s business-oriented path forward for Watson should be well-suited to the “i for Business” installed base, or at least that portion of the installed base that believes IT is a competitive advantage.
Analysts foresee a river of business software flowing from embedded cognitive capabilities. They say deeper data analysis leading to smarter workflow efficiencies have the attention of business managers. And they predict three-quarters of new business software will include artificial intelligence features by 2018.
The rush to cognitive by independent software vendors (ISVs) with legacy (proven) applications will be more measured and deliberate, although they will surely feel the pressure to keep up with the Joneses. For the IBM i community, embedded cognitive capabilities are seeing dawn’s early light. The business leaders are still rubbing their eyes and reaching for that first cup of coffee. IBM is handing them a steaming cup of dark roast and turning up the volume on the cognitive cloud soundtrack.
Get ready for the 8 a.m. session that explains how systems that understand, reason, learn and interact with humans will take early adopters to the competitive advantage mountain top. As you look around, it’s plain to see not everyone is ready for the climb.
Organizations with developer skills in technologies such as Web services, REST interfaces, and service oriented architecture are best positioned to make Watson-IBM i integrations happen. The REST-based services allow the IBM i environment to communicate back and forth with Bluemix and Watson. Bluemix is IBM’s cloud. The interaction layer will be built using Watson APIs, some of which already exist.
One example is Watson’s capability to do natural language processing, which could be used to automate a call center. Other capabilities that are finding their way into applications are speech to text competence, image analyzation, keyword identification within text, distinguishing cause and correlation metrics, and determining how specific data points relate to each other.
If you are a developer or the manager of a development team, check out the Cognitive IoT Cookbook, a repository of useful code and best practices that relate to Watson APIs. It’s your first sip of coffee. A starting point for the new cognitive day. The “recipes” lead to controlling an IoT device, voice command controls, and speech to text and text to speech functionality.
“As we advance in cognitive computing technologies, the developer will code what needs to be learned into the machine, and the machine will learn what needs to be coded. Now more than ever, developers have a greater ability to help people change the world and businesses make smarter, more informed decisions,” according to IBM chief developer advocate Willie Tejada in an article published in Software Development Times.
Paulo Carvao, IBM’s systems hardware general manager, says decisions about the integration of cognitive computing with systems of record like IBM i will more likely be business decisions than IT decisions. They will be influenced by which line of business reaps the greatest rewards and will change from one industry to the next. “This is a business metrics decision. The business solution drags the technology rather than the other way around. The decision makers aren’t particularly interested in how these systems work, they just want to be shown that it works.”
“There is an element of how much can be pre-packaged and whether it can be embedded in partners’ solutions on the pre-packaged side? And that will affect how much happens at the time of engagement with the customer.”
There is still much work to be done creating, enabling and making available more Watson APIs on Bluemix so that IBM i application integration can take place on a company-specific basis. Determinations on how the APIs will be consumed and how much storage will be required to produce specific solutions are among the discoveries that need to be made. It’s fair to say system integrators with IBM i experience will be involved in much of the in-the-trenches work.
It’s hard to overestimate the importance of cognitive computing in IBM’s strategy. Without Watson, IBM is up the creek without a paddle. Revenue dependent on server sales has been declining. Cloud, big data analytics, and mobility – what IBM president, CEO, and chairman Ginni Rometty calls the “strategic imperatives” – generated $33 billion in revenue in 2016. That’s more than 40 percent of IBM’s total revenue. Watson’s influence on that 40 percent is not abundant at this time, and is difficult to pin down; however, IBM is depending on Watson to carry a substantial exponential revenue load in the coming years as the imperatives become the chief revenue engines. You probably noticed IBM remodeled its systems portfolio and is emphasizing cloud, data and cognitive as priorities.
Two years ago, IBM announced it was investing $3 billion dollars to create a new IoT business unit dedicated to developing the Watson Analytics. That group now includes more than 1,000 researchers, developers, and designers. Highlights of the available capabilities include augmented reality, cognitive capabilities, blockchain, edge analytics, analytics tooling, and natural language processing.
IBM is building Watson analytics applications that integrate with IBM i and plans to demonstrate the capabilities at the COMMON Annual Meeting and Exposition that takes place in Orlando, Florida, in early May. Specific details are not being revealed in advance of the conference, but it appears IBM will be making Watson integration a priority at this gathering of the IBM i advocates. We can expect success stories with end users and ISVs in a variety of industries, developer tips and techniques, and maybe an Innovation Award.