Cognitive Computing and its Place in Today's World

By CIOReview | Monday, May 22, 2017
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Cognitive computing is slowly attaining limelight in the business world today. However, some businesses may not be able to tap into some of the benefits now. The introduction of Watson was received by a mix of wonder and disbelief. The company has now created a dedicated branch—Watson group for commercializing cognitive computing technologies.

In 2011, Watson was carefully programmed as a specialized cognitive system with distinctive natural-language processing prowess. It was fed with a lot of information and it went on to gain fame for IBM. The company proved a machine could learn about human language and knowledge in amounts that were sufficient to beat vaunted Jeopardy! champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in a two-match series of the TV quiz show.

IBM worked to expand Watson's expertise to include healthcare, with a big emphasis on oncology and curing cancer, and further includes undertakings such as financial planning and customer service. Watson's ability to reason through complex problems may seem quite new and revolutionary.  Cognitive computing also addresses complex situations that are characterized by ambiguity and uncertainty. The abilities of cognitive computing systems are described as making context computable. These systems provide machine-aided serendipity by churning through massive and diverse information to find patterns and apply those patterns to respond to the needs of the moment.

Cognitive computing also includes the use of varied techniques for pattern matching that can help recognize different kinds of digitized information, from predefined entities within structured databases to the bit-patterns of streaming rich media. Experts believe that to make a cognitive system, the basic rules of the road where semantics are important and type registries are important are required. This coupled with patience to build a community ecosystem and figure out the target problems is the clear recipe to success for cognitive computing.

Watson remains a work in progress. IBM is partnering with a number of its customers around the world to develop purpose-built reasoning systems. A research symposium recently featured demonstrations of smart pattern-matching systems applied to oil and gas exploration, as well as genomic research. These were large-scale problems within an enterprise where the potential payoffs would mean systems-level investments.

Developers can begin to mash up their own content using cognitive computing services through the cloud to extract further insights. As promising as a services-oriented approach may be, currently the cognitive computing has its own limitations. IBM trains the various services so they are tuned only to predefined information collections.

In the future, enterprises will need the capability to add and analyze their own information sets and extract the cognitive connections among the content components. Tuning these private information sets will require expertise and specialized skills.

How can Businesses Start Using this Service?

Although these services are not yet ready for prime time, what should companies do to profit from the prospects for cognitive computing? First are new approaches to problem solving. Most website owners are familiar with search engine optimization—organizing their content so their target audiences can find what they want and discover what they need. Website owners need to pay attention to their information architecture and find out methods to semantically enrich their content for findability.

The second option includes new approaches to machine learning through metrics. A number of website owners are implementing web metrics to track the behaviors of site visitors and to modify delivery options. This way they can automate what begins as a manual activity with advanced analytics using the required models for the processes.