AI, blockchain dominate IBM’s inaugural ‘Think’ conference

By Melvin G. Calimag

As it wrapped up its new flagship user conference called “Think” last March 22 in Las Vegas, technology bellwether IBM made sure that two of its anointed technologies are now ready for adoption outside of the laboratory – artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology.

IBM chair and CEO Ginni Rometty delivering the event’s keynote speech at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas

The new technologies were given the stamp of approval by IBM, which tackled the topics thoroughly during the mammoth conference attended by around 35,000 participants from all over the globe.

IBM chair and CEO Ginni Rometty delivered the keynote speech at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, making a vigorous push for the technologies that the tech titan is supporting.

In a talk titled “Putting Smart to Work,” Rometty predicted that AI will become the bedrock of modern computing. She said this will be the modern tool that many businesses – “not just a few ones” – will tap to become successful.

“This will be an era of man plus machine — not an era of man versus machine,” said Rometty.

She stressed that in today’s AI-driven environment, businesses must perform these three things in order to flourish – leverage on digital platforms, embed learning in every process, and empower people with digital intelligence.

Noting that only 20 percent of the world’s data are searchable, Rometty said intelligent systems such as IBM’s Watson could provide businesses the ability to harness the other 80 percent.

“Of course, Watson can mine and search for these data in a way that only you can see it and not by other people,” said Rometty as she emphasized the role of security and privacy in IBM solutions.

At the event, other high-powered IBM executives held separate sessions to showcase the state and future of AI, particularly how Big Blue is working with its clients to integrate AI into their operations.

One such session was the one conducted by the eminent IBM scientist, Dr. John Kelly, who discussed the beginnings of Watson as an AI-driven machine to its current status as a smart system powering the IBM cloud platform.

“We’re currently in the beginning of a transformative era,” said Kelly, IBM’s senior vice president for cognitive solutions and research.

“We know that data is doubling every 12 to 18 months in every industry. The challenge is: can we extract knowledge and insights from this exponential curve? If so, then for the first time in human history, we can scale knowledge and accelerate our learnings and the decisions that we make.”


ONGOING | At IBM’s Think confab in Las Vegas, Tanmay Bakshi, Watson’s youngest AI developer, speaks how leveraging cutting-edge AI technology can help diagnose early stage depression in youth.#think2018

Posted by Newsbytes.PH on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

To prove that cognitive intelligence is now being used on the ground, IBM also invited speakers to talk about AI in various industries.

One of the more interesting talks on AI during the conference was delivered by 14-year-old Tanmay Bakshi, Watson’s youngest AI developer, who took the stage to discuss his work in the field of healthcare.

During his presentation, Bakshi showed a video about a woman with Rett Syndrome named Boo in a small town in Canada. As she cannot speak or express herself clearly, Bakshi and his team are working to help her communicate with her family. They are developing a technology using an EEG headset, custom-printed to her head, pairing the data with deep learning algorithms to sense neural responses. The project is seen to help those with special needs and their caretakers.

Bakshi also said he is working with another team to develop and evolve a platform that uses AI to create an early warning system for depression in teens. This has been extended to the veteran population in the US, as well. Chatbots can assist patients and provide an outlet for those in critical need, averting suicide and helping them on the path to wellness. Machine-learning therapy is the next step, he said.

The young scientist ended the session by assuring the audience that AI is not replacing humans. He said he sees AI more as IA: intelligence amplified.

AI was a recurring theme at Think 2018, which is IBM’s new flagship user conference

In the field of human resources, IBM said AI is also now changing the recruitment game — both for the recruiters and candidates. At the confab, the tech giant introduced two new Watson HR tools to help in the recruitment process.

The first tool – the IBM Watson Candidate Assistant – uses natural language to create a better candidate experience and match job seekers with positions that will best fit their skillset. The IBM Watson Recruitment, on the other hand, helps talent acquisition teams identify quality candidates and help to provide the experience that job-seekers are asking.

The speakers also discussed the use of robotics in manufacturing, which taps IBM Visual Insights to identify and manage product defects. This has resulted in reduced manufacturing labor costs and improved process throughput and product quality.

Another overriding theme at Think 2018 is blockchain technology. A couple of years ago, blockchain was an unfamiliar concept to the general public until IBM threw its weight behind it, catapulting it to global consciousness.

While Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have become instrumental in popularizing blockchain, IBM demonstrated at the conference that other industries are also now benefiting from the game-changing technology.

In the case of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, it’s not just a single sector but a whole government bureaucracy is being upended by blockchain. According to Wesam Lootah, CEO of Smart Dubai Government Establishment, the territory will stop using paper documents by 2021 and will instead become fully digital using the blockchain.

By December 12, 2021, Dubai will be fully migrated to a completely paperless system, according to Smart Dubai Government Establishment CEO Wesam Lootah

The transition to a paperless environment is a bigger result of Dubai’s earlier initiative with IBM to explore the use of blockchain for a trade finance and logistics solution for the import and re-export process of goods in and out of Dubai.

Using Hyperledger Fabric and IBM Cloud, the blockchain solution transmits shipment data allowing key stakeholders to receive real-time information about the state of goods and the status of the shipment.

Taking the example of a shipment of fruit, stakeholders involved in the process will receive timely updates as the fruit is exported from India to Dubai by sea, and then manufactured into juice in Dubai, and then exported as juice from Dubai to Spain by air.

In the shipping industry where voluminous paper work contributes to tremendous inefficiencies, IBM executives said blockchain can adequately address these problems.

“In what used to be performed in months can now be done in days. Many copies of the transaction are instantly made without having to repeat a single step. “It’s a fresh new way to solve problems,” said Bridget van Kralingen, IBM’s senior vice president for global industries, platforms and blockchain.

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