Today IBM made a rather interesting announcement with the Weather Company. This was coupled with the formation of an IOT organization and the result should be the creation of something like a Digital Crystal Ball. No, wait a moment, that isn’t really accurate. They are creating something better than a Digital Crystal Ball because their offering will automatically provide answers to the questions you should have asked not just the ones you did ask.
The Problem With Analytics
In many ways Analytics strive to be the equivalent of a Digital Crystal Ball. They look at the ever more massive amount of data that is collected from an ever wider dataset, now increasingly including massive numbers of sensors, and use this to answer the questions Data Scientists come up with.
Part of the problem with current systems is that the folks that really need the answers are line and staff executives and the vast majority of executives aren’t Data Scientists. So you have someone that needs an answer and they need to go to someone else, else with a very different background, to translate their question into a form the Analytics system can understand, the system provides an answer, then the Data Scientist translates this answer into something the executive can understand.
There are huge areas for error in both the translation of the question and the answer and the time and annoyance tied to this process means that a lot of the questions that need to be asked aren’t or they are asked and the answer that comes back is either useless or wrong because the translations weren’t accurate.
IBM’s Watson is one of a growing number of AI systems designed to address this first question allowing the executive to ask the question directly to Watson and have Watson directly accept the question and provide the answer. This would be like a Digital Crystal ball. However this is only half of the problem.
The other half is knowing when to ask a question and what to ask.
With IOT tied to an intelligent system the system can learn what questions to ask and provide the answers unprompted. In other words by being able to increasingly perceive what is going on in the real world and using an ever smarter AI the Watson System can grow to anticipate when a question needs to be answered and simply provide the answer.
In the context of this announcement it can better anticipate weather events and provide advice to First Responders, Utilities, and Retailers with regard to what they need to do and when. For instance a coming storm might generate a series of alerts that recommended where to place resources, how to shift utility loading, and even what kinds of goods to shelve and promote to best take advantage of the event.
In short rather than just getting a weather alert you get a series of recommendations with regard to what to actually do to both limit damage and increase benefits from the event.
Wrapping Up: The Super Digital Crystal Ball
This is just the start and as systems like Watson mature their ability to provide necessary unasked for advice timely will improve. You see while it might be nice to know if you will marry the person you are dating far better would be to know that such a marriage would end badly. It is this extra level of information this next generation of intelligent systems will begin supplying. Not just understanding what you know you want, but understanding what you may not know you need and providing that more critical piece of information before you need it.
This is kind of a Super Digital Crystal ball and, once it matures, I doubt there will be any company large or small that will be able to effectively compete, or even survive, without it.