IBM launches new Watson Assistant AI for connected enterprises

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IBM has announced the launch of Watson Assistant, a digital assistant version of its Watson artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language conversation system.

IBM said, “Watson Assistant is the future of information and data sharing between brands, bridging the gap between people and things. […] With Watson Assistant, IBM is connecting everything and everywhere.”

Connected cars, hotel rooms, cafes, retailers, and other smart applications are all being developed around the AI assistant, which will remember users’ preferences and be able to manage their diaries and likes, and be able to hold conversations with them.

Elementary beginnings

Watson was initially developed as a question answering system to compete on US game show Jeopardy!, which it did successfully in 2011, winning a $ 1 million prize against human opponents. It was subsequently launched as a cloud service, and has since become core to IBM’s reinvention as an enterprise cognitive services provider, with rising numbers of business applications being developed for the platform.

Launched today, the new Watson Assistant is aimed at IBM’s enterprise partners, rather than as a direct-to-consumer play. This differentiates IBM in a space that is already crowded with chattering assistants, such as Siri, Alex, Cortana, and Google’s Assistant technology.

The idea is that partner companies can use Watson to create personalised, engaging experiences for consumers, which “securely bring together data on all of the places and ‘things’ that they visit and interact with daily”, said IBM.

Via new Watson Assistant powered services, consumers’ daily preferences can be “shared securely between their vehicle, their favourite hotel, their local coffee shop, and more, giving consumers control over their data – and over how and where it is shared”.

IBM itself shared an example of a Watson Assistant experience:

“A traveler’s flight is delayed, but she doesn’t need to alert her hotel or the car rental company, because the reservations are updated automatically. When she finally lands, she’s automatically checked into her hotel and her preferred rental car is not only ready, it has her destination preprogrammed along with suggestions about where she can stop at her favourite barista cafe brand for a latte en route.

“Nearing the hotel, the car signals her arrival to the hotel. Her room updates with her preferences for music, temperature, and lighting, and her smartphone, calendar, and email synch with the in-room wall dashboard for alerts and updates, as requested.

“She walks straight past the front desk and up to her room, uses an electronic key on her phone to enter, and within minutes, she is ready to begin her afternoon meetings. The whole experience was automatic, seamless, and above all, personalised to her preferences.”

Partner brands

The enterprise and cognitive services giant is teaming with a range of partner brands to offer this kind of bespoke Watson application. Launch partners include Harman, Munich Airport, Motel One, Chameleon Technology, Kaon, AirWire, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Autodesk.

Chameleon Technology’s I-VIE energy conservation assistant is based on Watson, and the company’s video serves as a better introduction to the types of available application than IBM’s own partner-focused promo.

Another launch partner, Harman has integrated a number of Watson use cases into a Maserati concept car that reveals how AI-based interactive dashboards will be personalised to individual drivers in the future, according to IBM.

Via the technology, different drivers would experience a different version of exactly the same car via their stored preferences, and Watson Assistant would remember each different conversation.

Watson Assistant – Harman Maserati (Photo Alan Rosenberg for IBM)

IBM explained this particular application with another story: “You’re in your car on the way home from work and need to stop for a quick grocery trip. The problem? You’re not sure what to make for dinner.

“Because of partnerships that automakers have with grocery chains, Watson Assistant can engage in an exploratory conversation with you while helping you avoid the developing traffic that lies ahead: “Do you have green peppers and chicken?” “Yes?” “Then, how about a simple chicken stir fry.” “OK.” “Then, all you need to get from grocery story is some onions.”

According to IBM, Watson Assistant services like these will “empower organisations to get to know their customers’ individual preferences”, wherever they happen to be in the world.

Natural language conversations between people and Watson Assistant will simply pick up wherever they left off, regardless of the person’s location. In other words, wherever the person is and Watson services are embedded, the system will recognise that person and resume the conversation.

But how safe will user data be in such a wide-ranging system?

Data ownership is a critical factor in the future of AI, and IBM said that it “does not and will not own” any consumer data that’s shared via Watson Assistant. “Any data captured through conversations, texts, or videos is contained within the brand to better serve the customers,” explained IBM.

Internet of Business says

IBM’s comments about data ownership send an important signal to the AI and IoT communities that, for ‘Big Blue’, this isn’t about an Amazon-, Google- or Facebook-style data-grab, but about complementing human ingenuity with smart technology.

With its recent refocus on cognitive services under Virginia Rometty’s leadership, IBM has been working towards a future in which computers and human beings talk the same language, via conversational interfaces.

Watson has certainly been part of some promising experiments in recent years. For example, in 2016 the Hilton MacLean hotel in Virginia, US, linked a NAO humanoid robot called Connie to local data sets via Watson in the cloud to create a robot concierge in the foyer.

Connie was able to answer guests’ questions about local amenities and services, and grew smarter over time as more and more of these conversations took place.

The trial revealed three things. First, that industry-specific big data sets for smart assistants will be a growth hotspot over the next few years, provided by specialist startups. One such venture is ‘cognitive travel agent’ WayBlazer, which took part in the Hilton trial.

Second, that while human beings can of course offer these services (and have done for centuries), smart assistants and connected robots can access far more data, in real time, than a human being could possibly acquire or retain.

And third, that AI and natural language processing in the cloud, or on the edge, is a promising means for enabling the types of natural language conversations that humanoid robots have so far lacked.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2017, Rometty said that transparency is essential when it comes to AI, and that she believed that trust will only grow if organisations adopt three basic principles:

“One is understanding the purpose of when you use these technologies. For us, the reason we call it ‘cognitive’ rather than ‘AI’ is that it is augmenting human intelligence – it will not be ‘Man or machine’. Whether it’s doctors, lawyers, call centre workers, it’s a very symbiotic relationship conversing with this technology. So our purpose is to augment and to really be in service of what humans do.

“The second is, industry domain really matters. […] Every industry has its own data to bring to this and to unlock the value of decades of data combined with this. So these systems will be most effective when they are trained with domain knowledge.

“And the last thing is the business model. For any company, new or old, you’ve accumulated data. That is your asset. Data is a competitive advantage. So we believe strongly as a business that you need to be sure that the insights you get from your data belong to you. And that also applies to how these systems are trained.”

Read more: Samsung SmartThings announces partnership with Harman

Read more: IBM unveils new data science platform to accelerate AI adoption

Read more: IIoT security: How to secure the ‘Internet of Threats’, by IBM

Read more: Rotterdam and IBM plan to create world’s smartest port with IoT

The post IBM launches new Watson Assistant AI for connected enterprises appeared first on Internet of Business.

Internet of Business

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Security risk against enterprises continues undimmed as IoT popularity grows

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The increased popularity of the IoT leading to growing adoption is one of the main reasons for more cybersecurity attacks against enterprises and utilities, according to a new Navigant Research report.

The report, titled “Managing IoT Cybersecurity Threats in the Energy Cloud Ecosystem”, evaluates cybersecurity threats in relation to IoT affecting enterprises and utilities alike. With IoT popularity, new threats are coming in and the need for a stronger IoT security lingers.

According to the report, over the last few years, the need to shield cybersecurity attacks has heightened as corporates are demanding robust security along value and supply chains. So far as domestic consumers are concerned, similar demand to improve security of IoT devices and services is noted.

Neil Strother, principal research analyst with Navigant Research, said: “The mushrooming number of IoT devices being deployed by utilities and other enterprises carries an obvious and growing security risk. Smart managers need a comprehensive strategy to stay ahead of potentially devastating threats to IoT assets. No longer can managers rely on an old-school reactive approach; instead, they and their security teams must adopt the latest proactive and predictive tools and methodologies to keep devices and systems safe.”

Another report from Navigant Research has placed Philips Lighting, Acuity Brands, Eaton, and OSRAM among the leading players in the IoT lighting market. The report evaluated a total of 16 vendors including the giants – Cisco, Intel, Schneider Electric, and Siemens – although they are labelled as challengers and not contenders or leaders. Navigant Research argues that the global IoT lighting market is all set to touch $ 5.5 billion by 2027 from $ 808.2 million in 2018. Latest from the homepage

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Microsoft’s Office on iOS improvements puts enterprises everywhere

When it comes to enterprise productivity, Microsoft has two feet in the future and just one in the past, and that’s why it has chosen to significantly improve Office on iOS for every user with the kind of collaborative tools enterprises need.

Microsoft gets mobile

Microsoft may have lost the war to dominate mobile hardware, but (like Apple) its future business plan is increasingly based on services, not beige boxes.

To read this article in full, please click here

Computerworld Mobile

Enterprises will spend $7 trillion on digital transformation by 2021


Global enterprises will spend more than $ 7 trillion dollars in the next four years as they struggle to modernize, build a global technology foundation for growth, and support simple, secure, and reliable access to data and services, says the IDC.

The big drivers?

The usual suspects like cloud initiatives, big data analytics, and mobility. But, IoT is becoming a major investment focus, and so are automation or AI initiatives. Connectivity is always a part of the conversation here, as well as IT services and enterprise applications.

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In 2019 alone, global enterprises will spend $ 1.7 trillion on digital transformation. That’s up almost 50% from the $ 1.2 trillion they spent this year, according to IDC. Top industries include the manufacturing and transportation sectors, but professional services and healthcare firms are also driving increased investment. By 2021, investment will reach a staggering $ 2.1 trillion.

One thing is clear: A wide range of industries is investing in digital transformation.

Those top industries represent just slightly more than half of all the trillions of dollars of spending. The rest, about 46%, is spread among multiple other categories.

While it’s true that companies are investing in cloud and communications technologies to grow competitiveness in an era when every company is becoming a technology company, the sleeper investment might be what all this technology does to company culture.

Digital transformation, after all, improves speed to market, competitiveness, innovation capacity, and other critical areas of an enterprise. All of those depend on culture, and culture depends on people.

That’s the piece that’s often overlooked when transformation efforts yield mixed results.

Without the right people, and without the right culture, all the technology in the world won’t save a company. Collaboration tools enable cooperation and communication, but they don’t mandate it.

All of which means that enterprise transformation includes technology, but needs to consider culture.

We’re looking to bring together key executives for a collaborative round table on digital transformation over dinner in Silicon Valley. Comment here to join me on the evening of February 13th!

The post Enterprises will spend $ 7 trillion on digital transformation by 2021 appeared first on ReadWrite.


IoT deployment doubles among New Zealand enterprises in 2017, says IDC

The implementation of IoT solutions among enterprises in New Zealand has increased two-fold to 25.7% in 2017 from 13.7% in 2016, according to IDC.

IDC New Zealand’s yearly Internet of Things Decision Maker Report explains how the companies understand the advantages of deploying IoT and implement the solution to boost productivity and enhance customer related experience.

Explaining the reason behind the increase, Monica Collier, research manager for telecommunications, IDC New Zealand, said: "New Zealand organisations are understanding that the value of the Internet of Things is in the data it produces and, more importantly, what that data enables companies to act upon or improve. Additionally, endpoint costs continue to decrease and the range of connectivity options is increasing; it's easier to get an IoT business case across the line."

The report highlighted that the organisations implementing IoT solutions are more influenced by improving customer experience, than fixing internal processes. 

Summarising the opportunities associated with IoT, Collier concluded: "The New Zealand IoT Alliance research says that IoT could bring NZ$ 2.2 billion of benefit to the New Zealand economy over the next ten years. Our report illustrates how companies have understood that message and are implementing IoT to increase productivity and improve customer experience."

Alongside this, another newly published report by IDC presents a detailed analysis of enterprises providing cellular connectivity management and/or other capabilities such as device management for IoT. The report titled “IDC MarketScape: Worldwide IoT Platforms (Device and Network Connectivity Providers) 2018 Vendor Assessment” profiled 11 vendors including AT&T, Cisco, Ericsson and Verizon. The report has highlighted several factors that technology buyers need to consider while evaluating providers for IoT platform connectivity. Latest from the homepage

Ionic Brings App Development Suite to Teams and Enterprises

Ionic, maker of the popular open source Framework for building cross-platform mobile and progressive web apps, has launched a suite of development tools for enterprise developers and teams.

Ionic Pro is a cloud-based solution that makes it faster and easier to design, build, test and deliver apps.

Launched in 2013, the Ionic Framework has acquired a community of more than five million developers around the world. Ionic’s approach streamlines mobile development with one code base that runs everywhere – on any device or operating system – using the web as a common platform. This efficiency is critical to enterprise teams, as demand for mobile apps is growing five times faster than IT can deliver. With the launch, Ionic Pro extends the power of the Framework to address the entire app lifecycle.

“The Ionic Framework has become popular with enterprise teams because they can target native mobile apps, as well as progressive web apps, all from a single codebase – using languages that are familiar to their in-house web developers,” said Max Lynch, co-founder and CEO of Ionic. “With Ionic Pro, we’re taking it even further by helping teams address the entire dev lifecycle – from design and testing, to tracking errors and shipping hot code updates.”

To learn more, click here.

The post Ionic Brings App Development Suite to Teams and Enterprises appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.

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Why do enterprises want IoT?

Connected cars, workers and buildings offer almost complete visibility into business operations. But for the most successful companies, the process starts with a use case. One executive at a prominent company doing IoT deployment told me, “When someone calls asking for ‘some IoT’ I don’t even call them back.” I imagine he does call them back, but he’s right that he can’t help until he has a use case. So what are the big use cases in enterprise IoT deployments?

Verizon this week issued a report on its view of the internet of things featuring drones, use cases and more good information. But my favorite was the chart below, discussing what executives were most interested in.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

Digital Catapult expands LPWAN program for councils and enterprises

Digital Catapult opens up LPWAN program to councils and enterprises

Digital Catapult is to expand its Things Connected low-power wide area network (LPWAN) program to councils and enterprises in the UK.

The organization, a not-for-profit body that focuses on helping UK businesses to scale up, originally established the program in 2016, and offers network coverage across Greater London, Milton Keynes, Cambridge and Bradford.

LPWAN, meanwhile, enables long-range wireless data communication between connected devices, even in hard-to-reach areas.

But Digital Catapult has now announced plans to manage a further £540,000 of investment, and is accepting bids for funding from regional network consortia, including councils and enterprises. The aim is to deliver coverage in up to five additional regions of the UK. It hopes that, in turn, this will extend support for the creation, development and testing of new IoT services and applications.

Open call process

Digital Catapult is accepting applications from organizations looking to test and deploy services on LPWAN technology via an ‘open call’ process. Successful bidders will be able to implement and operate a free-to-use regional LPWAN network, and they will receive an allocation of the funding and LPWAN hardware, along with access to expertise and technical training from Digital Catapult.

“Through our Things Connected programme, we are building an ecosystem to foster the development of new innovative products and services and increase the number of UK companies delivering on the Internet of Things ”, explained Dr Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult.

“Extending the initiative to become more of a nationwide programme is a critical step in this journey. We see a huge opportunity for the whole of the UK in the IoT space to increase our global competitiveness. We are looking to engage with forward thinking organisations on the roll-out of LPWAN as this will play a critical role in bringing the UK to the forefront of IoT development.”

Read more: London Zoo turns to IoT to tackle global poaching menace

Few downsides

Ian Hughes, IoT analyst at IT market research company 451 Research, believes that there are few – if any – downsides to the Things Connected programme, since the main goal is shared growth.

“This LPWAN network is made available to encourage device and application providers to explore the potential of IoT. Different organizations and consortia arrange these platforms, some are simply to encourage general growth, others may be more as part of an investment and partnering portfolio, or to help spot new investment opportunities,” he said.

“Cities and councils that support these will attract new businesses, and providing shared workspaces can help these new businesses work together and learn from one another too,” he added.

Councils and enterprises that are interested in the program should apply online to the open call here. The deadline is 5:30pm on 29 September 2017. If successful, Digital Catapult says it will provide necessary equipment such as LPWAN gateways, relevant training on how to install and configure the gateways, as well as marketing and branding support.

Read more: Digital Catapult rolls out ‘UK’s largest IoT LoRaWAN network’

The post Digital Catapult expands LPWAN program for councils and enterprises appeared first on Internet of Business.

Internet of Business

WhatsApp announces free Business app, will charge big enterprises

 WhatsApp is gearing up to finally monetize its messaging app by charging large enterprise businesses for tools to better communicate with customers. WhatsApp will also offer a free app to small-to-medium sized businesses, though it hasn’t outlined the specific functionality of the app. The enterprise solution will allow global companies “to provide customers with useful… Read More
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Apple and Accenture teaming up to help enterprises build advanced mobility tools

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