6 short sentences that sparked the creation of a cognitive app

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HatsOff cognitve appIt started on a busy morning expressway in an unfamiliar city. Three of us were on our way to a meeting that was a little further away than we thought.

While watching the driving app, we suddenly realized that we were in the wrong lane to make a sudden turn. Waiting precariously in the wrong lane, with the turn signal on, we were expecting the worst.

What happened next was something that took us all by surprise: a random act of kindness. A large, black pickup truck was letting us over. From the front seat, I heard, “That would have never happened where I live.”

The discussion continued, with no one quite ready to give up that positive feeling just yet. Someone asked, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could give him a tip?”

Just then, an idea was born out of six short sentences:

Hey Team,

Driving into the lab today, we were in the wrong lane and Prasad had to cut in line. A nice person allowed us in, and Simon commented that this would never have happened in my city. In fact, everyone would be trying to cut in and everyone else would be trying to keep them from cutting in. I commented that we need a way of tipping the nice person for being courteous. Which got me to thinking, why don’t we have a way to do this?  Maybe people would be encouraged to be more helpful — seems like it’s something that wouldn’t be too hard to do with the Internet of Things, cell phones, and PayPal or Bitcoin.

As part of a newly formed team, we felt the need to have a regularly scheduled informal meeting to bring everyone together to talk about ideas.  It didn’t have to be related to the work, just a creative time to toss ideas around, and in the process, learn more about the members of our team.

Then, by serendipity, we received notice about a Connect to Cloud Cognitive Build initiative kicking off. Four of us took on the challenge, and the wheels started turning. What if we created an app that would reward random acts of kindness? What would that look like? How could we be part of creating a gratitude network?

The idea quickly took off. It wasn’t a hard sell to create something pretty cool that could also make the world a better place. Everyone seemed to have an emotional response to the idea of a new way to express gratitude. But to be able to submit it into the Connect to Cloud Cognitive Build initiative, we quickly needed to move from “what if?” to “how would?”

The ideas started to flow as we asked more focused questions. What industry did it make the most sense to hook into to understand pain points that this app might solve? What would be a value add to customers and provide a interactive experience right at that point of random kindness?

The answer was the insurance industry. After all, a considerate driver is a safer driver.

With technology industry tools at hand, we had a head start for understanding what might be possible. We knew pretty quickly how we could create a prototype. But there needed to be a Cognitive component, which opened a new window of possibility regarding what services we could provide to customers.

We brainstormed about all the cognitive APIs we had at our fingertips.  What components would help us? Which were must haves? An architecture began to evolve as we solved each small problem.

The #HatsOff app is starting to take shape as our team begins to design and compile the component pieces. Our core team of Padma Chukka, Soad Abuelnaga, Neil Delima and myself, plus several incredible volunteers, are excited about the opportunities we’re discovering on this journey. The energy that it has brought to the team is a huge side benefit. Most of all, we never lose sight of those six quick sentences and the chance to make the world a tiny bit more courteous.

Learn more about how IBM is helping clients take advantage of the digital economy.

Padma Chukka, Soad Abu El-Naga and Neil Delima contributed to this article.

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