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By Erich Clementi
Senior Vice President, Global Market & Chairman, IBM Europe
“Our work is often like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack – even the smallest piece of information could lead to an accurate diagnosis.” Late last year, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Schäfer from the Undiagnosed and Rare Diseases Centre at the University Hospital in Marburg, Germany, described the challenges facing he and his team. Since it opened in 2013, the patient waiting list has accumulated to 6,000 leaving the medical staff “overwhelmed not only by the large number of patients, but also by the huge amount of data we have to review,” he said.
Enter IBM Watson. Rhön Klinikum AG, the parent organization of the Undiagnosed and Rare Diseases Centre has teamed up with IBM for a 12-month pilot project where medical and technical scientists and designers from both companies are working together to develop a cognitive assistance system for rare diseases. Its overall goal is to support doctors to analyze large volumes of patient data to help them make decisions more quickly and safely.
We are in the early stages of discovering how artificial intelligence systems such as IBM Watson can transform every facet of work and life. IBM, in its long history, has witnessed a lot of digitalization and defined some of it. Today we find ourselves on the cusp of a new era – the Cognitive Era.
Just recently, a few hours south of Professor Schafer’s Medical Centre, IBM launched the global headquarters for Watson IoT in Munich. The headquarters brings together 1,000 software engineers, programmers, architects, designers, cognitive scientists, researchers in what is the centre of the universe for cognitive IoT. At the “Genius of Things” launch summit, partnerships were announced for ground-breaking IoT collaborations with SNCF, Visa, Bosch, Indiegogo, Arrow Electronics and others. I was delighted to be joined by European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip for a panel discussion on digitizing industry. Responsible for the EU’s digital policy, Mr. Ansip holds the keys to Europe’s digital future. Because innovators – not just global companies like IBM but also local start-ups with big ambitions – depend on good public policy to be able to grow and drive change in Europe.
To my mind there are several fundamental European Union public policy issues. IBM is a committed and vocal supporter of the EU’s Digital Single Market ambitions. Initiatives around Free Flow of Data, Digital Industrial Leadership, Cloud computing, Internet Platforms and Copyright – if well conceived – will create the right investment environment. But some of those issues – for example data flows and copyright– are not heading in the right direction. We are now looking to the EU to deliver on the promise of the Digital Single Market: in the current review phase we will share our thoughts on keeping the Digital Single Market on course.
Ensuring trust in IoT will be essential to its success. IoT users need guarantees of protection of personal data and cybersecurity. As companies we must embrace the notions of Privacy-by-Design and Security-by-Design in developing IoT solutions. And while policy makers have created the EU Data Protection Regulation, it is far too complex for SMEs and companies to implement because it does not respect the different use cases of IoT. To create user-friendly and efficient policy, we encourage the EU to develop guidelines for the implementation of the Data Protection Regulation in various IoT use cases.
Just as policy makers must take their responsibilities seriously, so must we as businesses. Ensuring a successful digital future is about more than investment. We need to create trust. This is why at our launch in Munich we emphasized our three guiding principles for AI. As we embark on this new phase for Watson IoT, IBM will ensure that our values and responsibilities as a company are at the core of everything we do.
Adam R. Pratt
Download: IBM in Europe (PDF brochure, 455 KB)