Embracing the cognitive world every day with IBM Systems

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OK, so it was time. I didn’t have an excuse anymore. That I had a report due at work, or that the holidays were coming, or that I had to go to the dentist.

It was finally time to do something that I had avoided for almost a year. Something that was even worse, if you can believe it, than preparing my taxes. It was time to make the dreaded updates to my insurance policy.

These were not the sort of quick changes that I could easily do online or rapidly with a phone call. These were excruciatingly detailed updates to all of my policies–home, auto and personal. They came with multiple liabilities, multiple schedules and multiple riders. I would need to block out many hours of the day for this one. And suffer the nightmare involved in these complex negotiations with my insurance agent to hedge against the risk of an ugly, contingent, uncertain loss.

As it turned out, my foray into policy updates ended up taking weeks, not hours. The complexity of the millions of arcane rules around these types of policies is mind-boggling. Are you living in the state of Ohio with 3 1/2 baths? How many boats do you own? Gosh forbid you have any male teenage drivers. Or a dog.

But this very situation is actually a typical everyday situation where cognitive computing can really shine. Cognitive computing addresses these complex problems characterized by ambiguity and uncertainty. And this technology can actually process it much better and certainly much faster than my human insurance agent.

In these dynamic situations enormous quantities of data change frequently, and it is often conflicting. Data can be structured or unstructured (think videos and social media streams). Data can be at rest as well as in motion. Cognitive computing synthesizes influences, contexts and insights, and weighs conflicting evidence and suggests an answer that is “best” rather than “right.” Which is key since life is usually not black and white. In most cases with insurance there is no perfect policy for a customer—but there is a best one.

Cognitive computing can help systems learn, reason and interact with humans naturally. Cognitive capabilities generate not just answers to numerical problems, but hypotheses, reasoned arguments and recommendations about complex and meaningful bodies of data. Data like all of my insurance company’s data that could actually impact me.

IBM Watson is one such cognitive system. It is based on the same types of technologies we know and love – including IBM high-end systems such as Power Systems and IBM Storage. They come with all the performance, scalability, reliability, availability and security that IBM systems are known for.

So very soon, I may be able to talk to an insurance agent who has access to cognitive to help me get the absolute best insurance policy there is for my needs. In very little time. Or maybe, I won’t have to talk to an agent at all. (Even better!)

Cognitive computing like with IBM Watson isn’t just for space exploration, or for curing cancer. Or even for competing in game shows. (Though it’s pretty darn good at all of those things.) Cognitive computing can help us all in our everyday lives, every single day.

IBM Distinguished Engineer

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