Cognitive Commerce

How Cognitive is Tackling New Challenges, from Conservation to Customer Service

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Cognitive application development is taking off around the world and across industries. In the past year alone developers in Japan, the Middle East, Latin America and most recently, Korea, have begun building with cognitive technologies in their native languages. With such energy behind the technology, IDC predicts that by 2018, half of all global consumers will interact with services based on cognitive computing on a regular basis.*

Infusing cognitive into consumer and business applications is fundamentally changing the way we engage with and leverage technology. While incredible advances have been made in cognitive language capabilities, important breakthroughs in vision and emotion are now enabling developers to create even more natural interactions between people and systems. IBM has led the cognitive field, and we continue to advance the ways in which developers can create rich, robust services. Today we’re excited to announce the general availability of two new APIs: Visual Recognition and Tone Analyzer.

Two of our developer partners, OmniEarth and iQventures, are using these APIs to build unique solutions that accelerate information discovery and improve emotional intelligence. OmniEarth is tapping into IBM’s Visual Recognition service – an image recognition solution that goes beyond merely understanding the content of images and offers a service that can be trained to understand custom visual content. The service now features multi-class learning techniques, which means it can be trained to understand multiple custom visual concepts at once. For example, it can now understand that an image of fruit is both an image of grapes, as well as an image that includes the color purple. Previously, the system was less flexible, and each class had to be trained separately.

OmniEarth is applying this advanced capability to help improve water conservation with organizations and local governments in California. They are training IBM’s Visual Recognition service to decipher and classify the topographical features in aerial and satellite images – such as swimming pools, turf lawns, agricultural zones and irrigable, irrigated and non-irrigated areas. Now OmniEarth can process aerial images 40 times faster than previous manual methods – processing 150,000 images in 12 minutes rather than over several hours or days.

The cognitive insights that come out of this rapid analysis are transforming the way water districts define, monitor and scale water conservation solutions. Regional utilities and watershed organizations, like the Inland Empire Utility Agency and the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, are providing OmniEarth tools to their water retail agencies as a way to better target their water conservation programs, educating specific households on how to modify their habits to save money while supporting the conservation initiative. Additionally, individual water districts like the City of Folsom and the East Bay Municipal Water District can create automated water budgets for more granular demand forecasts, instead of relying on blanket restrictions based on statewide averages.

In addition to tackling water conservation with visual recognition, IBM is advancing its emotional intelligence and tone detection capabilities – a concept that is taking off in the customer service space. iQventures, a leader in call center and call intelligence technology, is using IBM’s Tone Analyzer service within their call center analytics platform to better understand the tones that are present in call center interactions. The system transcribes incoming calls in real-time through its own speech recognition engine before applying Tone Analyzer to the text. Customers like Community Choice Financial are able to better understand their customer satisfaction, as the service analyzes a variety of social, emotional and language tones that influence the effectiveness of an exchange.

We were excited to hear about how these partners are applying the technology to their businesses. With every developer we talk to, the point that consistently stands out is their passion for the problems they’re solving, and the innovative ways they combine technologies to create solutions. This kind of problem solving and innovation drives us to continually iterate on and enhance the technologies we’re making available. The vision we share with these developers – for a more natural, intuitive and seamless way of interacting with technology – is what will bring AI and cognitive adoption to a wider audience.


*IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Big Data & Analytics 2015 Predictions

Vice President, Watson Platform, IBM

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