on the weather and climate occurring around the world in
Because weather fascinates many
of us and is experienced by all of us, the report provides good examples of how
data can be analyzed, reported, and visualized.
The first observation I'd make is that the report focuses on
unusual or anomalous events. It tries to
put them in historical context. For
example, I learned that the U.S.
had the wettest October since records were collected 115 years ago. And Toronto
had a snow-free November for the first time in recorded history. In all data analysis - weather data,
financial data, or performance data – it is important to pull out the
significant events from the rest of the data, or the “noise” as we say. NOAA does this by comparing the past year’s
data with their historical data to find out where the year stood in comparison
to all the other years. Similar analysis
can be done by other agencies whether the metric is road-miles constructed or the percent of students receiving student aid that graduated. What is key is comparing the results in light of the historical data and trying to gain insights on what the trend is and what it means.
Because 2009 was the end of the decade, they have also
compiled some data at the decade level rather than at the year level. While the 2009 average global temperature was
the fifth warmest year on record, the 2000-2009 decade was the warmest on
record for the globe. And the decade
before, 1990 – 1999, was the warmest on record at that time. The use of multi-year averages is a good
example of smoothing that can be done to help ferret out significant
information and remove the year-to-year fluctuation in large collections of
time series data. The graph showing the
decade data makes the trend very obvious (Source NOAA report, chapter 2).
Many of the charts in the report show the yearly results as
a delta from the long term average, e.g. last year’s average surface
temperature was .5ºC above the 1961-1990 average using NASA/GISS data. By graphing
the time series data against the long term average, the anomalies standout. Other
charts show the actual values and it is possible to discern trends in the data.
For example, the lower tropospheric temperatures are increasing by
approximately .15ºC per decade. One can
use this information to predict the climate for future decades, which could
have value for policy purposes.
The report also highlights the very strong monthly and seasonal variability in the U.S. surface temperatures in 2009 that would be obscured if one just looked at yearly averages. Another analytical technique - Modeling - can be used to help analyze why the "why" behind the data. Why did 2009 show such strong variability? The report indicates that in 2009 the global climate switched from the La Nina conditions that dominated 2008 to El Nino sea surface temperature (SST) conditions in the tropical Pacific ocean. Was this the cause? NOAA global climate models were subjected to the Pacific SST observed data and the results are show below. While not all of the variability appears to be explained by the model, the warm first quarter over the Great Plains and cold summer seems mostly consistent with the impact of La Nina during the winter and El Nino during the summer.
The State of the Climate report shows good examples of many
data analysis techniques including historical analysis, near-real time
reporting, reanalysis of past data using newer, improved techniques, averaging
of multiple datasets to improve reliability, and drill down capabilities from
decades, to years, to seasons, to months,
and from global to regional to country and state. They also use
interesting visualization techniques.
Those interested in data analysis, as well as weather,
should download this report from the NOAA Website. (Arndt, D.S.,M.O. Baringer, and M.R. Johnson, Eds., 2010: State of the Climate in 2009, Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc.). Note: While NOAA does use IBM Technology in its Research, the report does not state which technology is used in the reported climate studies and I don't intend to imply any relationship between this report and IBM.)
Those interested in further information on Analytics
including our fall schedule of events, please visit the Analytics Solution
Center website at www.ibm.com/ASCdc.
If your agency uses analytics in interesting and novel ways,
I'd like to hear from you. Please write to me at ASCdc@us.ibm.com.
Frank Stein, Director
My work this year has taken me from Big Data and Analytics towards Cognitive Computing and what IBM is now dubbing Cognitive Businesses (or Cognitive Government in our case). Cognitive businesses leverage cognitive computing technology (think Watson) to enhance, scale, and accelerate the expertise of their personnel. Below is the summary of the first part of a symposium I co-chaired last week. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have.
The AAAI Fall Symposia on November 12-14 included tracks on 1) AI for Human-Robot Interaction, Cognitive Assistance, Deceptive and Counter-Deceptive Machines, Embedded ML, Self Confidence in Autonomous Systems, and Sequential Decision Making for Intelligent Agents. This post will provide my general impressions of the Cognitive Assistance symposium.
Jerome Pesenti, IBM VP of Watson Core Development, provided the 1st day keynote. He started with the great quote from Fred Jelinek (Cornell/IBM/JHU) that “Every time I fire a linguist, the performance of the speech recognizer goes up.” He then talked about how deep learning is allowing reco systems that approach or surpass human performance. This led to a lively discussion with the audience on the universality of learning algorithms and whether the machines were learning in the same manner that humans learn something (no). Jerome finished with some applications of Watson including the Oncology Advisor, citizen support (e.g, tax questions), and security (finding relationships between data).
The rest of the morning was filled with examples of cognitive assistance for legal tasks such as filing a protective order (Karl Branting) and human-computer co-creativity in the classroom(Ashok Goel), and a tool to help SMEs define their vocabulary to find the most relevant content on the web (Elham Khabiri).
During lunch, much of the symposium had lunch together and a lively discussion ensued on cognitive assistance. One topic that I found interesting was on ultimate chess where human-machine teams compete. While these teams in the past have beaten computer-only teams, Murray Campbell noted that the advancements in chess playing computers are decreasing the value-add of humans to the team.
The afternoon session of Day 1 started with 2 interesting talks on cognitive assistance for helping those with cognitive disabilities. Madelaine Sayko described Cog-Aid which would include a cognitive assessment, recommender system (based on the assessment) and an intelligent task status manager for starters. Then Daniel Sontag described the Kognit technology program which includes tracking dementia patient’s behavior using eye tracking and mixed reality displays to assist the patient perform activities in daily living. Kevin Burns presented a sense-making approach that could be used by an intelligence analyst to help understand and define the Prior and Posterior probability calculations as new evidence is added. This could eventually be embodied into a cognitive assistant. Next came a presentation on capturing cybersecurity operational patterns to facilitate knowledge chaining by Keith Willett.
The final session of the day was a panel discussion of workforce issues associated with cognitive assistants led by Murray Campbell. Erin Burke of Fordham University Law School talked about how legal education must transition and that she is working at the intersection of law, big data, and cognitive computing. Jim Spohrer, Director of IBM’s University Programs, provided some predictions including that by 2035 everyone will be a manager and will have at least one Cognitive Assistant working for them. A lively discussion ensued with the audience about our forthcoming relationship with Cogs including whether we could trust them, unintended consequences, whether we can build common sense into a Cog, and whether our brains will atrophy as we depend on Cogs.
I’ll cover Day 2 in the next blog post.
On July 4th, CERN scientists announced that they
observed a particle that strongly resembles the Higgs boson, a critical element
of the standard model of particle physics.
This particle is thought to be responsible for the characteristic of
mass, which gives objects weight when combined with gravity.
Detection of the Higgs Boson would not have been possible
without the last decade’s advances in processing big data. Joe Incandela, CMS Spokesman at CERN,
explained that if every collision that they scanned was a sand grain, these
sand grains would have filled up an Olympic sized pool over the last 2
years. They had to find the several
dozen or so grains of sand that exhibited characteristics consistent with the
In addition to developing the Large Hadron Collider, the
CERN teams also developed a data strategy to deal with the data from the
hundreds of millions of particle collisions occurring each second. The sensors record the raw data on billions
of events occurring in the proton collider. These readings are then reconstructed
to show the energy and directions of many particle traces. The data goes through 2 stages of filtering
to reduce the data on 40 million collisions/sec down to 10 million interesting
ones per second, and then to 100 or 200 collisions that are studied in
According to Rolf-Dieter Heuer, director general at CERN, “The
computing power and network is a very important part of the research.” Over
15 Petabytes (1 million Gigabytes) are stored each year. This is distributed through the Worldwide
Large Hadron Collider Computing Grid (WLCG) to each of 11 major Tier 1 centers
around the world, and from there to research centers and individual
scientists. In the U.S., the Open
Science Grid, supported by NSF and DOE, provides much of the compute and
storage power for this work. The
scientists use Monte Carlo simulations for
generating and propagating the physics interactions of the elementary particles
passing through the collider to determine which ones correspond to the
hypothesized behavior of the Higgs Boson.
What they found was a never seen before elementary particle
that seems to fit the behavior of the Higgs Boson and is very heavy –
approximately 133 proton masses. Further
data analysis is now needed to ascertain its spin, decay modes, and other
Think the amount of data generated by the Large Hadron
Collider is huge? The forthcoming Square
Kilometre Array radio telescope is expected to generate 100’s of Petabytes of
data per day. More on that in a future
In the 1980’s, John Naisbitt wrote, “We have for the first
time an economy based on a key resource [information] that is not only
renewable, but self-generating. Running
out of it is not a problem, but drowning in it is.[i]” Little did Naisbitt know how much information
we’d be creating 30 years later. By some
estimates we are generating over 1 zettabyte (1x1021) per year[ii]. How do you avoid drowning in all that data,
and gain insights? That is the realm of
Big Data Solutions.
Center recently ran a
seminar on Big Data. We started off
talking about the ‘big data conundrum.’
The volume of data is growing so rapidly, that the fraction of data that
an enterprise can analyze is decreasing.
Because of this gap, we’re getting ‘dumber’ about our organization and
job over time. This is driving the need
for improved analytics and platform technology that can help us to process this
large volume of data.
What do customers want to do with big data? Popular requests we’ve heard include: I/T log
analytics, RFID tracking and analytics, fraud detection and modeling, risk
modeling, 360o view of a
person/place/thing, call center record analysis, and fusion of multiple
unstructured objects (e.g., pictures, audio).
Since we now collect so much data, the possibilities are only limited by
your imagination –and our ability to extract insights from the data.
In order to process these large volumes of data, special
systems and applications are being deployed.
Many of these are based on the Apache Hadoop middleware which supports a
distributed file system and processing environment for scalability,
flexibility, and fault tolerance. IBM’s
big data platform includes offerings based on Apache’s Hadoop with enhancements
to improve workload optimization, security, and cluster hardening. The IBM offering (BigInsights) also comes
packaged with advanced analytical capabilities for data visualization, text
analysis, and support machine learning analytics. One interesting item was the announcement
that the enhancements would be packaged to allow them to work with other Hadoop
distributions, such as the Cloudera™ hadoop.
Another offering discussed in the seminar was the Stream computing
offering designed to efficiently process “data in motion,” such as stock ticker
streams and social media feeds.
One of the biggest challenges given the huge volume of
information is finding the right information.
Governments, Utilities, and financial companies have this problem in
particularly because of the huge volumes they deal with. A recent IBM acquisition, Vivisimo, has
developed a next-generation search engine to provide search across multiple big
data and traditional platforms. Vivisimo
provides a scalable search application framework that can perform a federated
search across many different data sources including the web, social media,
content stores, and more traditional structured database systems. One feature that may be particularly
appealing to government agencies and corporate environments is its ability to
map individual access permissions of each data item, authenticate users against
each target system and limit access to information a user would be entitled to
view if they were directly logged into the target system.
They offer a clever search tool that provides easy
navigation and discovery, using both structured metadata (faceted search) and
keywords that the program dynamically discovers based on analysis of
unstructured content. Vivisimo provides an agile development layer, to allow
users to quickly create applications and dashboards to discover, navigate and
The seminar also featured a customer case study of using big
data for cybersecurity mission operations. IP traffic is growing at 29% CAGR, and with it,
the cyber-threats they are facing. Unfortunately, the customer’s headcount
isn’t growing, so more automated ways are need to detect and respond to threats. For this application, timeliness is key –
dealing with threats in real-time. To
identify potential threats, they want to be able to compare current threat and
traffic data to norms from the recent past, and similar periods in the
past. Their solution utilizes the
Netezza data warehouse appliance for near real-term data and IBM BigInsights
for long term storage. The solution eliminates
as many mundane “data retrieval” tasks as possible for the analyst, and provided
the analysts with those datasets that had a high probability of being
“interesting.” In this way, the solution helps the analyst deal with the
extreme data volumes, and yet remains flexible to the changing threat
Do you have an opportunity to use massive amounts of data to
accomplish a business/mission objective that can’t be done when we were limited
to small volumes of data? Do you have an
innovative solution? We’d like to hear
your stories about big data.
For more on the Big Data seminar, see our ASC website under past events.
[i] Naisbitt, John,
Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives, NY Warner Communications
Company, 1982, pages 23-24
[ii] IDC Digital Universe
Derechos, Droughts, Hottest July on Record, Shattered
High Temp Records, Greenland Ice Sheet Melts. Just what is going on with the weather these
days? Is this weather really abnormal or
does it just seem to be that way? Is this part of a trend? Does global climate change mean we’ll have
more of these extreme weather events? Being
a data and analytics person, I started looking to see what data analysis had
been done on this subject.
The US Climate Extremes Index[i] provides
a measure to track the occurrence of extreme data (although it doesn’t take
into account Derechos and other severe wind events). The trend of the index (smoothed) has been on
the rise since 1970 and now is at an all time high, as shown below. The Index
was at a record high 46% during the January-July period, over twice the average
value, and surpassing the previous record large CEI of 42% percent which
occurred in 1934. Extremes in warm
daytime temperatures (83 percent) and warm nighttime temperatures (74 percent)
both covered record large areas of the nation, contributing to the record high
year-to-date USCEI value.
This index is
compiled by combining measurements throughout the country (1,218-station US Historical Climatology Network)
that show the percentage of the country impacted by extreme weather in terms of
maximum temperatures much above or below normal, minimum temperatures
above/below normal, percentage of country in severe drought/severe moisture
surplus, percentage of the country with a much greater than normal proportion
of precipitation derived from extreme 1 day events, and the percentage of the
country with a much greater than normal number of days with
The U.S. Global
Change Research Program in 2009 published a study which documented the changing
climate and its impact on the United
study uses 3 standard forms of data analysis: 1) reports on observations, 2)
predictions based on the observed trends, and 3) modeling to better predict future
climate changes based on various assumptions about the amount of heat-trapping
gases in the atmosphere. While the first
two types are based on large quantities of collected data, they use only U.S.
observations. The modeling, however,
must be done on a global basis which substantially increases the amount of data
that must be crunched.
Here are some of the findings as they relate to extreme
Overall Warming of the Climate
Temperatures, on average, in the1993-2008 period are 1-2ºF
higher than in the 1961-79 baseline. By
the end of the century, the average U.S. temperature is projected to
increase by approximately 7-11ºF under a high emissions model and by
approximately 4-6.5ºF under a lower emissions scenario. The temperature observations show that there
has been an increase in warmer and more frequent warm days and warm nights, and
warmer and less frequent cold days and cold nights in most areas.
More intense, more frequent, and longer-lasting heat waves
In the past several decades, there has been an increasing
trend in high-humidity heat waves, characterized by extremely high nighttime
temperatures. Parts of the South that
currently have about 60 days per year with temperatures over 90ºF are projected
to experience 150 or more days a year above 90ºF under a higher emissions
scenario. In addition to occurring more
frequently, at the end of this century these very hot days are projected to be
about 10ºF hotter than they are today.
Increased extremes of summer dryness and winter wetness with a generally
greater risk of droughts and floods.
Trends in drought have strong regional variations. Over the past 50 years, with increasing
temperatures, the frequency of drought in many parts of the West and Southeast
has increased significantly. Models show
that the Southwest, in particular, is expected to experience increasing drought
as the dry zone just outside of the tropics expands northward with global
Precipitation coming in heavier downpours, with longer dry periods in
While average precipitation over
the nation as a whole increased by about 7% over the past century, the amount
of precipitation falling in the heaviest 1% of rain events increased nearly
20%. One of the outputs of the climate
modeling is to project the probability of certain events. For example, heavy downpours that are now a “1
in 20 year occurrence” are projected to occur about “once every 4-15 years” by
the end of the century. These heavy downpours are expected to be
10-25% heavier by the end of the century than they are now. This will likely cause more flooding events
(flooding depends both upon the weather and the susceptibility of the area to
More intense but fewer severe storms
Reports of severe weather such as
tornadoes and severe thunderstorms have increased during the past 50 years.
However the climate study indicates that much of this may be due to better
monitoring technologies, changes in population areas, and increasing public
awareness. Climate models do project an increase in the frequency of
environmental conditions favorable to severe thunderstorms. But the report notes, “the inability to
adequately model the small-scale conditions involved in thunderstorm
development remains a limiting factor in projecting the future character of
severe thunderstorms and other small-scale weather phenomena.[iii]” Advances in modeling and big data analytics,
as well as improved monitoring networks are likely to reduce this limitation in
The June Derecho that hit the Washington metropolitan
area shows an example of the current state of the art in forecasting a severe
storm. The Storm Prediction Center of
NOAA was able to provide approximately 4 hours advance warning of the
storm. Longer term predictions would
require additional data about the atmospheric instability that propelled the
Derecho from Iowa to the Washington
Metro area, as well as better real time modeling.
Shift of storm tracks towards the poles
Cold season storm tracks are
shifting northward over the last 50 years, with a decrease in the frequency of
storms in mid-latitude areas. The
northward shift is projected to continue, and strong cold season storms are
likely to become stronger and more frequent, with greater wind speeds and more
extreme wave heights.
The climate changes will have an
interesting effect on the so called “lake-effect”. Over the past 50 years, there is a record of
increased lake-effect snowfall near the Great Lakes. As the climate has warmed there is less ice
on the Great Lakes which has allowed greater
evaporation from the surface resulting in heavier snowstorms. Eventually, the temperatures are expected to
rise sufficiently that much of the precipitation will end up falling as rain,
reducing the snow totals.
While trending of individual elements such as temperatures
is useful, accurate predictions require consideration of the interaction
between the climate elements. For
example, there is mutual enhancement effect between droughts and heat
waves. Heat waves enhance soil drying,
and drier soil heats the air above more since no energy goes into evaporating
the soil moisture. Big data modeling can
show the results of this escalating cycle of warming on the future climate.
The New Normal
So it seems that all this abnormal weather we are seeing
will become the new normal. Forewarned
Analytics Solution Center, Washington, DC
[ii] Global Climate Change
Impacts in the United States,
Thomas R. Karl, Jerry M. Melillo, and Thomas C. Peterson, (eds.) Cambridge University Press, 2009
Contestants on “Jeopardy!” have to understand the clues in
light of the Category (context) and then quickly sift through their accumulated
knowledge over their lifetime to come up with potential answers, decide if they
have confidence in their answer, and then quickly respond by hitting the
buzzer. Except for the buzzer, does
that sound familiar and relevant to your job? Would a computer that could do all that plus
cite the evidence backing up its answer be helpful to your job? If so, then read on.
At last week’s Analytics
Solution Center June seminar, David Ferrucci from IBM Research described
the IBM Research Grand Challenge of making a computer that can win at the game
of “Jeopardy!”(For more on “Watson,” the computer behind the challenge, check
New York Times Magazine cover article from last week)
Les Drieling, the keynote speaker and former US Government Intelligence
Agency senior scientist (now an IBM executive in the Global Business Services NISC
business unit), highlighted the needs in the intelligence community to sift
through very large volumes of structured and unstructured data with the goal of
making very important (some life and death) decisions under extreme time
pressure. It might seem obvious that the
DeepQA technology behind the “Jeopardy!”
project can be used to help intelligence analysts to filter and retrieve information using natural
But don’t many agencies have the need to retrieve
information quickly and precisely in response to questions? For example, the Coast Guard may have wanted
to know what dispersants are best for using in the open ocean to fight the Gulf Coast
oil spill, what evidence exists as to their efficacy and safety, and a
confidence value on the proposed answer.
The open government movement is also spurring use of this
sort of technology to help its citizens.
For example, a citizen could use it ask about the status of a new law or
who to contact with regard to a particular problem.
Let’s say the citizen’s question was “How to get my car
emissions tested when I’m away at college out of state and this state doesn’t
do emissions testing?” A question &
answer system would have to be able to decompose the query, search its database
for possible answers, and then select the best answer to return to the citizen.
If all the questions are known ahead of time, then government personnel can
develop a simple look-up system.
However, when there are so many questions that they can not all be
itemized ahead of time, then a more sophisticated approach is required. This is where the IBM DeepQA technology comes
in to play.
Text Analytics underlies DeepQA as well as the other presentations
at the June Analytics seminar. Another presentation showed how the National
Highway Safety Administration (NHSTA) Defects and Recalls database could use a
text analytics tool to alert on the possible connection between Toyotas and
rapid acceleration much earlier than this pairing came to the NHTSA, or the
public’s, attention. The tool used for
this demonstration was the IBM
Content Analyzer and it allows enables you to search, discover, and perform
the same analytics on your textual data that is done with structured data. In the demonstration it identified the
unusual relationship between “Toyota”
and “acceleration” – automatically.
Another example showed how an Intelligence Agency was using
text analysis to analyze the performance of its counter terrorism efforts. In this example, report text was analyzed and
scored to determine whether their objectives were being met and which intelligence
methods were most helpful in meeting their objectives.
Finally, IBM showed how text analytics could be used to
discover major themes that occurred when USAID (US Agency for International
Development) ran a “Jam” that asked participants from around the globe to
propose “pragmatic ideas and solutions to some very real issues and problems
facing our communities and our world today” (this is from the Global Pulse 2010
Website). The “Jam” tools quickly identified and classified the participant’s
key ideas in real time so that later participants could join the conversation
on their topics of interest.
The Category is “Government.” For $100, the clue is “Text Analytics.” <Buzz> “What can help the Government make better and
faster decisions from our mounds of unstructured data?”
To see the charts and listen to the replay from the seminar
go to www.ibm.com/ASCdc and look under
Give me your comments on how this technology can help you and
your agency or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Frank Stein, Director of IBM's Analytics Solution Center, Washington, D.C.
In medieval times, Alchemists hoped to convert base metals
into the noble metal gold through the use of a Philosopher's Stone.
Today, in the field of information science, we talk about
Information Alchemy, converting data into information and then into
knowledge. Some people even add a 4th
stage of converting knowledge into wisdom[i], but
that will be for another blog post.
Data is defined as the raw characters or numbers, whereas information is
defined as the processing of that data into various relationships so they have
some meaning. Dr. Eisenberg at the University of Washington describes knowledge as the
“collected, combined, organized, processed information for a purpose.” Over time, it is thought that accumulated and
refined knowledge leads to Wisdom.
This year, the total of all digital data created is forecast
to reach close to 4 Zettabyes, or 4x 1021, according to IDC[ii]. This is nearly four times the 2010 volume and
it is growing rapidly. All of this data
should let us make a smarter and better planet.
However, today we’re drowning in all this data because we don’t have the
time as individuals to process all this information, and we don’t have computer
systems that can turn this data into insight,
But soon that will change.
We are entering a new era in computing which IBM is calling Cognitive
Computing. The first of these systems is
the IBM Watson system which debuted on the Jeopardy! Show 2 years ago. Traditional computing systems have done a
great job with handling data, including storing it and manipulating it into
information. So now we have lots of
financial, inventory, customer, and all sorts of other, mostly numerical,
We also have lots of unstructured information such as text,
audio, graphics, and video. We used to say that 80% of the new bytes being
created today were associated with unstructured data, but that number is
probably closer to 90% given all the video being created these days. This text and multimedia information is
human-readable – in fact, it is designed by humans for humans to understand but
is not easily understandable by today’s computers.
And that is a considerable problem. Today, the transformation of information into
knowledge is primarily done in people’s heads.
Not just by scientists, engineers, or financial analysts, but by
everyone who reads an article or watches a video. The time available for people (some would
say skilled people) to analyze information to gain insights (knowledge) is the
limiting factor in the production of new knowledge today. To say this another way, we are now
information-rich, but knowledge-poor.
The goal of the cognitive computing efforts is to remove
this limitation by designing computer systems that can take this abundance of
information, much of it in human readable/viewable formats, and convert into
knowledge. For example, in the Jeopardy!
IBM Challenge, the Watson computer system analyzed its deep information stores
to find the answer that best answered the clue and the category. It did this feat by utilizing many different
algorithms to attempt to “understand” the text information and a machine
learning (artificial intelligence) scoring system to select the best response.
In a more significant effort, IBM is working with Memorial
Sloan-Kettering and WellPoint (a major BC/BS licensee) to use cognitive
computing technology to assist doctors by helping to identify individualized
treatment options for patients with cancer. It is, in effect, creating knowledge of the
appropriate treatment options from information about the patient’s condition
and medical history, and information from clinical trials and best practices on
While the field of cognitive computing is just beginning, I believe
over the next several years, we will learn how to perform “Information Alchemy”
and we’ll see how this newly created knowledge can benefit our organizations
and our lives.
As the quintessential information-based organization, government agencies may be in the biggest need for "information Alchemy." Do you seen this need? Do you see opportunities for Cognitive Computing at your agency?
Director of IBM’s Analytics
[i] Eisenberg, Mike,
“Information Alchemy: Transforming Data and Information into Knowledge and
Wisdom”, March 30, 2012, http://faculty.washington.edu/mbe/Eisenberg_Intro_to_Information%20Alchemy.pdf
Many of you probably saw the news about the Beltway Blockage
on July 8th
in the afternoon - - some of you may have been stuck in
the traffic like I was.
I had just read
IBM’s new Report, “The
Globalization of Traffic Congestion: IBM
2010 Commuter Pain Survey
,” but it was little consolation knowing that
traffic delays in Moscow were on average 2.5 hours, even as I watched my
commute time inch towards the second hour.
Transportation is a key governmental function that has
enormous impact on the citizens’ well being.
Traffic congestion adds stress to our lives, retards economic
development, and impacts the environment.
Performance Management is the mandate of the day for
governments, both federal and the state and local government. In the past, many government agencies would
measure performance such as the number of roads resurfaced, number of traffic
lights installed, and the number of dollars spent on transportation. These were input data elements. A more recent focus, and one that is more
meaningful to citizens, is to measure the outcomes achieved by the government
agencies. In the case of transportation,
an outcome might be the average commute time from one location to another, the
average speed on a roadway, or the volume of traffic (or persons) carried by a
road segment during the peak traffic hour.
Reporting on outcomes is but the first step. The performance achieved must be compared to
the desired quality of service (QoS).
Setting of the QoS goals for transportation and other government
functions is worthy of a public debate because there are invariably tradeoffs,
the major one being how much more one is willing to pay to achieve a better
Another step that can be done with the outcome data is to
determine trends and predict what might happen if the trends continue. We call this Predictive Analytics. We can plan the transportation infrastructure
that will be needed if Washington’s
growth continues at the current rate (except for 2008, we have grown
Additionally, the performance data can be analyzed to find patterns. Does the QoS fall short only in certain spots
or at a certain time of day? Why is this
happening? We can build models of the
traffic flows and run simulations to allow us to ask questions such as “Would
an extra off-ramp lane prevent the exiting traffic from backing up on the
Beltway?” Or “Would running an extra
lane Southbound in the morning improve the traffic flows?”
Getting back to the recent Tractor-Trailer accident, has
anyone done any modeling and simulation of what might happen if I-495 were
blocked by an accident - - or a terrorist action? Do we have alternate routes identified? Do we have the computer systems to redirect
traffic to these alternate routes and to dynamically change the traffic
patterns on certain roads to facilitate the flow in traffic in what may be
If you’d like to voice your opinion about the traffic
situation in your city, fill in our on-line questionnaire "Traffic Survey" Disclaimer:
This is not intended to be a scientific, randomized survey, and I make
no claim to its validity. However, I
will publish the results in a future blog, if we get enough interest in the
Give me your thoughts on how analytics might be used to
improve our traffic situation. Write to
me at email@example.com or respond to this
-Frank Stein, Director, IBM’s Analytics Solution
More on Analytics at our website www.ibm.com/ASCdc
The six years since IBM ushered in the new era of Cognitive Business have witnessed several pivotal transitions. The massive system of servers and disk drives that beat Jeopardy! using an advance orchestration of machine learning, natural language processing and statistical reasoning has evolved into a sophisticated set of services delivered through a world class cloud infrastructure. To help you understand the direction of these enhancements and their impact on Cognitive Business, the IBM Analytics Solution Center was pleased to have Rob High, IBM Fellow, VP and CTO Watson Solutions, present on the future of cognitive augmented intelligence.
Rob started by taking us back to the Jeopardy Challenge in 2011, reminding us how hard it is for a machine to answer a question correctly, but also how good people, like Ken Jennings, are at answering questions. What changed that allowed Watson to win at the game of Jeopardy? IBM took a different approach than classical AI which focused on semantics, ontologies, and rules -- IBM focused on linguistics and the use of machine learning to help uncover signals to the right answer.
Rob cited the consulting firm IDC’s Futurescape report that said that “by 2018, half of all consumers will regularly interact with services based on cognitive." Why this remarkable adoption of cognitive technologies? We collectively are generating so much data today that we can’t consume and make sense of all we are generating. Doctors can't read everything in their field – they would need to spend 150 hours a week to read everything, leaving no time for doing their job – or sleeping. Every one of us is in a similar situation.
What are Cognitive systems? Cognitive systems have 4 characteristics – they understand, reason, learn, and interact with people. Rob explained that these systems are different from traditional rule-based systems because they are taught based on data rather than programmed. This training data impacts how the system will answer questions – customers will use training data specific to their organization and thus create cognitive systems that conform to their organization’s business approach, and more broadly, its philosophy.
Since the Jeopardy Challenge, IBM has been very active in enhancing the technology and providing new Cognitive offerings. Rob focused on IBM’s latest work on Conversation services. Conversations are much broader than just answering fact-based questions. Conversations, whether between two people, or people and machines, should engage the user, understand the user’s concerns, build on an idea, and leave the user inspired and satisfied at the end of the conversation. In the best conversations, each party comes away from the conversation with new thoughts that were generated within the conversation. It will be hard to develop such a sophisticated Conversation service but this is our goal.
Rob then showed a video of a future Cognitive Mergers & Acquisition Advisor named Celia that responded to questions from two people analyzing acquisition targets. Celia could understand the conversation between the two people and then interrupted to ask, “It sounds like you are discussing the work we did last week, would you like me to bring up the results from that session?” Imagine a cognitive assistant that could participate in your conference calls, recalling previous action items, checking to see if the items had been accomplished, or performing analysis that it deems pertinent to the discussion.
One of the crowd-pleasers at the Seminar was the demo of “Embodied Cognition” using a Pepper humanoid robot (from Softbank Robotics) connected to Watson Conversation service. Besides answering questions, Pepper would turn to face the speaker, gesture with her (?) hands, and provide inflection in her voice. Pepper can also use the Watson Visual Recognition Service to recognize individuals and Watson Tone Analyzer to understand the user’s emotional state. Although the answers were no different than what Watson could provide without the Pepper embodiment, the human-like interactions were a strong draw to the humans attending the seminar!
Rob’s slides are available at www.ibm.com/ascdc under the May 31 event. Or email me if you’d like more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Modified on by fstein
Do you have Super Powers? Would you like to have Super Powers? I was recently invited to give a talk about AI at the Escape Velocity Science Fiction Conference (https://escapevelocity.events/) put on by the Museum of Science Fiction in Washington, DC. I focused the talk on how our advances in AI technology and augmenting human intelligence (Intelligence Augmentation = IA) are starting to provide humans with Super Powers, once only the realm of sci-fi writers. I’ve seen a lot technology come and go. And what we are now developing has the most potential of any of the technologies I’ve experience to help people to do more, do it faster, and do things we couldn’t do before. IA is going to have more impact on individuals, our professions, and society than all the previous advancements in computers to date.
John Campbell, the famous editor of Astounding Science Fiction, who published the likes of Asimov and Arthur C Clark, pushed his writers to create heroes and foes that had cognitive abilities that were better than humans, or had different attributes. So too, the comic books that came out featured heroes with unique powers, some cognitive and some around endurance and power. As you know, this vision of achieving super human capabilities has existed for most of recorded history. And it has been a dream of computer scientists for as long as computer scientists have existed too.
We haven’t made a lot of progress in the non-fiction world of creating people that are different - - Evolution is a VERY slow process. And while the world’s knowledge keeps increasing, people think pretty much at the same speed with the same memory limitations as before. Therefore, my talk focused on how we can use technology and data to help us to achieve super human capabilities.
Just like we’ve created assembly lines full of machines for our factories, we are starting to create tools to help those of us that are called Knowledge Workers to do our jobs more efficiently and create results that haven’t been possible in the past. Technology will redefine our professions and our jobs within our fields. These changes won’t just provide marginal improvements, they will provide significant new capabilities that will provide higher productivity to our employers, enhance our own well-being, and solve significant problems facing society.
We will know what customers are looking at in every store in the world, what they pass over and what they buy. Some might call that Omni-presence. We will be able to predict who will click on which ad on the web, who will buy which product, and who will get which diseases and which drugs will work for which individual. Is that Precognition or Clairvoyance? We’ll be able to instantly recognize a face in a crowd of thousands and see through objects. Our cars will help us to see black ice on the road and around corners. Our super-hearing will not only hear from a distance, but will allow detection of emotional stress and mental health issues that others might be facing – probably before they themselves realize it. Even better than superman!
In the government space, these super power of Super Vision will enable us to spot terrorists pictures among the millions of videos and images collected, as well as detect illegal fishing and logging operations. Precognition will allow us to predict the outbreak of a potential pandemic early enough to mount a robust public health defense, and predict weather events in time to evacuate and prepare emergency operations. In the cybersecurity world, we'll have to super power to detect threat patterns quickly, predict likely fast-fluxing techniques used by the intruders, and provide rapid advice for the response teams.
These Super powers come from taking all the data the world is now generating – which mostly is going to waste – and analyze it to find patterns and answers to questions that we couldn’t answer in the past. We’re now creating almost 10 Zettabytes per year – and the amount is increasing exponentially. Analyzing all that data will give us these superpowers and as that data grows, so too will our Super Powers. Analyzing all this data requires very sophisticated technology which IBM and others in the I/T industry are intensely developing. We will do this using Machine Learning, NLP processing, and reasoning.
My goal in the talk was not to talk about the technology but instead to show how far we have come in creating super human capabilities. I talked about some of the applications of IA – Intelligence Augmentation – to businesses, professions, and society. See the slides for some of the examples I used: https://www.slideshare.net/frankibm/getting-your-super-powers-with-watson-and-ia
I concluded with some discussion on how humans and machines can complement each other so that we can accomplish more together. It is my belief that we will need this collaboration to solve some of society’s hard problems such as climate change, supporting all the people that will soon be on planet earth, and even protecting us from incoming asteroids. The final slide shows 2 famous quotes regarding the value of the combination of people and machines:
- “The hope is that, in not too many years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought and process data in a way not approached by the information-handling machines we know today.” - JCR Licklider, 1960, Professor at MIT
- “The computer is incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid. Man is unbelievably slow, inaccurate, and brilliant. The marriage of the two is a force beyond calculation.” – Leo Cherne, Presidential Advisor
Write to me at: email@example.com