IBM Insight 2015 kicks off with Wine, Weather & Watson

Who knew wine, weather and Watson had so much in common – these and many more stories were shared in the opening keynote for IBM Insight 2015 in Las Vegas today.  Here’s my wrap up of the main stage event.

After announcing the IBM and Twitter partnership this time last year, we are starting to see organisations truly find business value in social data.  For example, Coca Cola are combining weather data from The Weather Company, with Twitter data and IBM analytics to better understand customers and predict the best time to market to them.  Mike Weaver, Group Director of Data Strategy at The Coca-Cola Company, shared that the prediction of weather in particular has a significant influence on the mix of brands that are sold each and every day.  We “want to do true social analytics to improve.  When do we market?  When don’t we?  Relevancy is the only way.”  Weather + Twitter + Analytics = Precision Marketing.

Unilever too are using Twitter to get to know their customers buying behaviours and sentiment better.  Did you know that nobody wants to talk about ice cream on a Monday or Tuesday?  Marketing on either of those days would be a complete waste of time.  Given that statistic hit the #IBMInsight Twitter feed today, a Monday, we may have completely changed that social nugget of insight moving forward 🙂

Laurent Borne, Global Vice President of Product Development at Whirlpool, then took the stage to share their journey to establishing a connected network of over a billion appliances.  Of course, we’re talking about the Internet of Things (IoT) – senors on appliances capable of preempting your every need, taking care of maintenance needs and generating text messages.  Today, Whirlpool use IBM Analytics to make products smarter – your appliance can text you when your washing machine springs a leak or when your dryer clogs.  Your fridge can even predict what food needs replenishment and text you a shopping list!

Raj Singh,  Founder and CEO of GoMoment, took the stage to welcome us to Ivy, the future of hotel concierge and check in service.  Powered by IBM Watson, Ivy provides instant customer service to hotel guests – everything from checking in, to recommendation for local restaurants, and helping hotels respond instantly to customer service challenges.  Ivy knows everything you need to know about your hotel, automatically handling more than 95% of guests request.  You can place drink orders by the pool, organise tickets to shows, and ask questions of the local area and facilities, all via SMS.  Hotels currently leveraging Ivy to provide a cognitive customer service, are able to respond to 90% all messages within 3 minutes, and have found that guests are five times more likely to engage with the hotel than before they had IBM Watson.  “This is not the future of hotels.  This is available today.”  Tweet @GoMoment to find out if your preferred hotels are cognitive.

Another organisation tapping into the cognitive computing world of IBM Watson is Vine Sleuth.  Amy Gross, President & Founder, took to the stage with Wine4me – a cognitive wine connoisseur that combines analytics with subjective tastes of the consumer.  Watson empowers shoppers, helping them to get exactly what they want.  It allows retailers to engage consumers at the point of sale.  Imagine walking into a store and being able to ask Watson what wine would match perfectly with your chosen meal – based on your personal preferences, what’s available on the shelves, and your available budget.  Given that adding a wine purchase to your shopping basket increases the total value by at least $12, the value for the retailer is increased revenue and happy customers.  VinueSleuth took something intimidating – applied science – and made it easier for retailers to take advantage.  So what’s next in their quest to disrupt the food and wine industry?  Cognitive recommendations for beer, cider and cheese!!!  Yes please!

The next guest to take the stage, was a little left field.  In fact, she wasn’t even human.  Meet Pepper, the birth child of Aldebaran Robotics and IBM Watson.  Look beyond the robot novelty and cute voice, and you’ll see an incredibly opportunity to take robotic technology to the next level.  Powered by IBM Watson, Pepper has the ability to detect faces, visually recognise and take in surroundings, listen and convert speech to text, respond to Q&A, reason and deduce, and convert text back to speech – together enabling her to have a productive conversation, in this case, helping Mike Rhodin on his quest for the perfect panini recipe.  Pepper – when you learn to cook, clean and advise the kids on teenage dramas, you can move into the spare room in my house 🙂


Personally, the most interesting story to take the stage was from David Kenny, CEO of The Weather Company.  He talked about the challenge The Weather Company faces each and every day on how to predict the weather, and how to translate that into insight for business.  Here’s your “learn something new” for today – did you know the Kármán line is the edge of the atmosphere?  It’s the reason we live!  And it’s what we need to understand in order to understand and predict weather patterns.  50 years ago weather predictions were done on big mainframe computers, every six hours – that’s just four times each day!  The Weather Company had an ambitious goal to disrupt the status quo to run on a mobile device, updating the forecast not four times per day, but four times per hour!  They went from predicting the weather accurately for 2 million locations to 2.3 billion locations overnight!  Being the default weather provider for both iOS and Google, The Weather Company has to process 15-26 Billion queries to their platform for a weather forecast every day – that’s a lot of data and interconnected devices.

So how did they take all that and turn it into valuable insight that can support a critical business decision?   They worked with airlines to reduce turbulence by 50%, find faster routes, and use fuel more efficiently.  With insurance, 24% all auto accidents are caused by severe weather.  The Weather Company helped insurers insure the risk, and help drivers avoid an accident.  And in retail, they help retailers understand when people are hungry for certain products, and what mood they’re in so retailers can take advantage.  For example, when blizzards are forecast, women run to the shops to stock up on pop tarts and soup to keep kids happy.  Men, apparently, get ready to buckle down by stocking up beer and chips!

But by far the best story David shared was when he was joined by Jack McMaster, President of Preparedness, Health & Safety, American Red Cross.  Every year, American Red Cross respond to 70,000 events – most of them single house fires, but in each case where families are left on the side of the road with no place to go and no processions to their name.  They also responded to 138 live relief events last year, providing over one million meals to those in need.  In partnering with The Weather Company and IBM, their primary mission was to “do it better every time, with less resources.”  Precision weather forecasts are absolutely critical to understanding the exact path of hurricanes.  Six years ago, location weather was not specific enough – they would have to deploy resources a week prior to a storm to a broad area in case it was impacted.  Now, with more precise weather insight from The Weather Company, they are able to know the precise area and time the storm is most likely to hit – allowing them to get a lot of vulnerable people out of the way very quickly, and deploy resources where they’re needed most.  Embedded into their mobile platform, they are now also able to find people in need and send text message and alerts to help them prepare.  They know the storm is going to hit a particular area – they can tell them exactly what to do.  At the same time, disasters started “talking back to us.”  Instead of emergency crews walking around aimlessly trying to find people in need of help, they are directly connected to the community who can communicate and request help in real time.  The American Red Cross use to have crews unknowingly driving by individuals that were really in trouble – but now, with better insight into where people are and how they’ve been impacted – they can get them the help they need.

The rising star award for the opening keynote must, of course, be given to Stanley Archer aka Datastorm, making his movie debut in The Office Superhero, Episode 1:  The Rise Watson.

Put on some popcorn and enjoy this cheeky trailer  🙂