Insights from IBM Insight 2014: 10 things you need to know

As we wrap up yet another exciting year at IBM Insight 2014, here are my top 10 things you need to know from all the keynotes, announcements, demonstrations and client stories.

1.      The revolutionary Watson Analytics is now Beta!

Without a doubt the #1 thing you need to know from IBM Insight this year is that Watson Analytics has moved in to Beta and is fast becoming a realityWhen it was launched a few months ago, the buzz created by analysts, clients and colleagues alike was incredible – and we’ve been desperately wanting access to the Beta version ever since.  Watson Analytics represents a break through in the evolution of business insight, coaching business users through the process of preparing data for analysis and recommending the most appropriate forms of analytics and visualizations to maximize insight.  Finally, a business tool where we don’t have to teach users how to make it do what they want, simply ask a business question and Watson Analytics analyses the data you have available and recommends the best visualization to get the answer you’re looking for.  Five years from now we’ll be reminiscing: “Remember the first time you asked a computer a business question and it answered?”.  If you haven’t signed up to be part of the revolution and help shape the product roadmap, what are you waiting for?  Sign up for the Beta program at

Watson Analytics View 3


2.     IBM and Twitter partner to bring social media analytics to the Enterprise

IBM TwitterIBM CEO, Ginni Rometty, and Twitter CEO, Dick Costolo, caught the audience by surprise on Day 3 with the announcement of the third landmark partnership in the IT industry this year.  First it was Apple, then SAP, and now Twitter has signed a strategic partnership to tap into the Enterprise strength of IBM’s technology and expertise to bring the value of predicting marketplace trends and consumer sentiment about products and brands to organizations around the world.  IBM will also train 10,000 employees to consult businesses on the best use of Twitter data.  IBM plans to offer Twitter data as part of its analytics services delivered through cloud computing, including Watson Analytics.  Software developers will be able to use Twitter data in applications they are building using IBM’s Bluemix and Watson Developer Cloud offering.  For years, organizations have understood the value that social media insight could bring to their decision making process, but have struggled to understand how to tap into such an extensive resource – IBM and Twitter have just made that process a whole lot easier!


3.     A sneak peak in to the power of DashDB and two simple words:  “Create warehouse”

dashDBThumbAnother exciting launch at Insight this year was the announcement of a fully managed data warehouse service in the cloud.  Mobile/Web developers have long treated databases as a location to save and serve application-based data, but most have failed to tap into the wealth of data being captured to derive insight that can be used to improve the application experience and serve customers better.  Whether developing in BlueMix, or for Cloudant users who want to step into the world of analytics, a fully functioning analytical warehouse is now just a click away, up and running in minutes with fast cloud provisioning.  Born in the cloud, DashDB brings some of the exceptional performance and in-built analytical expertise of the IBM data management portfolio.  And yet, the complexity of transforming a records-based database such as Cloudant, to a analytical-ready warehouse, is hidden behind a simple “create warehouse” button that does all the hard work for us!


4.     DataWorks data refinery now serving developers and business users alike

dataWorksThumb2One thing business users and developers have in common, is neither want to spend their time cleansing and preparing data for use – whether that be to analyze and derive business insight, or within mobile and Web-based applications.  With the launch of DataWorks, we now have a set of data refinery APIs that can be used to load, cleanse and profile data embedded within user productivity tools.  For business users, DataWorks is secretly embedded within Watson Analytics to guide them through the process of preparing data for analysis.  For Developers, DataWorks is available on BlueMix to embed in mobile and Web-based applications.  This is the first step on a journey to more available and useable data embedded into all systems and applications across the IBM portfolio.  Look out for future capabilities to provision masked data, securely load data and probabilistic matching!


5.     Asia Pacific is leading the world in innovative applications for data and insight

How do you monitor, intercept and prevent acts of piracy in one of the worlds busiest ports?  Singapore Technologies Engineering (STE) asked that very question, and partnered with IBM to design an application that could identify “unusual” boat activity in Southeast Asia’s Strait of Malacca.  Using G2 Sensemaking, STE evaluate each new observation against previous observations, determine if what is being observed is relevant, deliver this actionable insight to authorities fast enough to do something about it while it is still happening, and do it all at substantial scale.  If two ships meet in two separate locations, or have crew using the same passports, Singapore authorities will know about it!  As someone who has regularly stayed at Marina Bay Sands and looked out onto the thousands of ships waiting to port, the ability to find that elusive “drop in the ocean” is simply incredible!

6.     Sherlock Holmes is out of a job, because we’ve got Watson to help fight crime!

cognitiveIt’s always exciting to see the ways in which IBM Watson is being used in the real world, including the new Oncology Advisor to help doctors tailor cancer treatment, Wealth Advisor to personalize financial advice to clients, and Chef Watson inspiring the next generation of culinary geniuses.  But the insight into how Watson is being used to fight crime was a real stand-out.  Currently it’s estimated that investigators spend on average 80% of their time sifting through data and only 20% analyzing data to learn more about a case or situation.  We had a sneak peak in to how Watson discovery can be used to ask questions about crime suspects to uncover hidden relationships, aliases, and commonalities often hidden in unstructured content such as case notes, suspect descriptions, interview transcriptions etc.  It’s really exciting to see how this can be applied to help fight crime and keep our vital resources walking the streets instead of trawling through an evidence locker.


7.     Email is not dead.  But it’s about to be re-defined with IBM Mail Next

It’s been a while since an Inbox got me excited, but WOW!  I’ve always wanted to shrink my team down in to little avatars and carry them around with me on my laptop for maximum productivity – now I don’t have to.  Team analytics meets collaborative interaction wrapped up in what can only be described as a sexy interface, the inclusion of Design Thinking has made a significant improvement to the way we view- and interact- with email each and every day.  There’s even a black line to “lead me through my day” and pop up to say “doofus, you’ve got something on!“, or something to that effect 🙂   Unfortunately it’s not available just yet, but if this sneak peak is anything to go by, I’ll be first in line for Mail Next which it launches in the near future.



8.     IBM’s i2 intelligence plays supporting role in the story of Captain Phillips

A little untold fact in the heroic story of Captain Phillips and his brush with pirates was that the team of Navy Seals responsible for rescuing the crew used IBM’s i2 Enterprise Insight Analysis to help identify and hunt the pirates responsible.  A timely reminder that data and analytics doesn’t just help maximize revenues and minimize costs, but more importantly to help fight crime and save lives!  Note to self:  watch the movie.

9.     Kevin Spacey excels at everything he does, and public speaking is no exception

When his opening line was “Isn’t this a little f$%@ing early?” we knew we were in for a real treat, and leaned forward in our seats, keen to hear what Kevin Spacey had to say that was even remotely related to data and analytics.  And he did not disappoint!  He shared personal insight into how data and analytics had transformed the media and entertainment industry, in particular how Netflix uses analytics to evaluate whether a proposed TV series would resonate well with viewers based on past behaviours.  On his own experience at getting support for House of Cards, he said of Netflix’s decision to invest:  “The bet was made because big data said it was worth it.”  This is a great example of how industries are fundamentally changed with data and analytics, transformed into new business models that revolutionize the next generation of serving customers.  Netflix needed just 55,000 new clients to achieve a return on investment in the House of Cards franchise.  They attracted millions!  “Data allowed Netflix to agitate change” and now other networks are quickly jumping on the bandwagon.  Spacey concluded with my favorite quote of the week that pretty much sums up the difference between just capturing data and actually analyzing it to make more informed business decisions:  “Don’t just keep your head above water. Go ahead, try and walk on it!!!

10.   No Doubt can still rock it with the best of them!

Need I say more?

No Doubt