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Primer: Make sense of cognitive computing

Bob Violino | June 6, 2017
If you’re confused about exactly what it means from an IT and business perspective, you’re not alone.

With the confluence of exponential data growth, faster distributed systems, and smarter algorithms, cognitive computing “is on a path towards increased permeation across business processes in the areas of robotic and cognitive automation, cognitive engagement, and cognitive insights,” Deloitte’s Roma says.


What are examples of cognitive technology in the enterprise today?

Although much of the promise of cognitive technology might lie in the future, some organizations are deploying cognitive tools already.

Companies are using cognitive systems for product recommendations, pricing optimization, and fraud detection, Schubmehl says. Organizations are also using conversational AI platforms (in the form of chatbots) for automated customer support, automated sales assistance, and decision augmentation, he says.

In health care, Roma says a leading hospital that runs one of the largest medical research programs in the United States is “training” its machine intelligence systems to analyze the 10 billion phenotypic and genetic images stored in the organization’s database.

And large health benefits company is pursuing a cognitive strategy that will encompass automation, engagement, and insights to ultimately streamline and enhance engagement with customers, Roma says. “They are focused on applying cognitive insights to the claims process to provide claims reviewers with greater insight into each case for a more comprehensive assessment,” he says.

In financial services, a cognitive sales agent uses machine intelligence to initiate contact with a promising sales lead and then qualify, follow up with, and sustain the lead. “This cognitive assistant can parse natural language to understand customers’ conversational questions, handling up to 27,000 conversations simultaneously and in dozens of languages,” Roma says.

The most common uses are for performing advanced classification— such as routing people and needs to the best workers to fulfill requirements—and for predictive analysis, such as knowing the best way to promote a product to a buyer, Gartner’s Andrews says.  


What are some of the ways cognitive might work in an enterprise?

Organizations will use cognitive/AI technologies to automate business processes, streamline contract analysis and renewal, communicate, sell and support customers, and even automate delivery and resupply of stock in their businesses, IDC’s Schubmehl says.

One application of this added intelligence will be to enable more precise decision-making for business functions such as sales and marketing. “We expect organizations to make their decisions highly specific,” Gartner’s Andrews says. “It’s easy to develop promotions for all customers today; in the future we expect to see true personalization. We [also think] it will allow for more effective autonomous vehicles and transport systems.”

The possibilities for cognitive are boundless, says Bret Greenstein, IBM’s vice president of Watson Internet of Things Platform. “Cognitive capabilities will expand in their understanding of all different types of information—sights, sounds, emotions, etc.—and will develop more sophisticated ways of learning from us and from data to better support every job,” he says. “The idea in the future would be that all jobs are enhanced with cognition.”


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