As if storing mountains of data, providing oodles of processing power, and cutting costs were not enough, the cloud will now also solve your problems for you. There are still limits, of course, but the idea is to offer ‘Brain as a Service’ using the same pay-as-you-go, scalable model of practically any other cloud service. At the base of ‘BaaS’ are applications like IBM’s Watson, winner of the Jeopardy! quiz show in 2011. From televised game to global service is one small step for cloud computing and one giant leap for tackling big data and dark data analytics – perhaps.
Meeting Three Basic Needs, Naturally
Whatever the speed of change that it brings, cognitive cloud computing looks promising for tackling three bugbears for businesses today:
- Sourcing and processing data from multiple sources
- Analyzing text, graphics, multimedia data, social media data and any other unstructured data
- Producing practical action plans from such analysis.
Although other solutions already exist for splicing and dicing data, and for massaging unstructured data, they tend to be technical in nature, be specialized in narrow fields of activity, give results that are difficult to relate back to the real world, or all of the above. A big difference with a cognitive application like Watson is that it understands and responds in natural language. In other words, users do not have to be computer rocket scientists to make it work for them.
A Whiz at Reading, Understanding and Helping
Medical research is a highly complex field. Human researchers can usefully read about 300 research papers per year. Watson zipped through 70,000 articles and studies to help create a new treatment for cancer, where human researchers might have spent decades. High-speed reading isn’t the only thing that cognitive clouds bring to medicine either. By building knowledge and constructing relationships between pieces of information, they allow health workers to provide better treatment to patients and populations, and to reduce costs. Patient and wellbeing diet and activity recommendations, as well as side-effect alerts, are all part of the deal too. Other than medical research, retail, education and business processes in general are also promising prospects for cognitive cloud services.
To Every Action, a Learning Reaction
There is a saying in Japanese, roughly transcribed as ‘Shikin Haramitsu Daikômyô’, that means: in everything that we do, there is a lesson to be learned. Cognitive applications including those in the cloud have taken this maxim to heart. They continue to build their knowledge with each user interaction to get increasingly smarter. Whether they can ever truly be smarter than the human beings that use them or design them is another matter. The old observation that the kind of thinking that produces a problem cannot be expected to solve the problem may still keep human beings ahead, simply by keeping cognitive applications (built by humans) behind.