Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A Smarter Planet Blog

Editor’s note: Members of IBM Watson’s algorithms team Dr. Bill Murdock and Dr. Aditya Kalyanpur will write about Watson’s answers to some of the Jeopardy! clues throughout the three-day rebroadcast, September 12-14.

Wanted for general evil-ness; last seen at the Tower of Barad-Dur; it’s a giant eye, folks. Kinda hard to miss.

Dr. Aditya KalyanpurAditya: Watson solved this question in a way that we imagine humans do. It used “Tower or Barad-Dur” to infer that the clue related to the “Lord of the Rings” universe. Then from passage evidence, determined that Sauron was an eye. These pieces of evidence needed to be combined to arrive at the correct answer.

Watson learned through this category to connect something seemingly random – an eye in this case – to a character from literature. This clue is also a good example of how Watson connects information that wouldn’t be in a traditional database set up. Consider: would a typical dictionary contain the fact that Sauron – a character from fiction – was an instance of an eye?


It’s a 4-letter term for a summit; the first 3 letters mean a type of simian.

Dr. Bill MurdockBill: The answer Watson gave is a four-letter term for a summit, only satisfying half the clue. Watson did not understand the constraint that the first three letters mean something else – a word puzzle that Watson had not seen before. So, while Watson does have an anagram algorithm, it does not have a strategy for splicing a word.

The system still had high confidence in its answer since, based on past experience, it had learned that satisfying some constraints of the type mentioned in the clue usually mean a correct answer. This clue was a good example of how Jeopardy!-specific puzzles are not seen in real world data and conversation.

Video: Gender Identification


It was the anatomical oddity of U.S. gymnast George Eyser, who won a gold medal on the parallel bars in 1904.

Dr. Aditya KalyanpurAditya: There was strong passage evidence stating that George Eyser’s left leg was made out of wood, but Watson didn’t understand what part of these passages was the oddity. This is good example of the broad domain of things that Jeopardy! asks about – it’s difficult to anticipate every type of concept the clues might ask about. So, we do not attempt to.

Rather, Watson tries to classify new things on the fly based on what it has read. With this clue, Watson tried to get sufficient evidence that a wooden leg was not any more of an oddity then a leg of flesh and bone – keep in mind that this was the first time Watson tried to understand an oddity.

Watson knows that correct Jeopardy! responses are more often physical objects like “leg” than abstract concepts like “he had a wooden leg,” so Watson chose “leg.” It was close, but the judges, and Mr. Trebek, didn’t buy it.

Video: Betting Strategy


Clue: His victims include Charity Burbage, Mad Eye Moody & Severus Snape; he’d be easier to catch if you’d just name him!

Dr. Bill MurdockBill: Ok, “Harry Potter” was not close, but Lord Voldemort was not far behind with a confidence of 20 percent. Watson had narrowed it down to two characters with the stronger association with the characters mentioned in the clue, and Harry won that analysis (Watson did not read the seven Harry Potter books.)

We humans understood that the category of APBs meant that a villain must be in the clue responses – but not Watson. Without knowing this answer type, Watson’s other chance to get this correct was to find passage evidence supporting these characters being victims of Lord Voldemort. Though Watson found passages saying, for example that “Voldemort murdered Charity Burbage,” Watson was not able to infer that “murder” implied “victim” with sufficient confidence.

Video: Learning Across Categories

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For those individuals who missed the first broadcast or news about the contest on TV’s Jeopardy! between past champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter and IBM’s Watson computer, I don’t want to give away the outcome before this week’s rebroadcast. Suffice it to say that executives at WellPoint, the largest health insurer in the United States, were sufficiently impressed with Watson’s performance that they’ve made a deal with IBM to develop two of programs that will leverage the machine’s question-and-answer technology. This news broke earlier today.


The big challenge–for WellPoint and IBM–is winning over a healthcare establishment that is rightly cautious and skeptical about new technologies and new approaches to medicine. So the two companies plan on using small-scale tests to prove the effectiveness of the technology before WellPoint considers rolling it out to its network of physicians who treat 34 million individual members nationwide. “This could be game changing. It changes the dynamics of healthcare,” says Dr. Anthony Nguyen, senior vice president of care management at WellPoint. “But people are skeptical and we have to work with them to win over some thought leaders.”

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September, 10th 2011

Most people that have been in a start-up or launched a new product line have probably read Geoffrey Moore’s  ‘Crossing the Chasm.’

The ‘chasm’ is defined as the gap between what it takes for early adopters to adopt a new technology versus what it takes for the early majority to buy into it.  Moore believes visionaries and pragmatists have very different expectations, and he attempts to explore those differences and suggest techniques to successfully cross the “chasm.”

A similar ‘chasm’  exists in the area of sustainability for companies trying to transition from early adopter (stick your toe in the water) projects to successfully planning, executing and achieving sustainability goals.   A recent study by TRIRIGA, a recent IBM Smarter Buildings acquisition, finds that although 92 percent of the world’s largest corporations and government agencies have set environmental and energy reduction goals, two–thirds failed to achieve them.  While a majority of organizations have yet to achieve their goals, one-third demonstrate that it is possible. What did these organizations do to cross that chasm?

TRIRIGA evaluated survey data from 130 sustainability–focused executives and professionals, all from companies and agencies with revenues or operating budget greater than $1 billion, and found that  75 percent of organizations that achieved their environmental and energy management goals invested in three clear activities:

·    91% improve facility energy efficiency,
·    77% improve equipment servicing and maintenance, and
·    75% improve space utilization (i.e. space optimization)

This serves as a great indicator where to begin and how to prioritize activities.   But there are other factors to be considered.

trirega blog survey

A sustainability program, like most strategic initiatives, is much more likely to succeed with strong executive management support from its first stages and with specific resources dedicated to its implementation.  Involving executive management in all stages of the strategy with regular reviews and celebration of milestones is key to crossing this ‘chasm.’

Establishing sustainability as a top priority within real estate and facilities is  fundamental to success. Real estate and facility assets consume more than 77 percent of electricity and consume 49 percent of total energy according to the US Energy Information Administration.  They are also responsible for approximately 48 percent of global carbon emissions and research identifies that buildings have the highest growth in CO2 emissions since 1960. Research from McKinsey also finds that they provide the greatest opportunity for reduction at the lowest cost – they are the low-hanging fruit of sustainability. Based on these staggering statistics, there was little surprise that companies crossing this chasm placed a high priority on sustainability within real estate and facilities.

To learn more about the strategies and tactics used by leading organizations to achieve their sustainability goals,  join our webcast “Crossing the Sustainability Chasm” on Wednesday, September 14th at 10:00AM PST  which will include the following content:

·    Best practice examples on achieving energy management & environmental goals
·    How IBM achieved more than $29 million in energy cost savings in 2010

Click to register: and you can also look for the webcast replay option following the event.

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We invite you to join Kal Gyimesi on Twitter on Monday, September 12, at Noon EDT for a chat about Smarter Transportation. Join in the conversation at #2011CommuterPain.

After enduring just a few painstaking minutes of traffic during a typical weekday rush hour, how many of us have wondered:

Why didn’t I leave the house earlier to get to work? How many points is my blood pressure rising while thinking about my growing to-do list? Why haven’t I talked to my manager yet about telecommuting? How much longer do I really have to sit through this?

IBM recently conducted its annual traffic survey – polling 8,042 commuters in 20 cities on six continents – to try and assess the emotional and environmental impacts of commuting.

The most eye-opening finding from the survey was that while the commute has become more bearable in many cities, the perceptions of pain it causes have steadily increased. Drivers around the world are clearly frustrated by sitting in crawling stop-and-go traffic, but IBM’s research is showing that the root of these frustrations could be driven by larger economical and societal influences.  It’s not that surprising that a few, prolonged minutes on the beltway can induce the feeling of being “left behind” in today’s fast-paced and competitive economy.

FINAL 2011 Commuter Pain Index 300 dpi

Read about some of the findings after the jump.

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September, 8th 2011

Zia Yusuf, CEO of Streetline, Inc., a provider of innovative parking solutions

Zia Yusuf, CEO of Streetline, Inc., a provider of innovative parking solutions

Another person for a smarter planet

Ask Zia Yusuf what he does for a living and he’ll likely say, “I’m in the parking business.” More precisely, he’s in the business of trying to put an end to parking as we know it and utterly transform one of the most familiar and frustrating acts of daily life.

According to Yusuf, an estimated 30 percent of traffic in cities is caused by people driving around in search of parking. As CEO of San Francisco startup Streetline, Inc., Yusuf is working to deploy sensors in cities around the world to guide drivers to open parking spots and help municipalities better manage their parking and traffic resources.

Yusuf’s ultimate goal is nothing less than to change how people work and live across the world. “Pointing drivers to available parking will save them time, alleviate congestion and reduce carbon emissions,” Yusuf said. “It means happier drivers and greener cities.” Continue Reading »

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September, 8th 2011

raj 9-8-2011 9-09-07 AMBy Raj Aggarwal, CEO of Localytics, an IBM Business Partner and IBM SmartCamp NYC winner

Phones may be smart today, but how smart is the process of developing and optimizing mobile applications?

There are 5.3 billion mobile subscribers today — that’s 77 percent of the world’s population — and each subscriber wants something slightly different from his or her mobile experience.  There’s a mobile app for every facet of our everyday lives, from monitoring your stocks to finding a recipe for dinner to getting the most out of your workout.  App developers need to be able to see what their own users want out of the mobile experience so they can tailor their apps accordingly.

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rashidby Rashid F. Davis

Research informs my perspective on teaching and learning, and the numbers speak for themselves. Wages for men without high school diplomas have declined 66 percent since World War II, while the chance that they will ever have any job at all is down 23 percent. Even for those who finish high school and go to community college, as many as 93 percent fail to complete their two-year degrees after six years of struggle. And one wonders why students who require remedial work in science and math even register at all, as ninety-nine percent may fail to complete even their first semester.

Of course, the story doesn’t end there. Unemployment among the poor and undereducated is far higher than the national average, and persists even during “good times.” There are at least two reasons for this: Continue Reading »

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msaxenaManoj Saxena, who joined IBM in 2006 through the Webify Solutions acquisition (a company he founded in 2002 and led as its chairman, president and chief executive officer), was recently named the general manager of IBM Watson Solutions.

His new task is finding, creating and scaling new markets for Watson’s DeepQA technology. The smarter planet team asked him a few questions about how his team plans to put Watson to work. Continue Reading »

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Just a few years ago, much of the software that IBM sold was operating systems and middleware. Vital stuff, to be sure, but not very sexy. The move to analytics has changed things. For example, we provide some really nifty software for New York’s U.S. Open Tennis Championships, which kick off today and will build to a crescendo in two weeks with the finals.

Credit: TigerPuppala

Credit: TigerPuppala

IBM’s sponsorship of the championships gives us the opportunity to showcase amazing new technologies for some of the most sophisticated tennis fans in the world. During this year’s championships, fans and broadcasters alike will be able to enjoy matches with a depth of understanding far beyond anything they have experienced at the tournament before. That’s thanks to U.S. Open PointStream, a new match analysis feature on the U.S. Open Web site.

PointStream represents a great leap forward for tennis fans. Last year, fans received a wealth of statistical information about players and matches on the site. But now, thanks to PointStream, they can access deep analysis spelling out what each player needs to do to increase their chances of winning a match, how the match is going in real time and when the momentum is shifting.

PointStream also signals a new level of technical sophistication emerging worldwide that is deepening our understanding of nearly every human endeavor. Thanks to new analytics capabilities, people are able to gather huge quantities of pertinent information about nearly any topic, extract insights, and get up-to-the second updates about what’s happening and why. At IBM, we call this the smarter planet.

When we started talking about the smarter planet nearly three years ago, it was a vision of what could be. Now, after more than 2,000 engagements with clients, it’s a firm reality.

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August, 29th 2011

Another person for a smarter planet

Alexander Amini

Amidst moving to a new country, starting a new school, making new friends, and digging into an intensive scientific research project, Alexander Amini still had time for tennis. Generally two hours a day, several days a week.

“I started playing tennis before I can remember,” Amini said. “I’ve always had a tennis racquet in my hand.”

Amini’s love of tennis served him well when he decided to enter Ireland’s national high school science competition–the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE)–upon moving to Dublin from New York state with his family last fall.

He enrolled in Castleknock College, a private boys high school, and devoted himself to writing software that can identify a tennis player’s strokes based on data transmitted from wireless sensors worn on the body.

“In my project I was able to automatically detect 13 different tennis strokes with an average accuracy of 95 percent,” Amini said. “For four of those strokes, the accuracy was above 99 percent.”

Last January, after four months of hard work, Amini won top prize out of a field of 513 entries and was named BT Young Scientist and Technologist 2011. In September, he will represent Ireland at the 23rd European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Helsinki, Finland.

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Building a Smarter Planet is a blog intended to provide readers with thought-provoking content and a place to talk about the issues raised within the content. It is our hope that you will feel compelled to share some of the things you see, read and hear on this blog with your friends, family and peers. We feel strongly that this blog is not going to deliver final answers to the issues raised, but that it will represent a starting point for conversation around the issues.