IBM's Watson Cognitive Computing System Spurs Big Data Competition at USC

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2013-03-12 Print this article Print

The student teams faced two rounds of judging based on four criteria: how well the concept and supporting plan articulated and supported the team's vision; the feasibility of bringing the product or service to market and the supporting elements; the extent the proposed solution leverages Watson's key capabilities and the team's presentation. Three winning ideas were selected by a panel of eight industry and faculty judges, including representatives from the Bank of America, Ernst & Young, and IBM.

The first prize went to a legal research project entitled "Let Watson Do the Discovery for Your Next Legal Case." For corporate legal departments, building a case—or defending one's own—relies on fast, accurate research. Past legal trials, court documents, articles and digital evidence can make or break a case, and together they form a sea of unstructured data that is both time-consuming and costly to pore through.

The first-place USC team proposed using Watson to process its users' research needs, based on its ability to think like a human, quickly sift through online legal documents for facts, and not only identify evidence to support a case—but forecast its probability of success.

The first-place team's viewpoint: By placing Watson in charge of research, companies can recover time and costs, while delivering better legal outcomes. In turn, firms that leverage Watson's speed and efficiency can address the growing legal trend toward flat-fee billing and research outsourcing.

The second prize went to an employee training app called Watson Uncovers the Keys to Success for Your Employees. According to the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), 41 percent of employees at companies with inadequate training programs plan to leave within a year, versus 12 percent of employees at companies that provide excellent training and professional development programs.

Conversely, the ASTD also states that effective employee training can lead to 218 percent higher income per employee and 45 percent higher shareholder return than market average. The second-place USC team proposes that corporate human resource departments use Watson to optimize employee training by crunching data pertaining to the employers' HR needs, the employees' career goals and the range of training options available that can help both parties succeed.

The second-place team's viewpoint: By improving employee satisfaction and retention, a Watson-powered employee training system can drive higher shareholder value.

The third prize went to a PTSD-related project to help patients find doctors. According to IBM, it is reported that post-traumatic stress disorder affects nearly 7.7 million U.S. adults aged 18 and older. This includes people who have served in combat, experienced domestic violence, been in car accidents or experienced other traumatic events. Many with PTSD suffer silently, including the 400,000-plus U.S. veterans who have yet to be identified and treated, according to the U.S. Veterans Administration. Yet the catalysts behind this illness need no longer remain invisible—due largely to big data, IBM said.

For example, unprecedented amounts of data accompany soldiers who return from war—ranging from medical histories to information on combat experiences. The third-place USC team proposes that physicians use Watson to identify people who may develop PTSD, by uncovering insights from data that can help piece together their personal stories and shed light on pain they may be experiencing. The team's viewpoint: By helping physicians find and diagnose those suffering from PTSD, Watson can help medical professionals offer patients the treatment they deserve.


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