The University of Rochester Simon School of Business and IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced winners of the first Watson academic case competition.
The competition is a way to develop new ideas for harnessing IBM Watson technology to solve societal and business challenges while helping students advance technology and business skills for jobs of the future. It also is part of a series of competitions for students studying a variety of academic concentrations.
Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, was built by a team of scientists to accomplish a grand challenge a computing system that rivals a humans ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence. The Watson technology represents a new class of cognitive systems that can quickly sift through large volumes of big data, and apply advanced analytics to improve decision making across a variety of use cases and industries.
IBM said 25 MBA students with concentrations ranging from marketing and business consulting to finance and entrepreneurship competed in teams submitting seven proposals outlining how Watson's technology could be applied to solve complex challenges in the transportation, energy, retail and public sector industries.
Three winning ideas were selected by a panel of judges made up of faculty, regional business leaders and IBM executives. Team evaluations were based on the ability of the students to clearly articulate the business case, including market research, tactical planning and feasibility while exhibiting an understanding of how to harness big data for strategic outcomes.
The winning case studies included a crisis-management capability to better allocate resources during disasters, a mining application to improve the effectiveness of natural gas, petroleum and other natural resources exploration, and streamlining the customs process for airports to reduce wait times.
First place went to Managing Data in the Eye of a Storm, which showed how IBM's Watson technology could be put to work combining weather-related data and the latest census numbers to help organizations better prepare for a crisis administration and allocate resources accordingly. The first place student team concluded that Watson's ability to look at unstructured and structured information could more accurately identify weather patterns and help improve response times.
Second place went to a project called, Mining for Insights, Literally, which recommended that the Watson technology could help energy companies improve the understanding of environmental impacts, and regulatory and safety information to reduce accidents while avoiding the over-exploration of natural resources. This team relied on Watson's cognitive-reasoning capabilities to deliver precise and accurate results to optimize exploration efforts.
Third place went to Unpacking Big Data Improves Travel Experience. About 1 million people travel into the United States every day, and during the summer this number peaks, resulting in long lines, congestion delays and aggravated travelers. This team devised an approach using Watson's technology to quickly analyze massive amounts of unstructured information in order to enhance security, reduce wait times and improve the travel experience in airports while taking the guesswork out of the customs process.
The Simon School is deeply appreciative of the opportunity to partner together with IBM in the big data area, and sees great opportunity for building further impact in scholarship and teaching through such an initiative in fields as diverse as finance, marketing, consulting, operations and health care management," said Mark Zupan, dean of the University of Rochester, Simon Graduate School of Business, in a statement.