IBM Watson Showing Its Smarts on Factory Floors

Today’s topics include why IBM's Watson supercomputer is going to work on factory floors, the demonstration of the all-electric Kitty Hawk flying car prototype, new LinkedIn and Dynamics 365 sales data integration and a new study confirms that businesses continue the risky practice of deploying thousands of cloud applications without IT department supervision.

IBM Watson is best known for defeating multiple-time champion Ken Jennings in "Jeopardy" and assisting doctors with selecting medicine for their patients.

Now IBM is bringing Watson to the factory floor. Manufacturers are working to determine how artificial intelligence and the internet of things can help them optimize operations.

Watson is poised to provide them with analytics help through a new Augmented Intelligence/AI Assistant for Manufacturing, unveiled April 25 at the Hannover Messe conference in Germany.

Within the AI Assistant, Watson will  help both managers and factory workers spot and reduce manufacturing defects and increase overall assembly-line efficiency. 

Google co-founder Larry Page's secretive Kitty Hawk project offered a glimpse of one of its prototype flying vehicles. The initial version of the Kitty Hawk Flyer is designed for use over water.

It does not require a license for use in the U.S., and flying is easy to learn according to the company’s website. The commercial iteration of the flyer will be released later this year, according to the company.

Though the startup has not disclosed a price, people interested in the project can sign up for a three-year Kitty Hawk membership for $100. Members will receive priority placement on the product waiting list and will be eligible for a discount of up to $2,000. They will also receive access to special events and demonstrations, as well as the Kitty Hawk flight simulator.

Microsoft pledged to integrate LinkedIn with the rest of its business software empire and the company is starting with Dynamic 365 for Sales.

The company started the process by introducing data integration between LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Dynamics 365 for Sales.

Using data culled from LinkedIn’s 500 million profiles and LinkedIn Sales Navigator, the integration will help salespeople improve their prospect pipelines, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Group explained. 

Information drawn from email, the customer relationship management modules in Dynamics 365 and LinkedIn will contribute to contextual recommendations on Dynamics 365 for Sales next steps.

Business use of cloud applications continued to grow in the fourth quarter of 2016, as did the threat posed by malware spreading through shared data on cloud platforms, according to a report released by cloud services management firm Netskope.

The average number of cloud services used by enterprises grew 4 percent quarter-to-quarter to 1,071, according to Netskope's April 2017 Cloud Report. However, less than 7 percent of the services are explicitly created for business use or are considered enterprise-ready.

Employees are often driving company adoption of these unsanctioned cloud applications and IT departments and information-security teams struggle to catch up.

The problem of unsanctioned cloud usage—frequently referred to as ‘shadow IT’— leaves the company unaware that some cloud activities are leaving the business open to cyber-attacks.