IBM's cognitive computing marvel, Watson, has picked up its first Australian clients and will soon be conversing with students at Deakin University and ANZ Bank customers.
Watson represents a new era of cognitive computing based on its ability to interact in natural language, process vast amounts of big data to uncover new patterns and insights, and learn from each interaction.
In a world first, Deakin University will be powered by Watson to develop an online student engagement advisor, which will deliver 24/7, instant online access via the web and mobile devices for the university’s 50,000 students.
The advisor will also assist future students and staff working with students with everything from the simplest questions to tailored personalised responses.
In the coming months Watson will consume thousands of pages of Deakin's unstructured data contained in documents, presentations, brochures and online to ensure users receive consistent, high quality responses to the thousands of queries received across a broad range of topics such as: “What do I need to enrol?” “What social activities are available at Deakin?” “Where do I find the biology building?” “What are the computing requirements for my course?”
Over time students who ask Watson a question can expect tailored information, personalised advice and information based on their individual profile.
Deakin University vice chancellor and president, Jane den Hollander, said students continuously told the university that wanted access to accurate, immediate and easily understandable information.
"Watson ticks all of these boxes," she said.
"Watson will fundamentally change how we engage with our broad communities based here in Australia and overseas. We will be able to provide them a single destination to find the information they need, how and when they want it.
“Being the first university in the world to recruit Watson to help students navigate their way through their university experience keeps Deakin at the forefront of the digital frontier and delight our students and staff.”
ANZ’s Global Wealth division will also leverage Watson to provide a smarter and faster customer outcome
The bank will unveil the new Watson Engagement Advisor Tool in its Sydney ‘Grow’ centre and will also launch it more broadly to more than 400 financial planners.
By opening up the Watson tool to the external environment, ANZ will be able to observe the types of questions coming from both customers and financial advisors in order to continue enhancing Watson’s capabilities and insights.
ANZ's goal is that Watson will help enable its financial advice team to deliver an improved advice process – making it shorter and more efficient for the customer to receive a statement of financial advice, taking the time down from weeks to just one session.
The initial scope of Watson is in the area of insurance and protection, and it will soon be expanded to cover the full wealth strategy including superannuation and investments.
ANZ chief executive officer, global wealth group, Joyce Phillips, said everyone should have access to affordable, consistent and high quality financial advice. To this end we began to look at how we could leverage Watson to process big data to enable smarter and faster financial advice.
IBM is also partnering with leading universities across Australia to launch cognitive computing courses that give students unprecedented access to Watson technology.
Beginning in 2015, Deakin University and the University of South Australia will offer cognitive computing courses.
The courses will be embedded in various faculty offerings including IT, computing, business, and engineering degrees.
Co-designed by the Watson Group and leading academic experts in fields such as artificial intelligence and computer science, the courses will empower students with the technical knowledge and hands-on learning required to develop new cognitive computing applications fuelled by the Watson platform, according to a company statement.
In addition, the UNSW Australia is considering how to introduce cognitive computing into its curriculum.
A Watson Client Experience Centre will open in November, located within the IBM Research Lab in Melbourne.
The centre will be a local skills hub, enabling Australian organisations to collaborate with more than 2600 local and international experts, experience first-hand the capabilities of Watson and learn how it can transform their businesses and the way they interact with their customers.
The centre is one of six IBM plans to open around the world as part of a billion dollar investment.
Other Watson centres are located in US, Brazil, England, Ireland and Singapore.