Wednesday, 08 October 2014 13:38

Deakin’s 'world first' with IBM’s Watson Featured


IBM’s Watson cognitive computing tool has come to Australia. Melbourne’s Deakin University will be the first in the world to use a system powered by Watson to develop an online student engagement advisor. ANZ Bank is also using the technology to help financial advisors.

Deakin’s student advisor application will deliver 24/7 instant online access via the web and mobile devices for the university’s 50,000 students. It will also assist future students and staff working with students with tailored personalised responses to questions.

Watson is a cognitive computing platform that interact in natural language, can processes large amounts of data to uncover new patterns and insights, and learn from each interaction. It is named after IBM’s first president and his son and successor, both of whome were called Thomas J Watson.

Watson will be used to sort 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?

“Students continuously tell us they want access to accurate, immediate and easily understandable information, that they can instantly find themselves,” said Professor Jane den Hollander, Vice-Chancellor of Deakin University. “Watson ticks all of these boxes.

“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.”

IBM Australia has also announced a ‘significant client milestone’ with ANZ Bank’s use of Watson. ANZ has developed a Watson Engagement Advisor Tool in its Sydney research 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 says it 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.

ANZ’s 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.

“This technology is an important step forward in the way we serve our clients. It has the potential to not only reduce the time it takes to deliver financial advice, but also to make the customer experience simple, yet tailored and enriched with personalised data and insights,” she said.

IBM is also partnering with 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 academics 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. In addition the University of New South Wales says it is considering how to introduce cognitive computing into its curriculum.

To ensure participating universities succeed in their vision to turn today’s students into tomorrow’s cognitive computing leaders IBM will provide a range of resources and support including: access to technical industry leading experts, guest lecturers, technical mentors and Watson through the Watson Developer Cloud.

In November IBM is opening a Watson Client Experience Centre at its Research Lab in Melbourne. IBM says the centre is one of six around the world that are part of its billion dollar investment into Watson. A lab is opening today at 51 Astor Place in New York City's Silicon Alley’, with other centres in Brazil, England, Ireland and Singapore.

IBM says the Melbourne centre will be a local skills hub, enabling Australian organisations to collaborate with more than 2,600 local and international experts, experience first-hand the capabilities of Watson and learn how Watson can transform their businesses and the way they interact with their customers.

"The future has arrived, and Watson is bringing forward a new era of computing enabling organisations around the globe to launch new businesses, redefine markets and transform industries," said Mike Rhodin of IBM’s Watson Group. "Watson is fuelling a new market and ecosystem of clients, partners, developers, venture capitalists, universities and students. The next great innovations will come from people who are able to make connections that others don't see, and Watson is making that possible."

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson sadly passed away in Jan 2021 and a much valued senior associate editor at iTWire. He was one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is the author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He was in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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