New IBM Watson releases AI Toolset; comes pre-trained to accomplish more on farms, in factories, and in offices globally

IBM introduced on Tuesday new Watson solutions and services pre-trained for a variety of industries and professions including agriculture, customer service, human resources, supply chain, manufacturing, building management, automotive, marketing, and advertising.

This announcement follows IBM’s release last week of a new software service that gives businesses more transparency into AI decisions, as well as research from IBM’s Institute for Business Value, which revealed that 82 percent of businesses are now considering AI deployments.

IBM is partnering with a host of organizations to deliver the decision support capabilities of the Platform. For example, in India, IBM Research has partnered with NITI Aayog, a government think tank to explore how AI can be used to leveraging AI to issue early warning on pest and disease outbreaks; Main Street Data provides its Validator capabilities to benchmark yield against output from comparable fields and its MarketVision capabilities to help growers time their crop sales to maximize profit; in Kenya, IBM scientists in Nairobi partnered with Twiga Foods to build and test a blockchain-enabled microfinance lending platform which helps small farmers and food vendors get access to lending capital; and GiSC is a data cooperative run by growers for growers that integrates with the Platform to help users analyze their data to get more value from it.

IBM is making available globally the Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture. The platform gathers data from multiple sources – such as weather, IoT enabled tractors and irrigators and satellite imagery – to provide a single, overarching, predictive view of data as it relates to a farm in an easy-to-use app.

For the individual grower, this means support for making more informed decisions to help improve yield. For example, using AI-enabled visual recognition capabilities, growers can identify certain types and severity levels of pest and disease damage and determine where to spray pesticides. Or a grower can forecast water usage, thereby reducing waste and helping to save money.

The new platform draws upon IBM’s advanced capabilities in AI, analytics, IoT, cloud and weather to create a suite of solutions that span the farm-to-fork ecosystem.

Farming has always been a complex undertaking that requires growers to manage an interconnected web of pre-season and in-season decisions while at the mercy of mother nature.  

With the explosion of data from farm equipment, environmental sensors, and remote input, it’s impractical to rely on intuition or traditional technology to understand what drives variation in yield or provide guidance to growers. IBM is filling this gap by applying Watson AI to help growers make confident, evidence-based decisions.

At the core of IBM’s Platform is the Electronic Field Record which is the collection and integration point for the many disparate sources of IoT and practice data that, together, capture the current and historical state of the farm. It’s analogous to the Electronic Medical Record in healthcare and is the “digital twin” of the physical farm and everything that happens on it. Growers are already benefiting from IBM’s efforts to integrate data sources while extracting insights from them.

“Until now, nobody has tackled putting all this information into one place,” says third-generation farmer Roric Paulman. “I’ve got 40 different ag apps on my phone. It just stops being useful.”

Paulman has 10,000 acres under cultivation in Nebraska and generates one terabyte of data every month. IBM’s new platform allows him to bring everything together on his phone so he has a powerful, unified view of his farm.

For Paulman and other farmers, bringing AI to bear on data provides startling new powers. Growers can now film a field of corn from a drone and use Watson-enabled visual recognition analysis to identify crop disease or a pest infestation. The app also allows the grower to photograph plants up-close and have Watson identify the exact pest or disease that is placing stress on the crop.

On Paulman’s farm, an agronomist currently visits once a week to analyze infestations and blight. Now, with a simple photo, Paulman can immediately find out what type of pest is affecting his plants and he can take remediation action.

“As data flows continue to increase, people are overwhelmed by the amount of information we have to act on every day, but luckily the information explosion coincides with another key technological advance: artificial intelligence,” said David Kenny, Senior Vice President, IBM Cognitive Solutions. “AI is the tool professionals need to take advantage of the data that’s now at our fingertips and tailoring general AI for specific industries and professions is a critical way to enable everyone to reach new potential in their daily jobs.”

“That means I can react in real-time and won’t lose yield waiting for the agronomist,” Paulman says. It also allows him to better target pesticide use, reducing environmental impact and lowering cost.

For large food producers, the platform offers an opportunity to “see” the fields in a new way. Food producers will have visibility to the likely yield from each supplier’s farm and can plan the logistics of when they want each farmer to deliver their supply. That provides new transparency to an otherwise inefficient system.  

The platform also seeks to anticipate problems before they start. The platform helps farmers understand critical factors such as soil temperature and moisture levels, crop stress, pest and disease risk and identification, yield predictions, and alerts. That helps inform decisions like irrigation, planting, fertilization, worker safety, trading, and pest and disease eradication.  

One of the biggest challenges farmers face is knowing when exactly to sell their crops. Prices fluctuate constantly and this platform offers a tool that marshals huge amounts of pricing data—from the local grain elevator to the futures markets—and recommends the best time to sell a crop in order to maximize profit. It’s the type of data gathering and analysis that would be impossible without AI and analytics.

“I’ve been waiting for something like this,” Paulman says. “IBM has independence. They’re not trying to sell me more fertilizer or machines. They don’t have a horse in the race. It’s a trust thing.”

The grower application is just one piece of IBM’s larger effort to improve agriculture. The platform can help a full range of ecosystem participants such as agronomists, input providers, equipment manufacturers, traders, lenders, crop insurers, and governments make more confident decisions specific to their own roles.

Many of the analytics delivered by the Platform are generated by IBM PAIRS Geoscope which is a cloud-based innovation of IBM Research that can quickly provide contextual information about a specific location using geospatial-temporal information. Using machine learning techniques and analytics on satellite imagery, weather data, census data, land use and business location data, it can help companies make predictions about the future of their farms.

The IBM Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture introduction is complementary to the existing blockchain-based IBM Food Trust capabilities which facilitate food traceability across each step of the food supply such as origin, processing data, and shipping details.

In a study of 5,000 executives released by IBM last week, 77 percent of top performing organizations said they see customer satisfaction as a key value driver for AI. To give customer service agents increased ability to respond quickly to customer questions and complex inquiries, IBM is making available Watson Discovery for Salesforce.

The solution gives customer service agents the relevant information about a caller’s request in real-time. No more lengthy training needed: Watson immediately presents the likely solution to a request, which can make even junior agents as effective as seasoned pros. It’s been piloted at Deluxe Corporation, who saw improved response times and increased client satisfaction. Now, it’s being made available to the world.

The average hiring manager flips through hundreds of applicants a day, spending approximately six seconds on each resume, which can make it difficult to make well-considered decisions. IBM’s new AI functionality for HR analyzes the background of current top performing employees from diverse backgrounds and uses that data to help flag promising applicants. It provides an indicator of success and can help address bias in hiring decisions. For companies that face hiring litigation, it can also help provide a clearer explanation of hiring rationale.

A recent IBM study of global Chief Human Resource Officers found that 33 percent surveyed believe AI will revolutionize the way they do business over the next few years. These leaders are realizing that AI not only helps recruiters to attract the right talent, but also to create a workplace culture that is highly personalized at the employee level and highly collaborative across the organization.

AI is already providing IBM clients an advantage in their industries and has enabled companies like BuzzFeed and H&R Block to refocus recruiters’ time on attracting and hiring the candidates who are most likely to succeed in a given role, in an efficient and inclusive manner.

The new IBM Watson Assistant for Marketing feature, embedded into the Watson Campaign Automation SaaS solution for marketers, can help by converting the busy work of marketing into a simple conversation with Watson. Ingersoll Rand is using it to understand marketing performance faster and build campaigns that speak directly to individuals, cultivating great dialogues that build loyalty and engagement.

A recent IBM study of global CMOs found that 34 percent of CMOs surveyed are planning to reinvent their customer experiences with AI. New services from IBM help marketers fast track their integration onto marketing platforms, so they can more easily create compelling, personalized consumer experiences with AI.

Subway used IBM’s new WEATHERfx Footfall with Watson to design ads based on shifting weather patterns. During its advertising campaign, Subway increased traffic by 31 percent, far exceeding all other targeting methods. In addition, they saw a 53 percent reduction in campaign waste, salvaging about 7.9 million impressions that would have otherwise gone to waste.

IBM is releasing specially-crafted Watson toolsets to help industrial teams reduce product inspection resource requirements significantly using visual and acoustic inspection capabilities. At a time of intense global competition, manufacturers are facing a variety of issues that impact productivity including workforce attrition, skills-gaps and rising raw material costs, exacerbated by downstream defects and equipment downtime.

By combining the Internet of Thing (IoT) and AI, manufacturers can stabilize production costs by pinpointing and predicting areas of loss such as energy waste, equipment failures, and product quality issues.

Combining industrial IoT and AI, IBM IoT Buildings Insights can decode the exabytes of data that commercial properties create so that building managers can leverage that data to help reduce energy costs and understand occupancy dynamics in buildings, allowing them to understand and prepare for different occupancy patterns. It enables property owners and building managers to leverage insights from weather, historical performance, and data from other third-party analytics to maximize real-estate investments.

AI will also play a role on the front lines of product development. Since 47 percent of projects fail due to inaccurate or poorly written requirements, IBM is bringing the power of AI to the next generation of Requirements Management solution. Watson can now assess the quality of requirements and provide guidance on how to improve their quality.

Additionally, to help businesses in all industries drive industrial size outcomes, IBM is introducing services to accelerate companies’ IoT transformations – from strategy, implementation, and security to managed services and ongoing operations.

Each department in a company is different. Look at the folks responsible for the supply chain: they’re dealing with data flows coming in from all over the world. That’s why a global technology company is using a tailor-made version of Watson to keep an eye on five aspects of its supply chain.

Watson can incorporate weather data, traffic reports, and regulatory reports to provide a fuller picture of global supply issues. IBM is making this technology available to the world with Watson Supply Chain Insights.


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