At IBM Think, Watson Expands “Anywhere”

At IBM Think in February, IBM made several announcements around the expansion of Watson’s availability and capabilities, framing these announcements as the launch of “Watson Anywhere.” This piece is intended to provide guidance to data analysts, data scientists, and analytic professionals seeking to implement machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities and evaluating the capabilities of IBM Watson’s AI and machine learning services for their data.

Announcements

IBM declared that Watson is now available “anywhere” – both on-prem and in any cloud configuration, whether private, public, singular, multi-cloud, or a hybrid cloud environment. Data that needs to remain in place for privacy and security reasons can now have Watson microservices act on it where it resides. The obstacle of cloud vendor lock-in can be avoided by simply bringing the code to the data instead of vice versa. This ubiquity is made possible via a connector from IBM Cloud Private for Data that makes these services available via Kubernetes containers. New Watson services that will be available via this connector include Watson Assistant, IBM’s virtual assistant, and Watson OpenScale, an AI operation and automation platform.

Watson OpenScale is an environment for managing AI applications that puts IBM’s Trust and Transparency principles into practice around machine learning models. It builds trust in these models by providing explanations of how said models come to the conclusions that they do, permitting visibility into what’s seen as a “black box” by making their processes auditable and traceable. OpenScale also claims the ability to automatically identify and mitigate bias in models, suggesting new data for model retraining. Finally, OpenScale also provides monitoring capabilities of AI in production, validating ongoing model accuracy and health from a central management console.

Watson Assistant lets organizations build conversational bot interfaces into applications and devices. When interacting with end users, it can perform searches of relevant documentation, ask the user for further clarification, or redirect the user to a person for sufficiently complex queries. Its availability as part of Watson Anywhere permits organizations to implement and run virtual assistants in clouds outside of the IBM Cloud.

These new services join other Watson services currently available via the IBM Cloud Private for Data connector including Watson Studio and Watson Machine Learning, IBM’s programs for creating and deploying machine learning models. Additional Watson services being made available for Watson Anywhere later this year include Watson Knowledge Studio and Watson Natural Language Understanding.

In addition, IBM also announced IBM Business Automation with Watson, a future AI capability that will permit businesses to further automate existing work processes by analyzing patterns in workflows for commonly repeated tasks. Currently, this capability is available via limited early access; general availability is anticipated later in 2019.

Recommendations

Organizations seeking to analyze data “in place” have a new option with Watson services now accessible outside of the IBM Cloud. Data that must remain where it is for security and privacy reasons can now have Watson analytics processes brought to it via a secure container, whether that data resides on-prem or in any cloud, not just the IBM cloud. This opens the possibility of using Watson to enterprises in regulated industries like finance, government, and healthcare, as well as in departments where governance and auditability are core requirements, such as legal and HR.

With the IBM Cloud Private for Data connector enabling Watson Anywhere, companies now have a net-new reason to consider IBM products and services in their data workflow. While Amazon and Azure dominate the cloud market, Watson’s AI and machine learning tools are generally easier to use out of the box. For companies who have made significant commitments to other cloud providers, Watson Anywhere represents an opportunity to bring more user-friendly data services to their data residing in non-IBM clouds.

Companies concerned about the “explainability” of machine learning models, particularly in regulated industries or for governance purposes, should consider using Watson OpenScale to monitor models in production. Because OpenScale can provide visibility into how models behave and make decisions, concerns about “black box models” can be mitigated with the ability to automatically audit a model, trace a given iteration, and explain how the model determined its outcomes. This transparency boosts the ability for line of business and executive users to understand what the model is doing from a business perspective, and justify subsequent actions based on that model’s output. For a company to depend on data-driven models, those models need to prove themselves trustworthy partners to those driving the business, and explainability bridges the gap between the model math and the business initiatives.

Finally, companies planning for long-term model usage need to consider how they plan to support model monitoring and maintenance. Longevity is a concern for machine learning models in production. Model drift reflects changes that your company needs to be aware of. How do companies ensure that model performance and accuracy is maintained over the long haul? What parameters determine when a model requires retraining, or to be taken out of production? Consistent monitoring and maintenance of operationalized models is key to their ongoing dependability.

Four Key Announcements from H2O World San Francisco

Last week at H2O World San Francisco, H2O.ai announced a number of improvements to Driverless AI, H2O, Sparkling Water, and AutoML, as well as several new partnerships for Driverless AI. The improvements provide incremental improvements across the platform, while the partnerships reflect H2O.ai expanding their audience and capabilities. This piece is intended to provide guidance…

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Data Science and Machine Learning News Roundup, January 2019

On a monthly basis, I will be rounding up key news associated with the Data Science Platforms space for Amalgam Insights. Companies covered will include: Alteryx, Amazon, Anaconda, Cambridge Semantics, Cloudera, Databricks, Dataiku, DataRobot, Datawatch, DominoElastic, Google, H2O.ai, IBM, Immuta, Informatica, KNIME, MathWorks, Microsoft, Oracle, Paxata, RapidMiner, SAP, SAS, Tableau, Talend, Teradata, TIBCO, Trifacta, TROVE.

Cloudera and Hortonworks Complete Planned Merger

In early January, Cloudera and Hortonworks completed their planned merger. With this, Cloudera becomes the default machine learning ecosystem for Hadoop-based data, while providing an easy pathway for expanding into  machine learning and analytics capabilities for Hortonworks customers.

Study: 89 Percent of Finance Teams Yet to Embrace Artificial Intelligence

A study conducted by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) and Oracle revealed that 89% of organizations have not deployed AI to their finance groups. Although a correlation exists between companies with revenue growth and companies that are using AI, the key takeaway is that artificial intelligence is still in the early adopter phase for most organizations.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Science and Machine Learning Platforms

In late January, Gartner released its Magic Quadrant for Data Science and Machine Learning Platforms. New to the Data Science and Machine Learning MQ this year are both DataRobot and Google – two machine learning offerings with completely different audiences and scope. DataRobot offers an automated machine learning service targeted towards “citizen data scientists,” while Google’s machine learning tools, though part of Google Cloud Platform, are more of a DIY data pipeline targeted towards developers. By contrast, I find it curious that Amazon’s SageMaker machine learning platform – and its own collection of task-specific machine learning tools, despite their similarity to Google’s – failed to make the quadrant, given this quadrant’s large umbrella.

While data science and machine learning are still emerging markets, the contrasting demands of these technologies made by citizen data scientists and by cutting-edge developers warrants splitting the next Data Science and Machine Learning Magic Quadrant into separate reports targeted to the considerations of each of these audiences. In particular, the continued growth of automated machine learning technologies will likely drive such a split, as citizen data scientists pursue a “good enough” solution that provides quick results.

CES 2019 Ramifications for Enterprise IT

Vendors and Organizations Mentioned: IBM, Ose, WindRiver, Velodyne, UV Partners, TDK Corporation, Chirp Microsystems, Qualcomm, Intel, Zigbee Alliance, Thread Group, Impossible Foods The CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is traditionally known as the center of consumer technology. Run by the CTA (Consumer Technology Association) in Las Vegas, this show brings out enormous volumes of new technology…

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Amazon Expands Toolkit of Machine Learning Services at AWS re:Invent

At AWS re:Invent, Amazon Web Services expanded its toolkit of machine learning application services with the announcements of Amazon Comprehend Medical, Amazon Forecast, Amazon Personalize, and Amazon Textract. These new services augment the capabilities Amazon provides to end users when it comes to text analysis, personalized recommendations, and time series forecasts. The continued growth of these individual services removes obstacles for companies looking to get started with common machine learning tasks on a smaller scale; rather than building a wholesale data science pipeline in-house, these services allow companies to quickly get one task done, and this permits an incremental introduction to machine learning for a given organization. Forecast, Personalize, and Textract are in preview, while Comprehend Medical is available now.

Amazon Comprehend Medical, Forecast, Personalize, and Textract join a collection of machine learning services that include speech recognition (Transcribe) and translation (Translate), speech-to-text and text-to-speech (Lex and Polly) to power machine conversation such as chatbots and Alexa, general text analytics (Comprehend), and image and video analysis (Rekognition).

New Capabilities

Amazon Personalize lets developers add personalized recommendations into their apps, based on a given activity stream from that app and a corpus of what’s available to be recommended, whether that’s products, articles, or other things. In addition to recommendations, Personalize can also be used to customize search results and notifications. By combining a given search string or location with contextual behavior data, Amazon looks to provide customers with the ability to build trust.

Amazon Forecast builds private, custom time-series forecast models that predict future trends based on that data. Customers provide both histoical data and related causal data, and Forecast analyzes the data to determine the relevant factors in building its models and providing forecasts.

Amazon Textract extracts text and data from scanned documents, without requiring manual data entry or custom code. In particular, using machine learning to recognize when data is in a table or form field and treat it appropriately will save a significant amount of time over the current OCR standard.

Finally, Amazon Comprehend Medical, an extension of last year’s Amazon Comprehend, uses natural language processing to analyze unstructured medical text such as doctor’s notes or clinical trial records, and extract relevant information from this text.

Recommendations

Organizations doing resource planning, financial planning, or other similar forecasting that currently lack the capability to do time series forecasting in-house should consider using Amazon Forecast to predict product demand, staffing levels, inventory levels, material availability, and to perform financial forecasting. Outsourcing the need to build complex forecasting models in-house lets departments focus on the predictions.

Consumer-oriented organizations looking to build higher levels of engagement with their customers who provide generic, uncontextualized recommendations right now (based on popularity or other simple measures) should consider using Amazon Personalize to provide personalized recommendations, search results, and notifications via their apps and website. Providing high-quality relevant recommendations a la minute builds customer trust in the quality of a given organization’s engagement efforts, particularly compared to the average spray-and-pray marketing communication.

Organizations that still depend on physical documents, or who have an archive of physical documents to scan and analyze, should consider using Amazon Textract. OCR’s limits are well-known, especially when it comes to accurately interpreting and formatting semi-structured blocks of text data such as form fields and tables, resulting in significant time devoted to post-processing manual correction. Textract handles complex documents without the need for custom code or maintaining templates; being able to automate text interpretation and analysis further accelerates document processing workflows, and better permits organizations to maintain compliance.

Medical organizations using software that depends on manually-implemented rules to process their medical text should consider using Amazon Comprehend Medical. By removing the need to maintain a list of rules in-house, Comprehend Medical accelerates the ability to extract and analyze medical information from unstructured text fields like doctor’s notes and health records, improving processes such as medical coding, cohort analysis to recruit patients for clinical trials, and health monitoring of patients.

All organizations looking to use machine learning services from external providers need to consider whether outsourcing will work for their circumstances. Data privacy is a key concern, and even more so in regulated verticals with industry-specific rules such as HIPAA. Does the service you want to use respect those rules? From a compliance perspective, why a model gives the results it does needs to be explained as well; merely accepting results from the black box at face value is insufficient. Machine learning products that automatically provide such an explanation in plain English do exist, but this feature is still uncommon and in its infancy.

Conclusion

With its latest announcements, Amazon continues to broaden the scope of customer issues it addresses with machine learning services. Medical companies need better text analytics yesterday, but struggle to comply with HIPAA while assessing the data they have. Customer-facing organizations face stiff competition when their competitor is only a click away. And any company trying to plan for the future based on past data grapples with understanding what factors affect future results. Amazon’s machine learning application services address common tactical business issues by simplifying the process for customers of implementing task-specific machine learning models to pure inputs and outputs. These services present outsourcing opportunities for overworked departments struggling to keep up.

Data Science and Machine Learning News, November 2018

On a monthly basis, I will be rounding up key news associated with the Data Science Platforms space for Amalgam Insights. Companies covered will include: Alteryx, Amazon, Anaconda, Cambridge Semantics, Cloudera, Databricks, Dataiku, DataRobot, Datawatch, DominoElastic, H2O.ai, IBM, Immuta, Informatica, KNIME, MathWorks, Microsoft, Oracle, Paxata, RapidMiner, SAP, SAS, SnapLogic, Tableau, Talend, Teradata, TIBCO, Trifacta, TROVE.

Continue reading “Data Science and Machine Learning News, November 2018”

Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) and Learning Systems in the Brain

Simulating Learning Processes in the Brain With AI/ML

Key Stakeholders: Chief Learning Officers, Chief Human Resource Officers, Learning and Development Directors and Managers, Corporate Trainers, Content and Learning Product Managers.

Why It Matters: The skills necessary for success in the corporate world are varied and include hard skills, people skills and situational awareness. While L&D is embracing the use of AI/ML to analyze learners’ data and to personalize learning paths, curate effective content, and attempt to better engage learners, what L&D has failed to embrace is the application of AI/ML to model each of these distinct learning systems, and their interactions.

Top Takeaway: Corporate learning vendors would be well served to develop AI/ML models that capture the processing characteristics of the three learning systems in the brain known to mediate hard skills, soft skills, and situational awareness learning. A comprehensive AI/ML model that captured the processing characteristics of each of these three distinct learning systems could be used to develop and test products and tools that optimize content curation, learning paths, engagement, and delivery processes that will differ substantially across systems and tasks to be learned.

Vendors with the Skillset and Expertise to Build this AI/ML Tool: Cornerstone, CrossKnowledge, IBM, Infor, LTG, Oracle, Saba, Salesforce, SAP, Workday, and likely many others.

Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning and L&D

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Data Science and Machine Learning News, October 2018

On a monthly basis, I will be rounding up key news associated with the Data Science Platforms space for Amalgam Insights. Companies covered will include: Alteryx, Anaconda, Cambridge Semantics, Cloudera, Databricks, Dataiku, DataRobot, Datawatch, DominoElastic, H2O.ai, IBM, Immuta, Informatica, KNIME, MathWorks, Microsoft, Oracle, Paxata, RapidMiner, SAP, SAS, Tableau, Talend, Teradata, TIBCO, Trifacta, TROVE.

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Todd Maddox Ph.D.’s Top Four Scientific Observations on DevLearn 2018

If you have a passion for learning then DevLearn is for you. DevLearn 2018 was quite the event. With excellent keynote addresses, breakout sessions, numerous vendors and great demos it was action-packed. I enjoyed every minute of DevLearn 2018 and I am already looking forward to 2019.

I took a few days to gather my notes and thoughts, and I have a number of observations on DevLearn 2018. I am sure that others who attended DevLearn 2018 will highlight different topics, and acknowledging that I was only able to speak in detail with a dozen or so vendors, here are my Top Four Scientific Observations.

Whether Talent, Behavioral or Data……The Impact of Science Continues to Grow

Relevant Vendors That I Spoke With: Adobe, Allego, EdCast, Inkling, iSpring, Learning Tribes, LEO Learning, MPS Interactive, Mursion, OttoLearn, Rehearsal, Schoox, STRIVR, Valamis

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Why It Matters that IBM Announced Trust and Transparency Capabilities for AI


Note: This blog is a followup to Amalgam Insights’ visit to the “Change the Game” event held by IBM in New York City.

On September 19th, IBM announced its launch of a portfolio of AI trust and transparency capabilities. This announcement got Amalgam Insight’s attention because of IBM’s relevance and focus in the enterprise AI market throughout this decade.  To understand why IBM’s specific launch matters, take a step back in considering IBM’s considerable role in building out the current state of the enterprise AI market.

IBM AI in Context

Since IBM’s public launch of IBM Watson on Jeopardy! in 2011, IBM has been a market leader in enterprise artificial intelligence and spent billions of dollars in establishing both IBM Watson and AI. This has been a challenging path to travel as IBM has had to balance this market-leading innovation with the financial demands of supporting a company that brought in $107 billion in revenue in 2011 and has since seen this number shrink by almost 30%.

In addition, IBM had to balance its role as an enterprise technology company focused on the world’s largest workloads and IT challenges with launching an emerging product better suited for highly innovative startups and experimental enterprises. And IBM also faced the “cloudification” of enterprise IT in general, where the traditional top-down purchase of multi-million dollar IT portfolios is being replaced by piecemeal and business-driven purchases and consumption of best-in-breed technologies.

Seven years later, the jury is still out on how AI will ultimately end up transforming enterprises. What we do know is that a variety of branches of AI are emerging, including

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