Singapore deepens relationship with IBM’s Watson
By Gabey Goh October 15, 2014
- Govt taps Watson to enhance government-citizen interactions & engagement
- NUS to offer first Watson-based cognitive computing education in SEA
WITH two key announcements made at the IBM Xcite conference, taking place at Marina Bay Sands from Oct 13-15, Singapore has signalled deeper commitment to leveraging the possibilities of cognitive computing for national development.
The Singapore Government and IBM announced a collaboration that seeks to improve accessibility to government information and to deliver better, more personalised services on government policies and services.
Lim Soo Hoon, Permanent Secretary (Finance) (Performance) at the Ministry of Finance, said the Government is constantly seeking ways to improve its service delivery and how it engages the public.
“We hope the collaboration with IBM to tap on its leading Watson technology will bring about a transformative change in how the Government can better interact with citizens and address their needs,” she said.
As the world’s first Watson adoption in the government sector, this initiative supports the Singapore Government’s mission of enhancing government-citizen interactions and community engagement, she added.
By providing government agencies with insights about the concerns and priorities of their constituents, Watson will enable better decision-making and more responsive operations. This is intended to lead to improved government services, as well as better citizens’ engagement in community programmes and compliance with civil obligations.
In the first phase of the government-wide initiative, the Singapore Government will team up with IBM to train the Watson-enabled natural language solution in the areas of personal income tax, employment and work pass, and workplace health and safety.
When the pilot project goes live next year, users will be able to access government websites using the self-service applications and gain specific answers to their queries more quickly from the Watson cloud-based solution.
IBM has often touted Watson's ability to recognise the intent of users’ requests, and this enables government representatives – or the users themselves in self-serve use cases – to better navigate services, uncover the specific need, and provide personalised advice.
As Watson learns, it will allow the government agencies to better understand the needs and priorities of their constituents, IBM said.
Powering the next generation
IBM has also signed an agreement with the National University of Singapore (NUS) to offer the first Watson-based cognitive computing education in South-East Asia.
The new endeavour aims to nurture a new generation of innovators to bring to life the new dynamic of people and machines working together to resolve business challenges.
Students will have unprecedented access to IBM's Watson cognitive technology and the opportunity to collaborate with experts on the development of new solutions, IBM said.
NUS president Prof. Tan Chorh Chuan said the university aims to groom industry-ready students who can harness this combination of science and technology to create innovative products and services.
“It is crucial for our students to be able to work with the most cutting-edge systems and technologies, and hence we are truly excited about this partnership with IBM which will enable this through a multidisciplinary and systematic approach.
“Our School of Computing and Business School are already immersed in a close collaboration with IBM in business analytics. This new initiative takes our strategic alliance with IBM to a new level,” he added.
The collaboration between IBM Watson Group and leading academics from NUS will provide the technical know-how and hands-on learning experience for students.
This will extend cognitive systems activities at NUS School of Computing and NUS Business School through an integrative real-world learning experience based on Watson.
Students will learn about Watson and the underlying technologies that are required to develop cognitive systems applications.
They will be grouped into project teams to develop prototype applications and a business plan for their Watson industry of choice such as banking, retail or telecommunications.
Selected undergraduate and post-graduate students from NUS School of Computing, NUS Business School and NUS Business Analytics Centre will be enrolled in early 2015 for this Watson-based cognitive systems experience in Asia.
IBM Watson Group will provide resources and support including:
IBM developers and researchers to advise on new content and implementation;
Guest lectures to be conducted by senior IBM executives and thought leaders;
IBM Watson technical mentors to provide guidance, as students work with Watson and build prototypes of cognitive business applications; and
Access to IBM Watson through the Watson Developer Cloud.
The World of Watson
According to technology research firm Gartner Inc, smart machines will be the most disruptive change ever brought about by information technology, making people more effective and empowering them to "do the impossible."
“We are entering into the era of cognitive computing which has the potential to be a game-changer across diverse industries,” said IBM Singapore managing director Janet Ang.
Fuelled by its mission to transform industries and professions, Watson is being positioned at the forefront of this new era, evidenced by a demonstration of what cognitive systems can bring to transform decision-making, she said.
According to IBM, Watson offers unmatched ability to interact in natural language, process vast amounts of disparate forms of big data, and learn from each interaction.
The company is delivering a range of cloud-based products and services to clients in industries such as banking, healthcare, insurance, retail and education.
One such example is the Watson Engagement Advisor, a system designed to help customer-facing personnel assist consumers with deeper insights, more quickly than previously possible, the company claimed.
Delivered through cloud-delivered services and online chat sessions, IBM Watson will empower a brand's customer service agents to provide fast, data-driven answers, or sit directly in the hands of consumers via mobile device.
Watson learns like a human from the vast quantity of information provided by the organisation, and from its interactions with trainers and users.
After training, the new solution is able to understand a subject and question, and provide data-based answers within seconds to users’ queries. As a result, this will improve user satisfaction and ensure consistent user experience, while decreasing the call load for an organisation’s call centres, IBM said.
“Through the collaboration with NUS and other Watson initiatives in Singapore, we hope to be able to continually play an integral role in Singapore’s development towards becoming one of the world’s smarter cities,” Ang said.
Today’s announcement follows one made in January, when Singapore-headquartered DBS Group Holdings Ltd became one of the first customer’s of IBM’s Watson cognitive computing offerings to deliver a next-generation client experience.
DBS intends to apply Watson to its wealth management business to improve the advice and experience delivered to affluent customers.
The company’s implementation of the Engagement Advisor solution – targeted for rollout in the second half of the year – comes as the bank continues to execute on its strategy to be a leading regional wealth player. It will also look to progressively deploy these capabilities at its other businesses over time.