March 22 by Elle Odysseos

This week, I joined almost 40,000 attendees at the inaugural IBM Think conference in Las Vegas. Undeterred by the wall-to-wall crowds and excited to learn about IBM’s latest innovations with Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Watson, I snagged a seat in the stairwell.

1. Become an “incumbent disruptor”

Ginni Rometty addressed a packed Mandalay Events Center, and opened with this statement: “We are at an inflection point, for business, for society, and for IBM itself”. Rometty was referring to a unique moment that happens once every 25 years, when business and technology architecture change at the same time. It’s a moment that we’ll perhaps see just once in our careers, that has the potential to change everything. There is exponential learning potential from data using Artificial Intelligence (AI), and those who grasp this opportunity will out-learn and out-perform the competition. Don’t become a victim of disruption. By embedding AI into all of your business processes, you’ll empower people with intelligence and the ability to make better decisions.

2. Crossing borders with Blockchain

Ginni invited to the stage Michael White of Maersk, the world’s largest container ship and supply vessel operator. Maersk is working on a joint venture with IBM to reinvent global trading using blockchain technology. Their goal is to improve the cost of transportation, lack of visibility and inefficiencies with paper-based processes. Currently, a crate of avocados going from Mumbasa to Rotterdam touches 30 entities, and 100 individuals. The admin cost ends up being higher than the cost of the crate of items being shipped. Blockchain will enable a global network of interconnected shipping corridors, but it can also be used to transform traditional business models in many other industries, such as financial services and insurance. To learn more about what Apttus is doing with blockchain, check out this blog.

3. 5G is coming, and it’s powerful

Verizon’s acquisition of AOL and Yahoo forms “Oath”, with upwards of 1.2 billion consumers. The name Oath comes from a promise to customers to get what they want, when they want. It also promises to be a “steward” of data, focusing on privacy and security. Aside from the expected improvements in network speed, the innovations with 5g will make the network more powerful, alleviating the processing power required from our devices. In turn, this will also reduce our battery consumption – we’re getting closer to a world where we’d only need to recharge our cellphone once a month.

4. Watson is training to be an Oncologist

Perhaps the most inspiring came from the “Journey to AI” keynote, in which American Cancer Society & Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center talked about how they are training Watson in the field of oncology. For years, they have maintained and curated their data center with IBM. Now, their 2M data set of records are being combined with Watson to create AI based algorithms that inform diagnosis and treatment decisions. In the US, there are 100 cancer patients to each oncologist. But in Asia, the ratio is closer to 1000 to 1. In order for us to scale, oncologists need to be augmented and enabled by AI. We’re creating a future where our doctor’s feel comfortable using Watson as a second opinion.

5. The future of the workforce is “New Collar”

One thing that’s for sure is that our industries are being revolutionized. AI is going to change our jobs, and create lots of new ones, but it’s also going to change how we label them – there will no longer be blue collar vs white collar, there will be what Ginni is calling a “new collar” workforce. The pre-requisite for a new collar worker may not require a traditional college degree, but a vocational course that teach the specific skills needed in areas such as artificial Intelligence, cloud computing, blockchain and data analytics. IBM was recently awarded the Catalyst award for their work on technical women’s career development and advancement. They continue to invest in programs and innovative career opportunities to get the next generation ready for the future.

In addition to the key takeaways above, it was exciting to see how our latest innovations in AI are now working together with IBM Watson to deliver artificial intelligence for the enterprise. Watch this space!

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