The era of Cognitive Collaboration has arrived

Much is said these days about machine learning and artificial intelligence. To date, at least in a business context, very little of the promise of these technologies has come to fruition – until now.

The rise of chat applications – either desktop based or on mobile – has shown that the old metaphor of instant communication by message which manifested itself so clearly with the rise of SMS text messages when mobile phones took of – has led to a whole new category of applications which people are using to conduct conversations.

Some of these applications are intended to be consumer-oriented solutions but are increasingly being used – at some risk – for business purposes. I say “at some risk” because in many cases organisations are not able to control or prevent the leakage of information through these closed systems between individuals. The membership of groups set up by individuals collaborating is outside of the organisation’s control and of course, if people leave the company, are they still subject to receiving what could be confidential information.

Other solutions, more designed for corporate use rely on the enthusiasm of primarily technical people to use arcane commands and to provide integration to their favourite coding applications. For non-technical users the learning curve for these can be very steep and in busy environments the volume of information can become quite overwhelming, especially when you consider that they also have email and a variety of other information sources to deal with too.

Where these solutions benefit us however is the ability to conduct a long-running conversation either in real time or asynchronously. These solutions allow a long conversation history to be maintained and thus the context of following discussions can be easily linked back.

Some solutions, however, limit their effectiveness by making it difficult to follow a conversation where there are any more than about five people in the discussion. They also don’t make it easy to summarise content or locate files which have been uploaded.

On 26th September, IBM will enter the conversation application space with a completely new and distinct offering – IBM Watson Workspace.

This is the first truly cognitive conversation solution which opens the door to the augmented intelligence approach which IBM advocates.

IBM Watson Workspace provides areas for focused discussion to occur between collaborators. However, it goes considerably further than this by introducing the IBM Watson system and its conversational analysis tools to help you make better and faster decisions without removing you from the process.

IBM Watson Workspace uses natural language recognition, not commands which users must learn, to identify questions and answers, instructions and for things it can act on to help you with the conversation. Unlike other systems however, it does not attempt to automate your work but merely to identify things it can help you with, and if you want the help, you need only click. Workspace subtly underlines in a tasteful purple colour parts of conversations it recognises. When you click on these it invites you to augment your discussion with new functionality.

For example you might type in something like “Hey John, do you think I will need an umbrella in London today?” Workspace when configured to do so, can recognise that you could be asking for today’s weather forecast for London and give you the option to find out. You might want to know if there are any open sales opportunities in London which you could work on while there: “Are there any sales opportunities in the London area?” Workspace can look up your CRM solution and respond accordingly.

What’s really nice about this is that the result don’t have to be posted to the conversation area. Workspace can present the results of your enquiry and you choose whether you want to share them. This can help you with the conversation and also cuts down on the amount of information being shared. You might just need to check something and not pollute the conversation with your enquiries.

Workspace contains a very comprehensive application programming interface and ships with integration with Slack and If-This-Then-That so that you can bring the power of cognitive computing to your legacy solutions.

It’s very straightforward to develop your own integrations into virtually any modern environment that you might need to interact with. For example, wouldn’t it be great if you could conduct a meeting with Workspace and type something like “Project plan to be updated by Friday this week – action by Sarah Jones” and have Workspace automatically email an action item to Sarah Jones with the action and the deadline. How much time would you save in meetings by doing this?

When you combine Workspace’s cognitive conversation power with IBM’s other collaboration platform solutions you find that there is a unique combination of System of Engagement and System of Intelligence which can provide you with the most appropriate collaboration tool for the situation you are in.

Consider the fire and police departments in your city. Imagine they decide to form a community where they can cooperate on routine matters like road closures, sporting events, and so on. Let’s say they also decide to involve the emergency rooms of the local hospitals. During normal period they can collaborate using IBM Connections Docs, IBM Connections and Engagement Center to co-ordinate their work.

However, let’s say there is a large sporting event in town. The people in the community can instantly create a Workspace and have the relevant people added straight away. They can then immediately begin real-time conversation (with voice and video to be added in Q4) on mobile and desktop devices. People at the event can be reporting incidents and status and share these automatically with the wider team.

Let’s say someone falls and cuts themselves badly. A paramedic in the workspace can notify the hospital if necessary and make sure that the actions of the police and fire departments are co-ordinated to allow an ambulance access to the scene.

When the incident is over all of this conversation, video and audio can be gathered up and stored in Connections to act as a System of Record of exactly what happened and be used for later analysis.

This might all seem far fetched but in fact with some straightforward cognitive applications that you can build today with Watson Workspace you can implement this kind of solution in your organisation. Cognitive conversations merged with true multi-agency collaboration is something which only IBM can provide.

Look out for our announcement today and check out workspace.ibm.com to find out more!

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