The Dawn of a New Era in Business Computing

By David Stokes

In 2013 it was estimated that 90% of all of the data in the world had been generated in the preceding two years. The vast majority of digital information (about 80%) is generated in an unstructured form – articles, blogs, posts on social networks and the like. In many ways, our digital world has simply become too human. Coping with this therefore requires a new approach – a system that can imitate the rational processes of a person, at the speed and scale of a computer. Enter IBM Watson.


We have become accustomed to watching technology change before our eyes, so it takes something truly revolutionary to make us sit up and take note. In February 2011 IBM Watson defeated two previous champions on the US game show Jeopardy! – the country’s leading general knowledge quiz show – and in doing so demonstrated to the world that a new kind of computing system was emerging, a system capable of transforming the partnership between humans and technology.

The subsequent years have seen Watson technology step off the game show floor, and into offices, hospitals and governments, across 17 industries and six continents. Watson supports systems that are not only attuned to, but also actively collaborative with the user, able to both direct and amplify their expertise. This marks a conceptual shift in the way we see computing: from a purely enabling force, to one capable of creating and contributing value independently.

The resources available to an organisation can be considered in many different ways: as both tangible assets like oil or skilled labour, and the intangible such as time and productivity. But one of today’s most plentiful and valuable resources is also one of the most frequently neglected: the huge volumes of data generated every second. Digital engagements are happening constantly, and the body of data they generate contains many of our most brilliant discoveries, most valuable observations, and most intriguing opinions. But if such a digital goldmine exists, why aren’t we doing more about it?

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