I don’t know if I’m ready for SXSW Interactive 2014, but thus far, it looks as though Austin is ready.
Today’s weather is a little cooler than normal, and we might see a little precipitation, and I’m sure some smart vendors already have their umbrella-hander-outers on patrol.
The forecast is definitely dark and foreboding — their are scattered clouds and nobody seems completely sure what to do about them just yet.
I was pondering overnight the first SXSW Interactive I ever attended, and lo and behold, it was the year 2000. For those folks who lived through the dot com boom, it was a period of time not to forget.
All the oxygen had been depleted from the dot com bubble, people were breathing the helium freely and wantonly, and it all seemed just like one big Internet dream.
That was about a month before the now famous Barron’s article came out explaining to the world how all those startups were running out of gas.
I was living in NYC at the time, and had garnered a speaking gig on one of the panel sessions — something to do with Internet advertising. Because that, of course, was “the thing” back then.
When I landed in Austin, the lack of oxygen extended to the Austin bubble as well. There were overfunded startups galore, and headhunters were virtually running around on horseback, meeting talent as they walked off the plane at Bergstrom, trolling for resumes.
It was shiny, happy Internet punch drunk people everywhere!
Of course, LinkedIn didn’t yet exist, so you couldn’t just “link in.” You couldn’t yet find any friends on Facebook. There were no Retweets at our disposal. And blogging had only just started to get on a roll.
(I find it most definitely ironic to go back and check the history books, and discover that Vladimir Putin was elected president of Russia only a scant three weeks after SXSW 2000 ended with a bang!)
Rob Burgess and Kevin Lynch keynoted SXSWi that spring — they were from Macromedia, a little company that produced products like Flash and Shockwave and Dreamweaver.
And the guys who wrote the Cluetrain Manifesto, social media’s equivalent of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, held a panel session and talked about how “markets are conversations.”
Everything was about to change.
And so it was. And so it did.
Just not precisely in the manner so many had presumed.
Fast forward 14 years later, and here we are in Austin again (well, I’m pretty much always here now, as I live here!), ramping up to the first weekend of SXSW Interactive 2014, and instead of being excited about the markets being conversations and consumers having a voice with brands, the broad overlay of this year’s featured memes looks and feels like a darkened haze of surveillance nanobot swarm hovering over the Austin Convention Center.
Fourteen years later, we’ve devolved to the point that we’re talking about who’s listening instead of focusing on what it is that we’re saying.
The likeliest biggest “draws” of this SXSW won’t even be here in person — they’re either in exile, or afraid to enter the U.S. in fear of being arrested on the spot or taken down by a brush pass botulinum scrape.
(I assume the fact that I just Googled “assassination brush pass” puts me on an NSA watch list somewhere).
Julian Assange will be speaking from the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
Edward Snowden, heaven only knows what bunker he’ll find himself hunkered down in from Moscow.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald will probably speaking from somewhere deep in the Amazon jungle so he can hide from the drones under the jungle canopy.
How in the world did we get from there to here, from the innocence of 2000 to the digital cynicism and suspicion of 2014?
I guess if I logically put it all together in my mind, I could mostly draw a direct line back to March 2000, with a few zigzags, and connect us to where we are on March 7, 2014.
But it does feel kind of weird, like when you find yourself arriving at a destination you’ve never been to, and it’s not exactly what you thought it was going to be like, and you’re not quite sure what you think about it once you get there.
And before you start referring to me as some Unabombing Luddite, note that I think cloud computing is revolutionary, and generally speaking, we’ve enjoyed immense upsides to these new digital and social media technologies.
But what we don’t seem to have fully reckoned with in the interactive media was the devilish consequences of that celebrated “return trip.”
Rephrase that famous Dolby Cinema spot, and you just about have it nailed: “The Audience Is Being Listened To…But They Didn’t Even Realize It.”
It has become pretty clear to me that digital technology has advanced well beyond humanity’s capability to completely grok and contend with its consequences: in government and public policy, in human rights, in security and privacy, in nation/state sovereignty…pretty much across the board.
Then again, maybe it was always going to be inevitable that Julian and Edward and Glenn were going to be the featured speakers at SXSW Interactive 2014.
Like if you went back in time, stepped off the plane at Bergstrom, and walked down the gangway, if you turned your head just at the right angle, you might have caught a glimpse at the faint outline of the Three Surveillance Amigos’ ghost visages, standing in the terminal and awaiting their moment in history.
The fact that they’re speaking from embassies and bunkers in faraway lands, with, I expect, the highest order encryption they can find so as to hide their tracks pretty much says everything you need to know about the current state of affairs.
And somehow, I don’t think it’s quite the “market as conversation” notion that the Cluetrain boys quite had in mind in the digitally naive spring of Dot Com 2000.
According to a new IBM study, the vast majority of chief financial officers (CFOs), 82 percent to be precise, see the value of integrating enterprise-wide data, but only 24 percent think their team is up to the task.
This marks a 205 percent increase in the gap between the importance of data and the ability to exploit its value since the question was first asked in 2005, showcasing a critical divide in the skills and capabilities for today’s finance teams.
The study, entitled “Pushing the Frontiers,” is based on findings from face-to-face conversations with 576 CFOs from around the world.
Conducted by IBM’s Institute of Business Value the study found that CFOs’ expectations of their finance team have evolved, as have their views on technology.
While macro-economic and market factors still lead the list of external forces they expect to have the most impact on their enterprises in the near future, technology is now third on the list — up from fifth place in 2010.
“In our discussions with CFOs over the past decade, the significance of technology and analytical tools in transforming the finance function and broader enterprise has continuously risen,” said Bill Fuessler, Partner, Finance, Risk & Fraud, IBM Global Business Services. “Data has always sat in the center of a CFO’s job responsibilities, and CFOs now recognize how insights from Big Data are helping their company become more competitive. CFOs are being asked to anticipate the future and discover new areas of revenue growth — we anticipate this will spur a new strategic alliance between the CFO and CMO as they partner to drive the corporate growth agenda.”
Highest Performing CFOs Are Two Times Better at Integrating Enterprise-wide Data
Building on more than nine years of CFO conversations, the IBM research revealed a subset of CFOs called Value Integrators: individuals who are more effective in finance efficiency and analytical insight than their peers.
This year the study also identified an even smaller set of high performers called Performance Accelerators, CFOs who have mastered their core duties so thoroughly that they’re far ahead of their peers. In fact, Performance Accelerators have been 70 percent more successful than Value Integrators, measured in terms of revenues and profits generated during the past three years.
The percentage of Performance Accelerators that are effective at integrating enterprise-wide information is double that of Value Integrators. Similarly, the percentage of those that are effective at continuously improving processes is 43 percent higher, while the percentage that are effective at developing finance talent is 48 percent higher.
A critical differentiator for these most successful CFOs is how they use data. While the average CFO relies on spreadsheets and intuition for the majority (66 percent) of their work, more than two-fifths (44 percent) of Performance Accelerators combine internal and external data to produce insights.
As such, Performance Accelerators are more effective at conducting various forms of analysis including tracking and forecasting supply-chain financial data, planning and predicting resource capacity as well as conducting industry and competitor analysis.
Most significantly, Performance Accelerators use the deep insights they’ve unearthed to create profitable growth, spending more time on a wide range of activities, particularly forging an infrastructure to capitalize on Big Data, handling acquisitions and divestitures and developing new business models.
“At Pabst, we have transformed our finance function to move away from the proverbial thousand spreadsheet march, now using an analytics platform to completely shift the workloads of the finance team toward higher value activities,” said Cordell Sweeney, SVP and CFO at Pabst Brewing Company. “Our business has a tremendous amount of information, and we have been able to change the culture by leading more robust data driven discussions with our leadership teams and field. Leveraging analytics has enabled us to change the conversation and become value-added partners, using business insights to drive decisions that lead to gaining market share, increasing profitability, and creating value for our shareholders.”
One of the other defining characteristics of Performance Accelerators is that they typically operate much more efficiently than other CFOs. More than half have created a service delivery framework to guide the design, development and operation of key financial processes. They are also more likely than other finance organizations to use a standalone, cross-functional shared services center for transactional financial activities.
Performance Accelerators also have a much better grasp of the digital domain as nearly half work in companies with a seamlessly integrated physical-digital strategy. Further, the majority (70 percent) understands – and collaborates with – customers far more extensively than other CFOs.
About the IBM 2013 Global C-suite Study
IBM conducted its in-person analysis with more than 4,000 C-suite leaders by using a global team of business strategists, consultants, data scientists and statisticians.
Also for the first time, IBM Watson — IBM’s groundbreaking, cognitive system — was used to draw additional inferences from the study data. You can access the full CFO Study findings here.
It’s almost that time of year again, when an estimated 30K digerati fly in from around the world and take over downtown Austin for SXSW Interactive.
If you’re planning on attending and you haven’t started scouting your sessions, you might want to get started. I did so over the weekend, and I can assure you, the menu is a bit overwhelming. Don’t they have an app for that?
Mashable’s already scouted some of the “Startups to Watch at SXSW Interactive 2014,” but the big winner this year may very well be Austin hotels and restaurants (not to mention Airbnb). Somebody’s got to feed all those folks and get a roof over their heads.
Speaking of menus, it’s worth mentioning that the IBM Watson Food Truck will be rolling into town for SXSW. As Gizmodo recently mentioned in a blog post, Watson’s been branching out into new industries, and teamed up with the Institute of Culinary Education to cook up some new recipes.
Some recent Watson fare? Creole Shrimp-Lamb Dumplings. Austrian Chocolate Burrito. Portugese Lobster Roll.
You’ll be able to find the Watson Food Truck parked at Red River and 4th Street from 12-4 (CST) throughout SXSW. And please, no trying to confuse the chef with Jeopardy! questions — we’re trying to focus on feeding hungry geeks, here!
As for the fare at the festival itself, this could prove to be the “darkest” SXSW in years, with more than ample sessions on the subjects of drones, surveillance, and privacy, as well as a featured live keynote interview with Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange, streaming direct from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
As for cyberpunk novelist Bruce Sterling’s annual and always closing comments in this particular year of all things NSA? I can hear him already salivating from all the way over there in…well, just ask Fort Meade where in the world is Bruce.
But fear not, this year’s event won’t be a complete Debbie Downer, as SXSW Interactive is always chock full of parties. You can find a current list of this year’s soirees here, of which there are currently 75 listed.
That’s 75 parties in five days. You do the math.
You can talk all you want about tablets and smartphones, but when you want to get real business done reliably, there’s nothing like big iron.
The IBM mainframe just celebrated its 50th anniversary, and it’s been around that long for good reason. Twenty five out of the top 25 banks worldwide use IBM mainframe technology, and 97 out of the top 100 worldwide banks. IBM is 10 for 10 with top insurance companies, and 21 for 25 globally. 23 for 25 in retail.
The point being, a whole bunch of companies around the world still depend on the computing power of mainframe technology, and the move back towards more centralized computing in the cloud will only grow that footprint.
But to sustain that ecosystem means growing skills on the mainframe platform, which is why IBM introduced the "Mastering the Mainframe" contest back in 2005. Since then, there have been over 68,000 participants in the contest.
Now, IBM is expanding the challenge to include a first-ever "IBM Master the Mainframe World Championship," a competition that will highlight the modern capabilities of the mainframe, which has been designed to handle those new big data, cloud, and mobile workloads, and its important entry into new markets around the world.
The Championship is designed to assemble the best university students from around the globe, who have demonstrated superior technical skills through participation in their regional IBM Master the Mainframe Contests.
Out of the 20,000 students who have engaged in country-level Master the Mainframe Contests over the last three years, the top 44 students from 22 countries have been invited to participate in the inaugural IBM Master the Mainframe World Championship.
This innovative group of students will spend the month of March building mainframe business applications using Java and COBOL, and DB2 for z/OS APIs, and demonstrate how "system of record"-oriented systems can build new "system of engagement" applications, and take advantage of the mainframe’s unique capabilities.
The students will showcase their applications on April 7, 2014 in New York City where a distinguished panel of judges will determine which student earns the distinction of “Master the Mainframe World Champion.”
Representing the United States are Mugdha Kadam from the University of Florida, Elton Cheng from the University of California San Diego, and Rudolfs Dambis from the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
“The Master the Mainframe Contest is a great way to get the millennial generation excited about enterprise computing,” said Martin Kennedy, managing director, global enterprise systems, Citi. “I’ve been following the contest for a number of years and have made successful hires from both IBM’s Master the Mainframe Contest as well as their System z Academic Initiative program. I envision a World Championship such as this generating momentum in academia and making educators take a second look at the mainframe in enterprise computing.”
To kick off the World Championship, IBM has launched the Master the Mainframe World Championship website. The site profiles each student and provides a leaderboard so fans can follow their favorite contestant, school and country. In addition to the contestant’s information, the website highlights the judges, who represent a cross section of the IT industry, and who are participating in the April 7th final championship event.
“The Master the Mainframe Contest opened many doors for me,” said Dontrell Harris, a previous Master the Mainframe contestant. “I was able to translate my knowledge of the mainframe and evolution of key computing workloads into a successful internship experience and hope to parlay those ‘in demand’ skills into a career upon graduation.”
Go here for more information on IBM’s Master the Mainframe World Championship.
How’s this for irony?
We had some nasty weather this weekend here in Austin, so I decided to opt out of golf and instead catch up on some TV and movie watching.
I finally finished watching the last eight episodes of "Breaking Bad," the finale, as it were. I won’t spoil it for those still trying to catch up, but do know the whole shebang is now on Netflix (which I hadn’t known until last week — I’d been waiting for the last season to appear!).
I will say this: I was not disappointed in the least, and actually found the ending quite fitting. Juxtapose that with "Don’t Stop Believin’" in the Jersey diner ending for "The Sopranos," which I just found absurd
I also caught a couple of the Academy-Award nominated films, "12 Years A Slave" and "Nebraska," neither of which I’d seen in the theatres. I figuerd why not go ahead and see as many of the Best Picture nominees as I could, so that I would be ready and prepare to watch this year’s Oscars.
Only I couldn’t be prepared because I couldn’t watch them.
I forgot that it was ABC who’d be broadcasting the Oscars, and that’s the ONE channel I no longer get in my recent cord-cutting, no-cable, over-the-air broadcast and Internet TV umbilical reality.
So much for being up for "Best in Audience" award this time around.
I did crack up when I saw the selfie that actor Bradley Cooper took, the Retweets of which apparently brought Twitter to its knees with 2.6 million, allegedly the most Retweets ever for a single Tweet.
Not a Tweet the revolution in Egypt in early 2011, mind you…not the crisis in the Crimea…not the Sochi Olympics….but a selfie taken by Bradley Cooper.
It just goes to show you what a powerful combination real live event TV and "second screen" social media combined can be.
Music Mastermind Employs IBM SoftLayer, iDataPlex Hybrid Cloud Deployment For Music Entertainment Venture
There were a number of cloud-related client announcements this week at the IBM Pulse 2014 conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
One such announcement revealed that the interactive music entertainment company, Music Mastermind, has deployed a hybrid cloud solution consisting of IBM’s SoftLayer cloud service and iDataPlex systems. These solutions enable the company to quickly scale its high-value cloud infrastructure when demand for its mobile game spikes.
Music Mastermind’s flagship product is Zya, a first-of-its-kind mobile game that allows fans to create and share original songs as they navigate their path to music stardom.
The game’s cloud platform combines elements of interactive entertainment, music production tools, and social interaction, and gives players the ability to create new songs, mash-up world-famous hits or combine elements of both to create music that is uniquely their own.
With support from IBM’s SoftLayer and iDataPlex, Zya is currently available in 155 countries. To enable consistent, high-quality delivery and deployment of the game to customers around the world, Music Mastermind requires a robust, globally dispersed cloud infrastructure for its active users, hosting and application development.
Successfully preparing for and deploying new mobile applications requires startups to think past the initial release and focus on managing increasing demand and unexpected spikes in traffic.
Music Mastermind, with the help of IBM Business Partner Micro Strategies, installed IBM’s iDataPlex high performance servers into its data centers in San Jose, CA and Ashburn, VA, not only to host the app and meet initial demand, but also to house regular application development for Zya.
Each center’s cloud is used to create 160 virtual instances, supporting an estimated 250,000 active users. To help manage the mounting data volumes generated by its rapidly expanding user base, the company also uses the IBM Storwize V7000 Unified storage system. The high-end disk system manages the company’s databases as well as provisioning for its Zya mobile game.
To maintain service on Zya during peak periods, especially after its launch in the global iTunes App Store, Micro Strategies brought in IBM SoftLayer for global cloud bursting.
With a high speed network that has the ability to create 1,000 virtual servers in each of its locations, IBM SoftLayer is expected to be able to host and deliver Zya from 40 data centers in 15 countries and five continents globally by the end of 2015.
The openness of SoftLayer’s cloud platform was a significantdraw. Based on OpenStack, IBM’s open standards-based cloud approach offers born on the webdevelopers the interoperability and collaboration important for growth.
With more than 500 developers dedicated to building and growing open standards, IBM’s dedication to open technologies and work with Cloud Foundry and OpenStack is continuing to elevate software standards to become more secure, interoperable and scalable as businesses grow, such as the recently released standard Havana.
About Music Mastermind, Inc.
Founded in 2008, Music Mastermind creates interactive entertainment technology that gives you the ability experience music in a whole new way. Zya, the company’s flagship product, allows users to make a new song, mash-up world-famous hits or combine elements of both to create music that is uniquely theirs.
The company was co-founded by Grammy Award-winning producer/songwriter and former Chairman/CEO of Virgin Records Matt Serletic and former Managing Director and Global Head of Emerging Markets Corporate Bond Trading at JP Morgan Bo Bazylevsky. Headquartered in Los Angeles, Music Mastermind is a venture-backed startup whose investors include Intel Capital, Liberty Global, and Shea Ventures. You can learn more about the company at http://www.musicmastermind.com.
Remember the 4 Ps of marketing? Product, place, price, and promotion?
They’ve long been basic tenants of how to bring a product to market, and represent some of the basic considerations for effective marketing.
Now, IBM is partnering with U.K. retail giant Tesco to better understand the "place" component using augmented reality technology, in hopes of helping it better arrange products on store shelves.
Major retailers face constantly changing environments, and must consider daily variations in consumer demand, manufacturer promotions or holidays to achieve the right arrangement and assortment of products in the store.
In response, scientists at IBM’s Research lab in Haifa, Israel developed a mobile application based on IBM’s Augmented Reality Shopping Advisor. Tesco colleagues run it on a mobile phone or tablet to photograph and capture the current status of the store’s aisles including quantity and location of products.
The application then connects to Tesco’s product database to analyze and identify the images. It compares the current display with the planned arrangement and instantly superimposes information that reveals insufficient quantities, missing products or misplaced items.
Tesco is currently testing the IBM solution at a pilot location near London.
“Delivering a better shopping experience to our customers includes making sure products are well stocked and easy to find," said Mike McNamara, CIO, Tesco. “The IBM application will help us to improve store operations beyond the current manual processes and barcode-based methods."
Typically, Tesco colleagues have to check products on every shelf against a physical plan and manually log inventory levels. A smart solution that digitizes and automates this process will help Tesco improve both its operations and the consumer shopping experience.
For example, products incorrectly placed or lying flat instead of facing the aisle can frustrate consumers who can’t find what they’re looking for.
The Augmented Reality Shopping Advisor can detect these types of problems and generate an alert on the mobile device with instructions for the corrective action required.
The augmented reality mobile project with Tesco is part of IBM’s First-of-a-Kind program that brings IBM researchers and clients together to validate new technologies on real business problems and growth opportunities.
These and other digital experience projects are being pursued at the IBM Customer Experience Lab, part of the new IBM Interactive Experience consulting practice.
As part of the IBM MobileFirst portfolio, this solution can help organizations transform in to a mobile enterprise.
To learn more about IBM’s Mobile First initiatives visit here, and keep pace with other breaking innovation stories on Twitter @IBMResearch.
This was day three and the last of IBM Pulse 2014 general sessions, and the theme was all about innovation.
Yahoo!’s David Pogue returned his to emcee duties, and continued his technology critiques this particular morning with a few more astute observations about the state of personal tech.
"We used to not get a new medium except for every hundred years," Pogue exclaimed, "but now new technologies are being crammed down our throats daily!"
So he had a few words of wisdom to offer, like suggesting mobile device designers maybe making virtual keyboards proportionally larger so humans can actually continue to type on them, and avoiding the "Software Upgrade Paradox," where one gets more features on a software product than one could every humanly use in a lifetime.
(Just to cement the point, he turned ON all the menus in Microsoft Word, and there were so many toolbars there wasn’t much screen real estate left to do any actual writing!).
No, Pogue recommended, the answer to all this over-technologizing is good, old-fashioned common sense!
Provide consistency, when possible, and what he called "real-world equivalents" (You know, that trashcan icon on your desktop?)
When you can, label things.
And whatever else you do, don’t make me scroll through 220 countries in alphabetical order on that registration form before I get to the "United States."
Ultimately, simplicity equals joy, which is why the original iPod was so well received — it didn’t do that much, and most mere mortals could figure out how to use it. Same with the FlipCam flip camcorder and the Wii controller.
Steve Jobs said it best: "The hard part is not what features to put in. It’s what to leave out."
The featured speaker for the morning’s session was up next, Lance Crosby, the founder and CEO of SoftLayer, who promptly began to explain the backstory behind how his company came to fruition.
It was born way back on May 5, 2005, when he invited 11 co-workers at his then current company for breakfast to talk about his idea for a new kind of technology hosting company, one that would be more consumable and flexible, and better meet the needs of other technologists.
Soon, Crosby and nine of his associates turned in a resignation letter he’d drafted for all of them, and he and his crew started meeting to map out the kind of features and attributes his new hosting service would ideally have.
"By engineers, for engineers," Crosby explained, along with the wish list of all the services that he knew demanding potential clients would want.
When Crosby and team hit the road to meet with analysts and VCs to sell their idea, however, they were met with a lot of head-nodding — the side to side kind.
"I hope you got a Plan B," one of them suggested.
But Crosby says he wasn’t phased by the negativity. "We wanted to build something different, that didn’t yet exist, and we put ourselves in our customer’s chairs."
They decided to move forward full steam ahead and put their own money into the venture.
The new cloud model was predicated on a software-driven infrastructure, one that "put an abstraction layer on top" and made it consumable "by the drink."
Their first client was an online gaming provider who wanted to better control his IT environment so he could scape up and down quickly. He quickly understood what SoftLayer’s capabilities meant for his business: Flexibility.
Flash forward to 2013: SoftLayer is building 15 new facilities this year, making 40 available around the world by the end of 2014, with each offering all the company’s available services and offerings at each and every location.
Crosby explained one of the virtues of SoftLayer’s approach was his teams’ early understanding as to the importance of the network. "The network is the cloud, and the cloud is the network."
Meaning, the client doesn’t really care where something isn’t working — they just want it to work. So SoftLayer built its own global backbone, and now any service or machine can talk to any other, regardless of location.
So why join IBM? Because, Crosby explained, SoftLayer is the Infrastructure-as-a-Service piece, but IBM also has PaaS and SaaS pieces, "along with service offerings to pull all of this together."
This meant the team’s original vision could expand to greater fruition: "We wanted to build the ingredients of the Internet and expose it as an API."
So what kinds of businesses have been built atop SoftLayer’s infrastructure?
For starters, there’s a few small web sites you might have heard of, like Tumblr and Yelp and DropBox.
Then there’s that one Facebook purchased last week for $19B, a small messaging app called "WhatsApp."
Crosby pointed out that WhatsApp sends more text messages every day by a factor of three as compared to Twitter, and in four short years completely disrupted the texting industry.
And yet they didn’t even exist until 2009, that factor alone a big feather in the SoftLayer "start quickly" cap.
Crosby wound down his keynote talk by explaining that his technology is now being more widely adopted by the next generation enterprise companies like MongoDB and Cloudera, as well as more traditional companies like McGraw Hill, a book publishing company that has pivoted from selling chopped down trees (books) to cloud and mobile offerings delivered via e-readers, all sitting atop the SoftLayer stack.
Crosby also highlighted the crucial role developers are playing in making these decisions, highlighting the new "BlueMix" cloud development environment that IBM announced as an open beta earlier in the week.
"In 2014," Crosby summarized, "there is no cloud like IBM. This is not a ‘me, too’ company. This is a 100 year old company which leads in innovation."
While we were all galavanting about here in Las Vegas at IBM Pulse 2014, there was a whole other shindig going on in one of my favorite cities around the globe, Barcelona, Spain.
Ah, we’ll always have Barcelona.
At the Mobile World Congress there earlier today, IBM launched the new IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge, a first of its kind, global competition to encourage developers to create mobile consumer and business apps powered by Watson.
The program, being driven by the newly formed IBM Watson Group, aims to encourage developers to spread cognitive computing apps into the marketplace.
IBM’s Watson cognitive computing innovation represents a new class of services, software and apps that analyze, improve by learning, and discover answers and insights to complex questions from massive amounts of disparate data.
Today, it’s second nature for people to simply tap an app to stay connected, make a purchase or manage a bank account. The IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge will encourage developers around the world to build sophisticated cognitive apps that can change the way consumers and businesses interact with data on their mobile devices.
Through this initiative, mobile developers can take advantage of Watson’s ability to understand the complexities of human language, "read" millions of pages of data in seconds and improve its own performance by learning.
Over the next three months, the global challenge invites mobile developers and entrepreneurs to share their best ideas to build and develop mobile apps into prototypes.
Three winners will join the Watson Ecosystem Program. The winners will work with IBM’s recently launched global consulting practice, IBM Interactive Experience to receive design consulting and support from IBM experts to develop a viable commercial app.
The IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge is part of the IBM MobileFirst strategy to help businesses of all sizes adopt mobile technology to better engage with customers and extend their businesses to new markets.
The news also represents the latest milestone in the newly formed IBM Watson Group to fuel an ecosystem of developers, start-ups, tech companies and venture capitalists building Watson powered apps as part of the Watson Developers Cloud.
To date, more than 1,500individuals and organizations have contacted IBM to share their ideas for creating cognitive computing applications that redefine how businesses and consumers make decisions. In fact, global developers have created and plan to go to market in 2014 with Watson apps across a variety of industries.
Using natural language processing and analytics, Watson processes information akin to how people think, representing a major shift in an organization’s ability to quickly analyze, understand and respond to Big Data. Watson’s ability to answer complex questions with speed, accuracy and confidence is transforming decision making across a variety of industries, including health care, financial services and retail.
IBM has advanced Watson from a game playing innovation into a commercial technology. Delivered from the cloud and able to power new consumer and enterprise apps, Watson is 24 times faster; smarter, with a 2,400 percent improvement in performance; and 90 percent smaller than the original system.
You can go here to learn more about the IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge.
In today’s "Chapter 5" entitled "Impact of Design And Technology On The World" here at the dev@Pulse developer’s "happening" at the Hakkasan Lounge in Las Vegas, attendees had an opportunity to take a big step back and look at the broader inspirations that have driven several entrepreneurs and thought leaders in pursuing their visions.
Charles Adler, who, along with co-founders Perry Chen and Yancey Strickler, helped bring the world the now-renowned Kickstarter crowd funding site back in 2009, explained how the original impetus for the mission was more altruistic than capitalistic.
Chen was looking to bring a new kind of electronic music into the orbit of New Orlean’s JazzFest music festival, and realized there had to be a better way of getting new enterprises similar to his off the ground.
When Chen met Strickler several years later in New York City, the idea germinated as Chen related his desire to enable people with upstart projects such as his to be funded by a broader community.
The seed idea was born, and Adler, who had been focused on building and designing websites — and who was also keenly interested in helping fulfill the aspirations of artists in the creative realm — soon joined the team.
"[Their effort] made me realize there was something about empowering the creative class to find their own economy," explained Adler to the dev@Pulse crow, "and I realized this idea was much broader."
They started their site planning and building in 2007, and it took them two years before they were finally ready to release it to a small community of "known" quantities, mostly friends and family.
But when an Athens, Georgia-based singer/songwriter named Allison Weiss appeared out of nowhere on the site within two months of launching, and was able to raise over $7,000 to help her record and produce a new CD, the trio realized there may be more there to their idea than met the eye.
Weiss had a built-in community who had been following her music career for several years, so she was able to build on that loyal interest and bring it center stage into Kickstarter.
"Hello Internet!" she posted on her Kickstarter page, and in at least some small way, a new musical star was born as the crowdsourcing started finding itself in a bigger spotlight. As Adler related, "The Internet is a place that knows no boundaries."
A few months later, Adler got a call from Scott Thomas, the graphics designer who wanted to self-publish a book about his experience helping design the 2008 Obama campaign, but was dissatisfied attempting to do so through traditional means.
He soon put the project up on Kickstarter, and far exceeded his original goal of $65K, raising $85K instead and enabling him to be more selective with regards to the quality of the materials of the new book, entitled "Designing Obama."
Adler and his partners now realized what they were doing was more than just building another product or website.
"[We were] putting power back in the hands of the individual, the artists, and allowed those on the edge of culture who don’t have a chance in the mass market to have an opportunity," Adler explained. "We were effectively democratizing our own space."
If Adler and his team were democratizing space, Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of "Girls Who Code," was looking to bring more young women into the technology sector.
Saujani started her dev@Pulse discussion by explaining that "Like everyone in this room, I think about how to solve a problem."
And the problem she witnessed when she unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Congress in 2010 was a vast sea of classrooms which were inadequately tempting, much less equipping, young girls to aggressively pursue STEM-related pursuits and careers building software.
Saujani explained that "we pursue this avenue at our own potentially information era peril, as women constitute 56 percent of our labor force. In 6th or 7th grade, many of these girls stop being good at math and science."
"Less than 30 percent of new tech jobs are join to be filled by women," she went on, marking a substantial decline of female computer science majors, from 37 percent in 1974 to 12 percent today.
But her mission was less about gender parity than building our future.
"I don’t believe in gender parity for its own sake," she reasoned, "but our country’s industrial fate depends on it. Technologists, entrepreneurs, engineers, all are the future of our country. We want to make sure the future CEOs of America are women!"
And the mixed signals from the media don’t exactly help, Saujani suggested, citing a recent Volkswagen TV spot with all male auto engineers, and a Barbie doll that chirps "I hate math."
No Ken jokes, please.
Ultimately, she said, "We, do not have enough positive stereotypes for young girls. Yet when you talk to them, 80 percent say they want to pick a career that’s going to help change the world."
Saujani founded "Girls Who Code" in 2012 by taking 20 young women to a tech company, and providing each mentors and tutoring, where every day for eight weeks they would learn HTML, build a Web site, etc.
Those participants then went on to help teach others, and early signs suggest the program is having a significant impact, with 95 percent of Girls Who Code participants saying they are now planning to study computer science in college, up from a measly fraction of a percent.
"These girls are going to change the world."
Saujani’s call to action: "I want you to get more girls to sign up for Girls Who Code, and inspire the next generation of technologists."
You can learn more at www.girlswhocode.com and @girlswhocode on Twitter.