Each of us generates nearly a gigabyte of data per day. This huge volume of data contains an incredible amount of information that we are able to read and organize thanks to cognitive computing.
Cognitive computing comes from a mashup of cognitive science — the study of the human brain and how it functions — and computer science. he goal of cognitive computing is to simulate human thought processes in a computerized model. Using self-learning algorithms that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing, the computer can mimic the way the human brain works.
The potential areas of application of cognitive computing are many. For instance, in the field of medical diagnostics, cognitive computing can assist doctors when analyzing patients lab tests, specifically they can relate them to most current research and help doctors achieve more accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Other applications are in the retail industry, with the introduction of “virtual personal shoppers” that can use big data and other personal information, cross this with context information, and use all this data to offer the customer the right product at the right time. In other words, thanks to technology, you can get to think like your customers do and thus offer them an entirely personalized shopping experience. Cognitive computing can be useful to big energy companies too, which have to “interrogate” and analyze large amounts of data available in the form of charts, images and text. They will finally be able to quickly process work (and reduce costs) by using simple, natural language to communicate with computers.
It is no coincidence that big names of technology such as IBM, Microsoft, Cisco and Google have already launched some promising projects. And what about Italy? “Everyone in Italy talks about cognitive systems, though we are still slow when it comes to applying them,” says Enrico Cereda, CEO of IBM Italy. “Technically, cognitive systems represent the next step in the digital transformation that most public and private companies are going through. Sooner or later, all of them will employ cognitive technology.” In the city of Milan, IBM is going to build Watson Health, the first centre for European excellence. Among its areas of operation are predictive oncology, studies on neurodegenerative disease and viral therapies. Researchers will be allowed to use all of the IBM patents, in order to start a virtuous circle of collaboration between public and private.
Cognitive computing, also known as the third era of computing (the first being computers that could tabulate sums in 1900s, the second programmable systems in 1950s), opens new scenarios and in the near future will have a revolutionary impact. Cognitive technologies will be able to – indeed they already are – solve problems with which traditional analysis is unable to cope. These machines are able to deal with data so big and heterogeneous that it cannot be analysed in any other way: this is what makes cognitive computing disruptive, giving an unprecedented competitive edge to those companies and institutions that use it.