Vision vs. Reality: The BYOD Debate [Cisco]

Gone are the days where workplace communications were limited to an office phone and desktop computer. Employees are demanding the freedom to communicate in multiple streams any time, anywhere, from any device.

Take phones for instance. A recent article published by Gartner predicts by year end 2013, 40 percent of enterprise workers will have abandoned or removed their desk phone in favor of their mobile.

This “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) trend is empowering users to communicate more effectively. It allows them to use whichever device they’re most comfortable with and gives them the freedom to access information, clients and colleagues in the office, on the road or in the coffee shop and, increasingly at home.

All great news if you’re a BYOD user. A challenge – some might say nightmare – for the IT department, in whose lap the challenges of creating and managing this unified experience falls.

We invited Softchoice’s own IT Manager James Ambursley and Unified Communications Expert Frank Ball to sit down over a cup of joe and discuss the promise and challenges of BYOD.

What are you overall thoughts on the advent of Bring Your Own Device?

Frank: At the end of the day, it’s a win for everybody – even IT and even if they’re not seeing the light just quite yet. BYOD and the unified communications and collaboration tools behind the scenes that make it a reality ultimately help organizations move with greater speed and agility. It’s technology that empowers people to communicate more effectively, improving business processes and helping businesses achieve better profitability.

James: Well, BYOD is one of those new buzz terms in the industry and I think what it really means is “look out!” Unified communications sounds like a great answer for many organizations but I have concerns that the theory and reality don’t mesh up in a whole host of areas – end user experience/performance, security, resource use and compatibility. [Read more…]

Watson & Your Business Part 2: Making better decisions in real-time. [IBM]

In Part 1, I took a look at how the DeepQA technology behind Watson – IBM’s latest language-deciphering supercomputer – can help better understand people, whether they’re customers, donors or students.

But what about going beyond understanding? What about making, quite literally, life or death decisions?

“Built into Jeopardy!,” says IBM’s Katharine Frase, “is this notion of confidence. And in the real world there are lots of problems just like that. You don’t want your doctor to guess. You want him to have confidence in his answer before he decides to give you a treatment.”

Some of the leading minds behind Watson’s mind believe Watson’s DeepQA technology and the robustness of its hardware – 90 Power 750 servers with 2,880 POWER7 cores, 500GB per second on-chip bandwidth and 35 terabytes of memory and clustered disk storage – could significantly impact the way doctors diagnose and treat patients.

How?

Imagine medical records, texts, journals and research documents all stored in a Watson-type machine, one that doesn’t simply call it up the way search technology would, but rather understands the stored information and instantly delivers answers to healthcare providers. [Read more…]

Watson & Your Business Part 1: Better understanding customers [IBM]

Unless you’ve been living in cave – although even caves are wired these days (just ask Batman) – you’ve probably heard about Watson, IBM’s latest Research Grand Challenge, designed to further the science of natural language processing through advances in question and answer (QA) technology.

 In February 2011, Watson competed against two human Jeopardy! champions and beat them. Quite an achievement for something IBM drearily describes as a “workload optimized system based on IBM DeepQA architecture running on a cluster of IBM® POWER7® processor-based servers that hold roughly the equivalent of one million books.” In other words, it’s a big fancy computer – but what a computer it is.

 Make no mistake about it. IBM didn’t develop Watson to play games. The advances in Watson’s QA technology are poised to help support professionals in a variety of critical and timely decision-making areas like health care, business intelligence, enterprise knowledge management and customer support.

 In fact, Watson’s ability to understand the meaning and context of human language, then rapidly process the information to find precise answers to complex questions, holds enormous potential to transform how computers can help people accomplish tasks in business and industry.

 In the next four posts, I’ll take a brief look at four of the areas in which Watson’s DeepQA technology holds the most promise, beginning with the quest to better understand customers.

 As IBM’s Craig Rhinehart describes it: “[Watson’s] DeepQA technology provides humans with a powerful tool for their information gathering and decision support.”

 Take customer relationship management, for instance. Imagine a tool built on DeepQA that has a deep understanding of natural language to the point where it’s able to process users’ questions and quickly deliver and justify precise, succinct, high-confidence answers. That’s the sort of potential descendants of Watson will offer organizations. [Read more…]