Cognitive Technology – Hype and Reality

When IBM forecasts the cognitive technology market as a $2 trillion opportunity over the next 10 years its worth paying some attention. They are investing billions in Watson; their cognitive computing platform that gained the worlds attention when it beat humans in the game of Jeopardy 5 years ago. Their market forecast is effectively underpinned by the ‘potential’ to cut waste, improve efficiencies in existing services and to create new services that add new value to business operations. Enterprises will improve decision making by using cognitive capabilities (big data, analytics and machine learning) to make sense of the rapidly-growing mountains of data that are at their disposal.

Cognitive technology as a term is a broad brush for a numerous set of solutions; which together share the characteristic of simulating human thought processes within a computerized model. The umbrella of ‘cognitive’ includes artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing (NLP), neural networks, deep learning, robotics and virtual reality. Fundamentally they all share a deep rooted academic background; these terms have been around for decades; mostly in scientific circles; in research and development. There is a lot of hype out in the investment world about ‘cognitive’ technology; with billions being invested in new startups with a plan to grab a slice of this huge potential marketplace. The pressure is on these new entities to create and deliver product in quick time; but the field of ‘cognitive’ technology doesn’t lend itself to quick development of products; no matter how much money you throw at it.

All the major players are making ‘cognitive’ a focus; millions are being spent on marketing campaigns and the potential. In reality however you can’t just build an end to end cognitive solution encompassing all of these terms overnight. Acquisitions of companies in this space are accelerating at pace for the simple reason you need to have developed a level of deep domain knowledge over many years of research and development; underpinned by academia. These specialists are being snapped up to create the end to end ‘cognitive’ platform which global technology giants will piece together to grab the market opportunity.

There have been many false dawns in the past around ‘cognitive’; excitement has been generated but not much business leading to revenue. However today ‘cognitive’ is being fuelled by the new oil of the global economy – data. We are creating data exponentially digitally and this is accelerating daily; every Infograph published with “What happens in an Internet minute” underlines the staggering growth. With so much data to hand it requires a ‘cognitive’ solution to be able to process and gain insight at speed and scale. With the ability to ‘make sense’ and then ‘learn’ from the data means we can provide measurement which in turn means we can deliver applications that deliver value. The methods of classification and learning mimic how humans would interpret the data but at speeds so far beyond our ability.

IBM are probably right about the potential value of the marketplace; but no-one knows the real figure; and with more innovative application of the technology to existing services $2 trillion may be underestimating the total size. The possibilities are endless; from efforts to cure cancer through to simple automation of basic tasks. What is for sure is as we teach machines to iterate and improve on tasks we have created they will identify new ways of addressing ‘work’ faster than we ever could; and that will open up new avenues of creativity for humans to explore.

Now is the advent of the commercialisation of cognitive computing concepts into reality; this is something we at Chatterbox Labs have achieved in the past year; taking 6+ years of research and development and turning it into a commercial proposition. The data science is done; embedded into our Cognitive Engine allowing our partners to create and deploy new cognitive products in days. We are grounded in reality having done the hard work of research and development within many years of academia. The use cases for our Cognitive Engine are growing daily as our partners exploit the ease of creating new cognitive solutions; that have application across multiple sectors; and can be deployed against new data sets in days rather than months.

For more information please visit our web site or contact Andrew Watson, VP Strategic Alliances,