August 22, 2016 By Whitney Sizemore 3 min read

You’ve heard the buzz words “Watson” and “cognitive era” floating around over the past year like fireflies on a summer night. But what exactly is cognitive, and why do we care so much about its development?

A New Era

Watson embodies a new era of cognitive capabilities. It has countless uses and applications. Notably, Watson can assist doctors by providing a faster and more complete analysis, which can be used to diagnose and devise treatment plans for patients. Soon it may even be able to perform basic surgeries. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Watson helped create a dress for the Met Gala.

Cognitive computing is already changing everyday life, and Watson is even available to help you. Anybody can download a 30-day trial of Bluemix and learn to write a Watson Conversation to perform basic projects — and that’s just the beginning.

Unlimited Potential

IBM developed Watson for consumers, but it also uses the technology internally. One of the projects I am currently working on involves using Watson Dialog to streamline internal claims processing.

When making a claim in the past, employees had to email the claims team to make the request. Eventually, a web-based form was created to simplify the process. However, it became even more confusing because users didn’t know which options to choose and they didn’t understand the terminology. This led to users selecting the miscellaneous option for everything, which essentially rendered the process no better than just emailing or calling the claims employees.

The goal of Watson is to design a tree diagram that will automate the process of making a claim. The fact that we can teach Watson an unlimited number of things, constantly growing its knowledge base, means the claims issues can change and grow but the format of filing a claim will remain constant. This kind of thing makes end users happy.

Learn how to evolve your defenses with cognitive security

Chatting With Watson

To begin this process, I worked with a team of people to utilize Watson Dialog as an FAQ resource. We began by going through what we imagine a typical chat with Watson would be like. How should Watson respond? What types of questions will the user ask?

To determine how Watson should interact, we split up into two teams and simulated different chats. Some questions we came up with included:

  • How can I help you?
  • What can I assist you with?
  • Do you need assistance?
  • Is there an issue or problem?

These questions allow the user to answer back. Watson then takes the keyword in the statement, digs through its database of knowledge and answers the question in the most appropriate way.

We consulted users and claims employees to determine the most-used claim requests, typical questions asked and the best way to respond. We then built up a database of keywords from which Watson grabs data and applies it based on the users’ wording.

Watch this video for more information about Watson Analytics.

Digital Today, Cognitive Tomorrow

Watson is changing the future, one small step at a time. The question now is how can we teach Watson more knowledge, and is this conversational type of interaction going to pave the way for automating more jobs? If more jobs are automated, will that cause layoffs, or will new jobs be created to maintain the tech side of Watson?

We often question how becoming a technology-driven, cognitive world will affect our future. According to Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO and president, “If you’re digital today, you’ll be cognitive tomorrow. There’s zero doubt in my mind.”

Now is the time to prepare for the future. Prepare to lay people off or give them new job roles. Know that new training will be needed. Most importantly, take into consideration that, in general, the incoming cognitive era is a good thing.

Check out this video for more from Rometty on the cognitive era.

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