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INFOGRAPHIC: How Businesses Are Really Using The Cloud -- And What They're Getting From It

Adam Clement   |   October 24, 2013   10:22 AM ET

There's a lot of noise about how cloud computing is being used these days, and while the conversation can be as nebulous as its namesake, there's truth in the old saying: Where there's thunder there's lightning.

IBM surveyed more than 800 decision-makers and cloud end users from around the world. What they found was that early adopters drive significant competitive advantage through cloud. See how else businesses are using cloud computing in our infographic below!

*Click to expand.

Survey Says: How Businesses Are Really Using The Cloud
by WaywardAndSons.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Who's Running The Retail Industry? It's You

Jill Puleri   |   October 23, 2013    9:22 AM ET

As consumers, you've been enjoying a lot of power lately. Thanks to digital tools and an abundance of information, you can generally ask for and receive much more individualized service from your favorite service provider -- whether it be an insurance company, car dealer, a retailer or a bank.

But this may only be the beginning, according to a massive, new IBM study of C-Suite leaders. The findings show that while customers have been in the driver's seat, the C-Suite wants to give you even greater control. This goes way beyond developing new products or services. Now business leaders want you to give input to their corporate strategy.

According to the study, 60 percent of CEOs plan to directly engage their customers and proactively apply what they learn to set their business agendas in the next three to five years -- up from 43 percent of CEOs who now include customers in the development of business strategies.

The discussions with C-suite executives from the retail industry in particular show that, as a group, they are hyper-focused on the experience of you, their customer, and recognizing you as individuals, but admit to lagging in this regard.

Seventy-three percent of C-suite leaders from the retail industry recognize that focusing on customers as individuals will be essential over the next three to five years, compared to 54 percent of the global, multi-industry sample. But only 39 percent of retail C-suite leaders today say they have strong collaboration with customers. Eighty-eight percent expect to have stronger collaboration with customers over the next three to five years.

To improve their collaboration with you, retailers need to combine data across their sales channels to build an accurate picture of your preferences and how you want to interact -- whether it's on a phone, in the store or over social media. This is known as omnichannel retail. To do it right, retailers must gather together all the data from their interactions with you and analyze the information for insights in to what makes you tick. Wouldn't it be great if a salesperson in the store could see the last few purchases or even searches you made online and recommend some items to you based on that?

Of course, we've been hearing that such innovations are on the way for a while. Some retailers are getting close by arming their sales associates with mobile devices and sending you somewhat personalized offers over email. But for most retailers, it's still a work in progress. Wonder what the hold up is? The problem many retailers still have is knitting information from various sales channels together. With different channels running in their own silos, it's hard to share information across the business to form a consolidated view of a customer.

I predict that retailers will start closing this gap now that many of them are using cloud computing or the ability to access remotely stored applications and data. Simply put, cloud is one of the ways retailers can bring various sales channels together as a single, secure platform.

It's no wonder that retailers are embracing new technology models to better meet the needs of their customers. They're obsessed with you! Twelve percent of C-suite leaders from the retail industry list customer experience management at the top of the five areas they are personally involved in, compared to just 5 percent of the sample.

So while you've already been in a position of influence and power, you can expect to have an even greater impact on everything from how your favorite company operates to how they engage their customers. It's good to be in charge, isn't it?

To find out more about IBM's smarter commerce solutions, click here.

Follow IBM on Twitter @ibm.

Improving Your Commute, One (Smarter) City At A Time

Naveen Lamba   |   August 20, 2013    9:34 AM ET

For many of us, these summer months offers a brief respite from the road congestion that burdens drivers and cities in the U.S. and around the world each day. In a few short weeks, the less crowded highways, trains and buses will be a distant memory for most commuters.

Whether you live in Northern Virginia like me, New York, Nairobi, Nice, or you name it, cities are struggling to manage and prepare for short- and long-term traffic congestion.

Road congestion and the ensuing traffic jams aren't just inconvenient; they can impede economic growth and impact the environment.

By decreasing congestion and increasing travel speeds so that 10 percent more people have access to certain areas, local production of goods and services could increase by one percent, potentially generating tens of billions of dollars, according to a Reason Foundation report.

Intuitively, it's something we might have already known -- imagine how much more productive people are when they're not stuck in their cars or on the bus several hours per day.

The good news is that help is on the way.

In fact, some cities are beginning to embrace and develop a holistic approach to improving their transportation infrastructure -- from understanding where transit routes should be located to optimizing traffic flow and lowering emissions citywide.

Roadways and transit networks are filled with lanes of data that can be used to reshape traffic patterns to reduce congestion. Insight from road and vehicle sensors, smartphones and GPS devices, video and tolling systems, weather conditions, and more can be used to build more intelligent transportation systems to that use analytics to improve mobility and reduce congestion.

The beauty of this is that it doesn't require massive capital investments like additional lanes on a highway or a road might.

For example, the city of Lyon, France has instituted a program called L'Optimod to help it achieve its urban mobility and sustainability goals, reducing the use of private cars by eight percent and reducing CO2 emissions by 200,000 by 2020. Among the variety of efforts the city has undertaken is a pilot with IBM to create the traffic management center of the future.

naveen graphic

With access to real-time decision support on steps to reduce traffic congestion, officials can enable faster incident response time when an unexpected event or accident occurs. They can proactively manage the resulting traffic congestion, resulting in less time stuck in a traffic jam. Detours could more quickly be put into place, more accurate alternate route suggestions would be available, public transit schedules could be altered or first responders could get to an emergency more quickly.

In Dublin, Ireland, the Dublin City Council is using data from its bus network, streaming in from an array of sources -- bus timetables, inductive-loop traffic detectors, and closed-circuit television cameras, GPS updates that each of the city's 1,000 buses transmits every 20 seconds -- and build a digital map of the city overlaid with the real-time positions of Dublin's buses using stream computing and geospatial data. Doing so allows them to determine appropriate traffic calming measures and to identify the cause of a delay as it is emerging and before it moves further downstream.

The same sensors on your car that alert you to low tire pressure or a broken taillight can also register sudden and heavy braking or sliding or hydroplaning on a slippery road. These events and tens of million data points, recorded when a vehicle is driven can be analyzed to help determine if a pothole or black ice could be the cause of the sudden action. It is can also be shared with traffic and road maintenance officials to monitor and fix road conditions in real time.

Several cities also are tapping into social listening tools to learn what improvements commuters want and how they can build more sustainable transportation networks.

Although it may be impossible to eliminate traffic altogether, we have the technology to combat it. In many cities, adding capacity to freeways is not an option because it's either too expensive or too time consuming. And in many cases where capacity has been added, it typically increases congestion since more people feel encouraged to drive.

In the meantime, data analytics is a cost-effective tool that can make a dramatic difference. More often than not, the data is already available, it's just screaming to be used.

With the aid of powerful analytic tools, transportation authorities are beginning to move away from a reactive approach to one that uses analytics to predict and avoid harmful congestion and traffic jams -- before they occur.

Follow IBM on Twitter @ibm.

The New Era of Cognitive Computing (VIDEO)

Adam Clement   |   August 1, 2013    2:01 PM ET

As intelligent computer systems become more adept at learning and adapting, they are introduced into new industries and forge relationships with humans that recall something from a Science Fiction novel. Here, IBM researcher Eric Brown shares Watson’s new role in healthcare and leaves us in awe of the possibilities the technology can bring to the human life through medicine.

Follow IBM on Twitter @ibm.

Taming Big Data: Small Data vs. Big Data

Adam Clement   |   August 1, 2013    1:19 PM ET

Certain things cannot be overlooked when dealing with data. Best practices must be instituted for the care of big data just as they have long been in small data. Before enjoying big data's amazing analytical feats, you must first get it under control — with tools that are up to the challenge of implementing best practices in a big data world.

ibm info

Follow IBM on Twitter @ibm.

Want To Prevent Future Hunger? Try Precision Agriculture

Lloyd A. Treinish   |   July 23, 2013   10:29 AM ET

How many mouths will the world be feeding by 2050? It is an estimated 9.2 billion, up from 7 billion today. To keep pace with this growing population, global food production will need to increase by 70 percent.

That means getting a lot smarter about how we raise crops. With 38 percent of the world's land already dedicated to agricultural production, our existing infrastructure has the potential to meet these demands. But farmers and manufacturers will need to rethink some of their existing practices so they can make better decisions about how and when they plant, grow, irrigate, harvest and transport crops.

Consider "precision agriculture" by using smarter analysis of big data to make more precise and predictive farming decisions. Such systems can have a big role to play in changing the future of farming.

Traditionally, set schedules determine when to plant, irrigate or harvest. These schedules may not reflect the dynamics of current environmental conditions and how they can vary over a farm. But by collecting data about weather, soil, crop maturity, and even equipment and labor costs, analytics can be used to make more timely and informed decisions.

Precision Agriculture

Here's how precision agriculture can play out. Measurements of the weather and the soil, including data from sensors dotting a farm, multi-spectral images of fields taken from spacecraft or airplanes, characteristics of irrigation systems, requirements for fertilizer and pesticide coupled with precise weather predictions, all can enable optimization of a farmer's decisions. IBM's Deep Thunder can help enable such capabilities. Deep Thunder can forecast future conditions based upon the physics of how the atmosphere interacts with the soil, which is needed to understand the impact of weather on farming operations.

Precision agriculture systems can help predict exactly how and when different fields need to be watered, fertilized, or harvested and what the weather and other conditions are forecasted to be for undertaking each of those different tasks.

It's these kinds of jobs that Deep Thunder was designed to address, although it is not limited to agriculture. It incorporates a weather model that utilizes data from many public and private sources. It also provides hyper-local forecasts of weather and weather impacts up to three days ahead with great precision and accuracy.

Consider some of the key instances where precision agriculture can make a real difference for a farmer armed with such detailed weather forecasting information:

  • 90 percent of all crop loss is caused by the weather. Using predictive weather modeling, this weather-related crop damage can be slashed by up to 25 percent. In fact, a new report by the National Climatic Data Center found that May was the 339th consecutive month, which adds up to more than 28 years, with a global temperature above the 20th century average.
  • 70 percent of the world's fresh water is used for irrigation. If a farmer can predict more accurately if, and exactly where, it will rain within the next 48 hours, he won't waste water irrigating a field that won't need it, helping conserve an increasingly precious resource. And he can delay fertilization of an area of the farm if expecting heavy rains.
  • Sending labor into the field is time consuming and costly. Through the understanding of different variables, such as humidity, frost and rain forecasts, better decisions can be made in advance about where field workers should work.
  • Most food waste happens while food is being shipped from the farm. By knowing what weather is anticipated, companies can make better decisions on which routes will be the fastest to transport their food. In Brazil, for example, many of the roads are dirt and heavy rain can cause trucks to get stuck in mud.

The island nation of Brunei is turning to precision agriculture to bolster its food security by improving its local agriculture and increasing rice production to account for 60 percent of the rice used in the country by 2015, up from 3 percent now. In partnership with the Universiti Brunei Darussalam, we are using Deep Thunder to develop precision weather forecast models to help Brunei achieve this goal.

Coupled forecast models, which is meteorology driving hydrology, will help farmers know not just when it will rain, but how much, for how long, and where the runoff in the hilly countryside of the island will go. Depending on the forecast, adjustments can be made to affected parts of fields, including changes to irrigation systems to drain off excess water, or decisions such as holding off on applying fertilizer or pesticides.

Using technology and science to meet -- along with smart, long-term use of resources -- the challenges of our ever more crowded planet is becoming more crucial than ever. We have only one Earth. But there are going to be a lot more humans on it. We need to become smarter and more responsible about how we go about increasing food production and minimize the impact on the environment.

To learn more about precision agriculture, click here.

Beyond 'Jeopardy!': What's Watson Up To Now?

Dr. Martin Kohn   |   June 27, 2013    9:15 AM ET

Two years ago, IBM's Watson computer shocked the world when it beat two past grand champions on the TV quiz show Jeopardy!

Watson isn't playing around anymore.

Watson and the technological leaps forward that made it so revolutionary -- the ability to understand human speech, make sense of huge amounts of complex information in split seconds, rank answers based on probability, and learn from its mistakes -- are being put to work.

In health care, Watson is helping doctors tailor medical treatment to every patient's situation in a time when the amount of medical information is doubling every five years. We are working with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Wellpoint, a private health insurance company, by immersing Watson in the complexities of cancer treatment and the explosion of genetic research, which has set the stage to transform care practices for many cancer patients by providing highly specialized and personalized treatments. The goal is to make Watson a highly proficient physician's assistant.

Dr. Larry Norton, a world-renowned oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering who is helping to train Watson, said, "This is more than a machine. Computer science is going to evolve rapidly and medicine will evolve with it. This is co-evolution. We'll help each other."

Medicine is not alone in benefiting from Watson.

In finance, government, and customer care, Watson is beginning to tackle big, thorny challenges. By giving retailers the tools they need to respond to today's highly informed, hyper-involved consumers who expect personalized responses -- quickly and correctly -- to their questions. Or enabling banks to improve and simplify the banking experience, so customers can make the right decisions for their specific situation right now in this ever more complex, fast moving financial world.

In the process, Watson is ushering in a new age of computing -- the era of cognitive computing that will transform industries and society. Cognitive systems will be designed to deal with modern complexity in a similar way the human brain does -- with its speed and adaptability -- and to work with us more the way the way that we work.

And not a minute too soon. Our information-driven world faces real problems. Society has become one massive data feed, with information flowing in from corporate networks, supply chains, Twitter, Facebook and texts. We're more informed than ever, and also more overwhelmed. Meanwhile, our existing computing architecture is about to barrel straight into a wall in terms of speed, performance and storage.

We need smarter, more efficient information systems that can sense, learn, and predict in order to help us analyze and think. We can't afford to rely solely on computers that must be programmed in advance for nearly every situation they encounter. To get the most out of the avalanche of big data, we need cognitive systems that can learn or react the way we do.

Since Jeopardy!, Watson has become 240 percent faster and 75 percent smaller. Watson can now run on a single server, which is the size of four stacked pizza boxes, onsite or through the cloud. And that's why organizations can start bringing Watson into their operations as an assistant, to help sift through the information they're collecting, learn from that data and how it's been applied in the past, and provide specific suggestions quickly and efficiently. Collecting data is relatively easy. Using it effectively and learning from it is a challenge.

We're just beginning to get a taste of what Watson can help us do. Organizations are eager to try this new approach out because we all know that if we can use the data we're amassing we can transform how we do business, get healthier and improve our environment.

Learn more about Watson here.

Follow IBM on Twitter @ibm.

WATCH: IBM + UCLA's WorkStrong Program Takes Preventative Stance for Employee Health

Adam Clement   |   June 19, 2013   11:06 AM ET

The University of California recently launched a wellness program for employees who have sustained an injury in the workplace. This program, started in 2011, is called "WorkStrong" and its goal is to help the university's employees get healthier and stay injury free.

This effort runs across the University of California campuses to provide WorkStrong services, which includes personal fitness training, direction from a registered dietician, and a manager to keep the participant engaged and motivated.

The program was put in place in part with the help of IBM Smarter Analytics, which helps to identify risks and lower costs based on analytic research. Once in place, the program helps reduce costs by getting employees healthy again and helping to reduce their risk of future injury. So instead of paying for injuries, the University winds up paying for a healthy, vibrant employee community.

See how the program is helping employees right now in the video below.

Smaller Cities Engage Citizens Through Small Business Innovation

Katharine Frase   |   June 19, 2013    9:22 AM ET

People say they'd like to influence or actively participate in their local government. In fact, according to a Civic Plus Digital Citizen Engagement survey, nearly half of those polled want to provide input into their municipal government.

But turning this interest into action is one of the biggest roadblocks to implementing local community ideas. How can local municipalities tap into the increasing power of social and mobile technologies to create a community of active influencers?

One of the foundational tools for this conversion is already widely used: mobile devices. In North America alone, smartphone usage is about 55 percent and is expected to reach more than 70 percent by 2016. Knowing the ubiquity of this vital communications tool, local governments are investing in systems to share relevant local information.

Everyone understands that information flowing from government to citizens and from citizens to government is critical for responsible citizenship and responsive and accountable governance. Informed citizens are better equipped to access services, exercise their rights and hold their representatives accountable. Smarter governments know that information sharing re-energizes and encourages wider participation in public processes.

Governments have discovered that citizens are more likely to access relevant information via text, tweet or Facebook comment than via impersonal robo-calls or flyers. These new methods are less expensive than phone and face-to-face interactions. There also are no time constraints in cyberspace; citizens can consume and submit information on their own schedule 24 hours a day, increasing the likelihood of their engagement and participation.

If a citizen knew that traffic congestion would be especially high due to a major event taking place, would that person choose to take the bus or the train instead of driving his car into work? Or if a small business owner had accessed the minutes of a city council meeting on initiatives to help drive sustainability, would she begin to start working with suppliers that sold eco-friendly materials? Local businesses could also partner with governments and publicize and socialize their goods and services in more interactive ways, which could lead to more business and unique marketing opportunities.

At the same time, online resources can provide citizens with virtual anytime, anywhere access to the cloud-based information and services. Citizens can look up information about events, apply for permits or licenses, pay bills and fines, or log reports and requests. Governments can also provide access to relevant data such as weather, traffic, pollution air quality, or unemployment benefits.

The city of Dubuque, Iowa, combines smart meters and powerful analytics to give its citizens the insights they need to adjust their energy and water consumption. The results -- an 11 percent reduction in electricity usage and a 7 percent reduction in water usage -- are impressive. City council leaders now have abundant evidence that the cloud-based access to its progressive policies and programs, influenced by citizens, are attracting new residents to put down roots in the city, boosting economic vitality.

Creating these kinds of communications and engagement systems, don't have to be a luxury. All communities have the same appetite for interactive engagement with their citizens, and city mayors and administrators are thinking of creative ways to balance these strategic goals with operational cost efficiency.

How is all of this accomplished? Innovative small- and medium-sized IT providers are collaborating with local governments and larger suppliers to deliver better value for the taxpayer. Tapping local innovation potential could bolster small local companies, which in turn creates jobs and drives local economic growth, all while improving citizen services. And unlike larger cities, smaller municipalities have more agility to maneuver around bureaucratic obstacles, creating a more direct line of communication between citizens and their representatives.

For instance, discussions around a piece of legislation or an upcoming election requires the dissemination of large amounts of information as well as the ability to collect and analyze citizens' reactions. Big data collected from these online conversations can provide insights that influence policy for the city, and tools like social media or cloud computing simply speed the pace of proposals or analysis delivered to constituents.

As we've seen, given the widespread adoption of mobile devices, social media platforms and cloud computing, citizen expectations of how they interact with private organizations have changed how they view their relationship with public entities. Why shouldn't the public expect its government to offer the same personalized communications they get from online shopping sites?

Thanks to social media, mobile and cloud technologies, city governments and local organizations are finding the right resources and the right technologies to better engage their constituents to help move government forward making ordinary citizens the center of civic life.

For more information about Smarter Cities, click here.

Follow IBM on Twitter @ibm.

Big Screen Meets Big Data: How Movies Are Bigger (and Smaller) Than Ever

Steve Canepa   |   May 7, 2013    9:39 AM ET

Over the past few years, Hollywood's major film studios have increasingly focused their movie slates on a select number of tent-pole productions. These big budget storylines have dominated the box office with award-winning casts, massive sets and mind-bending digital effects.

The common theme is "the bigger the better." "Avatar," "Star Wars" and "Titanic" have grossed approximately $2 billion in U.S. box office receipts.

Given that the movie industry is now digital, many of today's biggest productions are generating big data. "Avatar" was equal to 17.28 gigabytes per minute of storage. Meanwhile, "Despicable Me" in 3D generated 142 terabytes of data -- equivalent to the online traffic created by 50 million three-minute MP3 songs.

It takes significant resources to tell these stories and to manage all this data through the production and distribution process. Now media and entertainment organizations must not only hit the mark with their audience, they must address the challenge of deriving value from all this data plus the technology, power and space required to process and store it.

As a result, just as we look forward to the next compelling "Star Trek" movie and new adventures in outer space, a new frontier is emerging: inner space. IBM scientists have turned the problem on itself, tackling one of the world's largest big data challenges in the smallest way -- one atom at a time. In fact, the folks at Guinness World Records have certified the movie as the "World's Smallest Stop-Motion Film."

Here's the backstory: In 2012, IBM scientists created the world's smallest magnetic bit using a breakthrough technique to store a single bit of information with just 12 atoms. One MP3 song file is made up of about 20 million bits. So, imagine the savings if that process was used in a full-length film.

To help explain this atomic world, the same team of scientists has now produced the world's smallest film called "A Boy and His Atom," which tells the story of a boy who becomes friends with a wayward atom. Using a high-powered microscope, the team moved thousands of atoms to precise locations on a surface the size of a penny to make this movie. The atoms were magnified 100 million times and were cooled down to -260 degrees Celsius or -450 Fahrenheit to keep them stable.

Going beyond this display of science and entertainment, IBM is now teleporting Trekkies into this new frontier, offering "Star Trek" fans a look through an atomic lens. Using this same scientific equipment and techniques used to make "A Boy and His Atom," IBM scientists used atoms to make images of the USS Enterprise, the Star Trek logo and the "live long and prosper" sign. They can be seen in the "Star Trek Into Darkness" app here.

There is no doubt that big-budget movies and Big Data are here to stay. Now it's a matter of uniting R&D, media and entertainment organizations, industry experts, consumers, and technology manufacturers to uncover the best ways to derive value from all this data. "The Boy and His Atom" tells the story of how we're pushing science at the atomic level to tackle these challenges and to extend human capabilities.

To learn more about R&D, click here.

How To Make Real-World Use of Big Data

Michael J. Schroeck   |   April 3, 2013    7:06 AM ET

What is so new about big data, the tech buzzword that is attracting so much attention these days?

After all, plenty of organizations -- from global telecommunications companies to stock exchanges -- have been handling and sifting though massive amounts of data for years. But it's not until recently that three important trends are converging to usher in a new era of big data -- one that will fundamentally transform how businesses operate and how they engage with customers, suppliers, partners, and employees.

The first big change is in the area of mass digitization. Today, through the use of instrumentation, such as RFID technology, companies and individuals can monitor in real-time everything from the status of a bullet train racing across the countryside to hourly energy usage in their homes and even individual appliances.

The second trend is social media. People around the world are communicating and interacting via social networks in ways that were unimaginable only a few years ago.

And the final trend is the quantum leap in the area of technology, which now enables organizations to store, access, and analyze these huge new streams of data.

The convergence of these three trends is enabling organizations to efficiently leverage massive amounts of new kinds of data to make more informed decisions and deliver tremendous value throughout the enterprise.

Leading organizations who are taking advantage of big data are deriving real results, according to the "Big Data @ Work Study," conducted by IBM's Institute of Business Value and the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. The study findings show that 63 percent of those surveyed report that the use of information and analytics, including big data, is creating a competitive advantage for their organizations, up from 37 percent just two years ago -- a 70 percent increase.

For instance, McLeod Russel India Limited completely eliminated systems downtime in the tea trade through more accurate tracking of the harvest, production, and marketing of more than 100 million kilos of tea annually.

Meanwhile, South Africa's largest short-term insurance provider, Santam, used advanced analytics to collect data about incoming claims, automatically assessing each one against different factors to help identify patterns of fraud in order to save millions in fraudulent insurance payments, while at the same time drastically reducing the processing time for legitimate claims.

The survey highlighted a few consistent approaches that successful companies are taking as they progress their big data initiatives:

  • Focus initially on customers: For many organizations, the greatest value associated with big data is in the area of customer analytics. By using big data to truly understand customer preferences and anticipate future behavior, companies can significantly improve customer service and loyalty. In the era of the digitally empowered consumer, this is crucial. Customer information and analytics can help companies connect with customers in new more effective and relevant ways that enhance and personalize customer interactions and satisfaction.
  • Start with existing data: To achieve results while building momentum for longer-term projects, companies are taking a pragmatic approach by taking advantage of existing information and technology. These organizations are gaining new insights from of existing internal data, and then extending into new sources of data over time. In many organizations, the size and scope of this internal data, such as detailed point-of-sale transactions for retailers or call records for a telecom is extremely large and clearly represents big data. By applying advanced analytical models and methods, this data is delivering valuable new insights into customers, suppliers, marketing campaigns, pricing programs, and employee leadership potential, among other things.
  • Develop analytics skills based on business priorities: As reflected in the study, one of the major inhibitors of Big Data success is the lack of requisite analytical and technical big data skills. The success of big data projects will hinge on closing this gap. Organizations have to invest in not only the tools, but also the combination of business, technical and analytical skills required to deliver on the promise of big data.
  • Craft business case with clear goals: Another challenge highlighted in the study is the need for organizations to develop a quantifiable business case necessary to advance their big data initiatives. To this end, successful organizations are deriving significant economic benefits in areas such as customer retention, marketing effectiveness, supply chain optimization, real-time pricing, employee productivity, while at the same time reducing the costs associated with maintaining existing information management environments.

Another key lesson learned from leading organizations is that, to achieve success with big data, it is imperative that business and IT collaborate and work closely together. Because big data means nothing as a technological advancement if it does not help organizations derive true business value by becoming smarter, more efficient, more responsive to customers, suppliers and employees and ultimately more profitable.

To weigh in on big data analytics, click here.

Keeping You Safe: Using Big Data to Secure Big Data

Brendan Hannigan   |   March 20, 2013   10:50 AM ET

Data is piling up all around us. Inside social networks, digital clouds, mobile networks, and the digital warehouses of the companies we work for, the stores, banks, and health care companies we use.

The ability to access this data from anywhere in the world and finding meaningful ways to combine it with other sources of data is at the core of the vision for a smarter, more connected and intelligent planet.

Yet, the flipside is that these new sources of data and information are perfect targets for fraud and crime. Our sensitive personal data, such as credit card numbers, names and addresses and preferences, health and insurance records, and banking and investment information could be targets for online theft.

In addition, as more employees inside organizations gain access to our data as part of their jobs, the potential for abuse and fraud increases.

We can't and won't go backwards because the opportunities created by moving this data out of old silos and into the digital world is too great. As an example, digitizing medical records and information and then running analytics across that data has the very real opportunity to affect health outcomes around the world.

In order to go forward, and to enable organizations to take advantage of the promise of a more instrumented and connected world, security professionals need to look to new strategies and capabilities to detect and defend against a new class of threats. If an attacker isn't going to give up after the first, second or 100th attempt to get in because they specifically want your organization's data, security strategies need to evolve from merely hoping to block each attack, to beginning to understand the attacker.

Organizations can't just rely on the traditional tools of the past to make sure the data they're collecting and exposing to the Internet is protected. Smart cyber criminals can skirt around these older defensive technologies and blend into the background noise of an organization's operations. They're skilled and patient enough to do reconnaissance of an organization's network over months or years, waiting for just the right chance to steal sensitive information.

While many people might think of the big data explosion as something that is exclusively a challenge for security professionals, it is also an opportunity as well. In addition to data we need to protect, organizations are also ingesting and analyzing a different set of data, security data. This data contains information about threats on the Internet, network activity, system configuration data, vulnerability data, users' data and where they are going, and even data about who is accessing critical data and what they are doing with it.

Today, companies are bringing together, monitoring, and analyzing this massive amount of information from inside and outside of their walls to better understand the security threats that they face.

Forward-looking organizations are also bringing together and examining new sources of information, such as customer transactions, email, and network data, and looking through years of old data to uncover anomalies and attack patterns. They're discovering and investigating high-risk behavior across a wide variety of communications channels and networks so they're prepared before an attack happens.

Using that approach, a financial company can sift through real-time and historical account activity to spot abnormal user behavior and suspicious transactions. A global telco can collect and monitor data on one million events per second -- or more than 85 billion events per day -- to make sure its operations are secure.

Like other past transformative innovations, big data is creating new opportunities along with security challenges. But for pioneering companies, the tools that make big data so transformative will also be the ones that allow them to track the risks they face more closely and smartly than ever.

For more information about big data security, click here.

2012 US Open: Tennis And Technology Hit The Courts At The US Open

Rick Singer   |   August 27, 2012    6:59 AM ET

The end of summer brings one of the most popular global sports events of the year -- the US Open.

More than 700,000 fans are expected to attend the matches at the USTA's Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, making the US Open the most-attended, single sports event in the world. Even more viewers are expected to watch this year's tournament on TV, topping the 53 million viewers who tuned in last year on CBS and ESPN.

And a record number of fans are expected to follow the US Open matches on their mobile devices, or seek out the latest match results, news or live streaming of tennis matches at on their computers at work or at home. We're expecting to easily top the 15.5 million visitors who caught the action last year via the tournament's website. These are big numbers all around.

You might not realize, however, that major sporting events like the US Open are not only exciting to watch and follow, but are also a living lab for how "big data" can translate into big business. This year, the USTA is using business analytics to improve the experience for everyone: fans, tennis players, event organizers and broadcasters.

We're all asking the same questions about the 2012 Open. What does Sam Stouser have to do to repeat last year's women's victory, or how can past winners Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova reign again? What can we expect from the men's side? With Rafa Nadal sidelined by injury, will past US Open winners Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer win the men's title? Or will Andy Murray break through, fresh from winning his gold medal at the Olympic Games in London. How can each of them outplay the others to bring home the trophy?

Answering those questions while connecting tennis fans to the action on the court requires a unique digital experience powered by analytics and cloud computing technologies. By offering deeper analysis and a better understanding of how players are performing and ensuring that can handle peak traffic when website demand picks up, my company is helping the USTA serve up an engaging and interactive experience.

For example, SlamTracker is an online dashboard that serves up statistics and information for every match being played. Not only can fans follow live scores, point by point, but they can click on a point on the match's timeline for additional details.

But most importantly, a SlamTracker feature, "Keys to the Match," provides insight into what each player needs to do in order to have a higher likelihood of winning. We analyzed 39 million data points covering Grand Slam matches over the past seven years to provide analytic assessments of players and what they need to do to succeed.

Based on head-to-head games in the past, the system filters and ranks the top three keys to the match for each player. Examples might be the need for an individual player to return a certain percentage of second serves in order to win or whether longer points favor one opponent over the other. Take a look at the keys before the match, then follow a player's performance against them as the sets progress. You'll see in real time that the keys are a great predictor of success.

Use of this technology is not limited to sports. The same analytic software is being used by hospitals to monitor babies in prenatal wards, police forces to prevent crime and financial services companies to improve customer service and cut costs.

Dating back to 1992, when my company became the official information technology provider, the US Open has embraced this type of cutting-edge technology in order to improve tennis fans' enjoyment of the sport. And 2012 is bringing even more ways for fans to follow the action.

This year, a new free iPad app has been added to the iTunes Store. It joins the existing US Open iPhone app, US Open Android app, and mobile version of at to provide the latest news and scores. Last year, fans viewed a record number of 84 million pages from their mobile devices.

And while sports writers like to predict who they feel are the most likely to win the US Open, we'll use the IBM Social Sentiment Index to measure what fans are saying and expressing about the tournament on Twitter. Later in the tournament, we'll reveal unique insights based on our analysis of fan sentiment.

Enjoy the tennis no matter how you choose to follow it, since the experience will be immediate and insightful, thanks to technology.

For more information about IBM's work with the US Open, click here.

Advancing Analytics to Predict Specific Needs

Christer Johnson   |   August 9, 2012   12:29 PM ET

Editor's note: This article is by Christer Johnson, IBM Global Business Services' Advanced Analytics Services Leader for North America. A member of Christer's team, Ryan Hendricks, will participate in a panel "Big Data in the Sports Industry" at the IBM Research Colloquium "Box Office to Front Office: Winning with Big Data" on August 10, 2012. Watch over livestream beginning at 10 a.m. U.S. Pacific Time.

One of the many things I've learned from more than 19 years of using analytics to solve challenging business problems is that the word analytics means different things to different people. So before diving into numbers, I define analytics by the objectives they intend to achieve, and the decisions they intend to improve or accelerate. In that context, analytics falls into three categories: descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive.

Descriptive analytics, also referred to as business intelligence, provide a clear understanding of what has happened in the past, through visualization of key performance metrics or other data in a report or dashboard. Today, the past can be as recent as just a millisecond ago.

The sports world has long been a leader in the use of descriptive analytics to provide fans, coaches, and players with a wide range of statistical reports that help them understand what's happening on the field -- whether a coach wants to improve play, or fans want to win their fantasy league.

However, with descriptive analytics, fans and coaches alike must rely on their intuition and ability to interpret the data in order to gain any insight on the relationship or correlation between data inputs and data outputs.

That's where predictive analytics, the second category of analytics, comes into play.

In predictive analytics, the objective is to use advanced mathematical techniques on that past data to understand the underlying relationship between data inputs, outputs and outcomes. Effective predictive models let us quickly understand and estimate outcomes across a wide array of scenarios and conditions. Commonly used for forecasting, simulation, root cause analysis, and data mining, predictive modeling techniques provide insight into complex data that we can't manually interpret from a report or interactive dashboard.

Billy Beane of the Oakland A's famously used predictive modeling techniques to uncover new data inputs that were highly correlated with the outcome of winning baseball games. In tennis, IBM recently began using predictive analytics to automatically sift through a multitude of factors from seven years of data about every point played in the Grand Slam tournaments -- all to estimate the top three keys to each player's match.

Predictive analytics still requires manual evaluation of the various scenarios and the predictive results of each scenario, in order to make a decision. This works well when a decision involves just a few options and the decision maker has time to interpret the predictive results from the various scenarios (for example, a coach using past game statistics to plan for the next game).

It does not work well, however, when a decision maker is faced with thousands or millions of options. Nor does it work well when a decision is needed just seconds after key data inputs are received. This is where prescriptive analytics comes into play.

This third category of analytics, prescriptive analytics, uses mathematical optimization to take into account a multitude of data inputs and constraints related to an objective. The formulas sift through potentially millions of possible decisions to prescribe the actions that will maximize the user's objectives.

Major League Baseball now uses a complex collection of optimization models to create its schedule each year. And some of the most-common uses of optimization outside of sports include pricing optimization for airlines, hotels, and retail chains; transportation planning and scheduling for distribution companies; and the decisions around how to allocate marketing dollars across channels and product categories.

Analyzing Big Data
Today, even small companies are armed with the software and hardware platforms that can efficiently and effectively perform these three types of analytics on enormous volumes of data -- Big Data.

Big Data is defined by the four Vs: Volume (terabytes, petabytes, or more), Velocity (streaming data), Variety (structured variables in a database, versus unstructured text, voice, or video), and Veracity (the degree to which data is accurate and can be trusted).

With the explosion of unstructured data on social media, companies are rushing to analyze this type of Big Data to better understand customers' views, preferences, and behaviors. As exemplified during the Olympics, there are few industries that generate more excitement, discussion, and ultimately data than sports.

The key for sports franchises, as with any company needing to make the most of big data, is to start with the question to be answered, and the decision to be made. Once the question and decision are clear, you have a much higher chance of collecting the right data; using the most-appropriate analytical techniques; and producing insight that you can turn into value for your customers, your company, and yourself.

Watch "Winning with Big Data"
On August 10, my colleague, Ryan Hendricks, will join a panel with Dave Kaval, the club president of the San Jose Earthquakes, Mike Zoglio, the vice president of Marketing, Electronic Arts Sports, and Rory Brown, the director of content operations and analytics with the Bleacher Report as part of "Box Office to Front Office: Winning with Big Data."

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