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October 10, 2013

IBM Hits the Throttle on Big Data Discovery With New Lab

Isaac Lopez

Aiming to hasten the pace of discovery for its clients, IBM today announced the launch of its newest big data proving ground. Designated the “Accelerated Discovery Lab,” the new venture aims to leverage IBM’s significant computing capabilities to help clients open the throttle on their big data discovery processes.

IBM says that the new lab will be a collaborative environment where the company can bring to focus its wide-ranging aptitude in the big data arena. Located at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California, the lab will give IBM clients access to everything from diverse outside data sources, unique analytic capabilities (such as domain models and text analytics), not to mention the natural language processing capabilities that IBM had developed through the creation of their “cognitive” system, Watson.

The company says that it will also bring to bear the considerable human talent, with broad domain expertise in such areas as biology, medicine, finance, weather modeling, mathematics, computer science, and information technology. The goal, says IBM, is to provide a nexus of talent and technology to gain leverage on the time to insight in the big data discovery process.

“If we think about Big Data today, we mostly use it to find answers and correlations to ideas that are already known. Increasingly what we need to do is figure out ways to find things that aren’t known within that data,” said Jeff Welser, Director of Strategy and Program Development for the lab. ”Whether it’s through exploring thousands of public government databases, searching every patent filing in the world, including text and chemical symbols, to develop new drugs or mixing social media and psychology data to determine intrinsic traits, there’s a big innovation opportunity if companies are able to accelerate discovery by merging their own assets with contextual data.” 

IBM has indicated it has identified three particular industry application areas to target where the research leaders expect to make lasting impacts:

  • Drug Development – Currently, the process of drug discovery shuffles on for over a decade, with more than a 90% fallout rate – a trend that IBM says it hopes to turn around through the use of advanced analytics and modeling and simulation tools. IBM says that, by using machine-based discovery technologies, it can mine millions of published papers, patents, and material properties databases to uncover innovation opportunities and predict where the most profitable research bets can be made.
  • Social Analytics – IBM says that companies are spending billions of dollars in this fledgling big data arena, and are missing the mark. Where firms are studying demographics (age, sex, marital status, dwelling place, income), IBM says that they should be focused on personality, fundamental values, and needs. Researchers with the company say that because social media spans virtually every industry, the opportunity for unexpected discoveries in this arena is significant, providing the potential for new inroads towards creating value.
  • Predictive Maintenance – Equipment in manufacturing and the natural resource are increasingly being outfitted with sensors, creating a phenomenon known as “The Internet of Everything,” with machines constantly producing data about their operations. This data can be used to effectively predict when pieces of the equipment need to be replaced or repaired, thus eliminating downtime and the production costs that come with it. IBM says that a $30B company can save $3B a year by implementing predictive maintenance technology.

  The launch of the lab is just another brick in IBM’s big data wall as it looks for ways to leverage the rising technology trend. Last week the company announced a new initiative to canvas for new applications for its Watson platform. We’re sure to see more from IBM as they dig in to solidify its position in this emerging arena.

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