Future Friday: Just in time for holiday shopping a practical application of cognitive computing from IBM

I have mentioned a couple of times that I have the good fortune of being a designated futurist for IBM, which by the way is a volunteer position. As such I have been exposed to some of the work that IBM is doing with their super computer Watson. Just the other day I got a demonstration of how far Watson has come from winning Jeopardy.


The big Christmas shopping season is already getting cranked up. Only the savviest of shoppers have a handle on what is hot and what is not. Most of us follow the commercials, which unfortunately only tell us about those companies or things with the biggest budgets. Retailers have to guess based upon dated trend data to determine what will be most in demand. Sometimes they win and sometimes they lose. What if there was a way to get instant trend data as both a retailer and a consumer? Better yet what if you could tell what was going to be hot in three weeks? As a retailer you would have the item available. As a consumer you would know that you had to get the item before it was sold out. The solution exists!
IBM announced on November 18th the release of the Watson Trend app. Powered by Watson it is cognitive computing brought to the retail marketplace. According to the press release “Using Watson’s understanding of natural language and machine learning technologies, the app uncovers consumer preferences to pinpoint patterns and trends to reveal why people are choosing certain products or brands. The app also uses predictive analytics to forecast if a particular trend is a fleeting fad or will continue to remain strong.” Further the press release says “To uncover insights behind the top holiday trends and products, Watson’s natural language engine aggregates insights into distinct trend groups: content, context and sentiment. Each group is given a relative daily Trend Score, ranging from 0 to 100, based on the impact (size of the conversation) and the momentum (the rate of growth of the conversation).

Trend scouring

According to an IBM piece here is what happens”

Each day, Watson Trend scours the internet — social networks, blogs, forums, comments, ratings, reviews — looking for conversations related to purchase decisions. We look for conversations from those who are about to make a purchase, people who are conversing as they make a purchase, and conversations after a purchase decision. As we identify these conversations, we use Watson to understand the context, meaning and sentiment or tone of the conversation. If someone is talking about a new smartphone they have purchased, we understand if they are happy with that purchase, what features they liked, where they bought it, etc.

What I really like about this is the power of big data is put in the hands of the consumer rather than just in the hands of the retailer. It puts us the buyer on a more knowledgeable level about what is out there for us to spend our hard earned dollars on. It brings some equity to the marketplace.

Get the app

I encourage you to get the app. It is available on the Apple store for you Apple devices, just look for WatsonTrend. If you would like more information you can click here to see a description of the program. If you would like to watch a YouTube video about the application you can find that here or just look below.
I am a big supporter of local merchants in my community so I will be passing this information on to them so they can be more successful and perhaps beat the big boxes to the punch. Perhaps after looking at this material you will do the same thing.

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