IBM Taps Next Generation Leaders to Fuel Watson Innovations; USC Students Aim High in First-Ever West Coast Case Competition

Mon Mar 11, 2013 4:04pm EDT

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Record Student Participation Drives New Ideas and Applications for Watson From
Helping People Suffering from PTSD to Improving Legal Research
LOS ANGELES, March 11, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Two years after Jeopardy!, IBM
(NYSE:  IBM) is putting Watson to work in ways that will forever change how
business and  healthcare  leaders solve problems.  While company researchers are
hard at work developing new commercial applications for the cognitive computing
innovation, IBM is also turning to brilliant young minds in academia for big
ideas on where Watson should work next.



How big?  Imagine a Watson-powered system that could uncover data-driven
insights to help medical professionals identify those who may be suffering
silently from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, provide lawyers with faster
research capabilities to improve their cases, and help businesses hire the best
talent in the job market.

This is the magnitude of ideas sparked by more than 100  University of Southern
California  students who gathered recently to compete in the IBM Watson Academic
Case Competition.  A debut on the West Coast, the Case Competition put  USC 
students in the spotlight to create business plans for applying Watson to
pressing business and societal challenges -- and IBM business leaders were
present and listening carefully.

IBM partners with thousands of universities to offer curricula, internships and
hands-on experiences to help students learn first hand about new technologies in
the fields of Big Data, analytics and cognitive computing.  The company is at
the forefront of creating a new workforce of Big Data trained professionals,
from IBM's collaboration with Cleveland Clinic, which provides Watson as a
collaborative learning tool for medical students, to its public-private
partnership with the New York City Department of Education and the  City
University of New York  to create the Pathways in Technology Early College High
School program (P-TECH), which allows students to participate in a six year
science and technology program and graduate with an associates degree for free
in computer science or engineering.   

To kick-off the competition at  USC's campus, IBM provided students with a crash
course on Watson's breakthrough capabilities, including a demonstration of how
Watson is helping WellPoint, Inc. and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
improve the speed and quality of treatment for cancer patients.  As the first
cognitive computing system of its kind in the marketplace, Watson is able to
understand and process the subtleties of human questions, sift through vast
amounts of data, and use sophisticated analytics to generate fast, accurate
answers for its human users.  Watson also learns from its interactions,
constantly improving with each use. This represents a major shift in
organizations' ability to quickly analyze, understand and respond to Big Data,
in industries such as healthcare -- and this is where student minds were put to
the test.

As part of the competition, students were assigned into 24 teams and given 48
hours to define a new purpose for Watson, develop a business plan, and present
it to a panel of judges comprising school officials, IBM executives and local
business leaders. The challenge was unique among  USC  competitions because
students worked toward a common goal with peers from other disciplines --
similar to how IBM combines the talent of business leaders and research
scientists to develop its patented innovations.   

To foster interdisciplinary collaboration, each team was required to have at
least one business and one engineering member, from  USC's Marshall Business
School and Viterbi School of Engineering.  

The student teams faced two rounds of judging based on four areas of criteria:
how well the concept and supporting plan articulated and supported the team's
vision; the feasibility of bringing the product or service to market and the
supporting elements; the extent the proposed solution leverages Watson's key
capabilities; and the team's presentation. Three winning ideas were selected by
a panel of eight industry and faculty judges, including representatives from
Bank of America, Ernst & Young, and IBM.

* 1st Place - Legal Research: Let Watson Do the Discovery for Your Next Legal
Case  - For corporate legal departments, building a case -- or defending one's
own -- relies heavily on fast and accurate research. Past legal trials, court
documents, articles and digital evidence: all of these materials can make or
break a case, and together they comprise a sea of unstructured data that is both
time-consuming and costly to pore through. The first place  USC  team proposed
using Watson to process its users' research needs, based on its ability to think
like a human, quickly sift through online legal documents for facts, and not
only identify evidence to support a case -- but forecast its probability of
success. The first place team's viewpoint: by placing Watson in charge of
research, firms can recover time and costs, while delivering better legal
outcomes. In turn, firms that leverage Watson's speed and efficiency can address
the growing legal trend towards "flat fee" billing and research outsourcing.  
* 2nd Place - Employee Training: Watson Uncovers the Keys to Success for Your
Employees  - According to the American Society for Training and Development
(ASTD), 41 percent of employees at companies with inadequate training programs
plan to leave within a year, versus 12 percent of employees at companies who
provide excellent training and professional development programs. Conversely,
the ASTD also states that effective employee training can lead to 218 percent
higher income per employee and 45 percent higher shareholder return than market
average. The second place  USC  team proposes that corporate human resource
departments use Watson to optimize employee training, by crunching data
pertaining to the employers' HR needs, the employees' career goals, and the
range of training options available that can help both parties succeed. The
second place team's viewpoint: by improving employee satisfaction and retention,
a Watson-powered employee training system can also drive higher shareholder
* 3rd Place  - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Watson Helps Doctors FindPatients
 - It is reported that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects nearly 7.7 million
U.S. adults aged 18 and older.  This includes people who have served in combat,
experienced domestic violence, have been in car accidents, or other traumatic
events.  Many with PTSD suffer silently, including the 400,000+ U.S. veterans
who have yet to be identified and treated, per the U.S. Veterans Administration.
 Thankfully, the catalysts behind this illness need no longer remain invisible
-- due largely to Big Data.  For example, there are now unprecedented amounts of
data that accompany soldiers who return from war, from medical histories to
information on combat experiences.  The third place  USC  team proposes that
physicians use Watson to identify people who may develop PTSD, by uncovering
insights from data that can help piece together their personal story and shed
light on pain he or she may be experiencing.  The team's viewpoint: by helping
physicians find and diagnose those suffering from PTSD, Watson can help medical
professionals offer patients the treatment they deserve.

This competition is the latest example of how IBM is fueling innovation and
working with students in higher education to hone valuable business skills that
will shape the next generation of industry leaders.  

"Partnering with universities such as  USC  gives IBM a unique opportunity to
tap into the minds of our next-generation of leaders, whose training, skills and
ideas for changing the world are all forward-thinking and based on a desire to
make a meaningful impact," said  Manoj Saxena, IBM General Manager, Watson
Solutions. "These students see what Watson is doing right now and think -- how
else will cognitive computing impact my life and career in the years to come? To
us, that's exactly the mindset that should be fueling IBM innovations, and the
very reason we host Watson Academic Case Competitions."  

Due to the overwhelming response from  USC  students seeking to participate in
the Watson Academic Case Competition, students had to join a waiting list, once
the 24-team maximum had been reached.  One faculty sponsor, noting that the
level of interest was unprecedented for a campus case competition, predicted
registration could reach 500 next year.  

"For USC students, the opportunity to share their own ideas with IBM on how to
commercialize Watson is truly a unique experience," said  Ashish Soni, Executive
Director of Digital Innovation and Founding Director of the Viterbi Student
Innovation Institute at the  USC  Viterbi School of Engineering. "As educators,
we're quite pleased to see students getting excited about cognitive computing
innovation, because we know there's a business demand for the types of skills
they get to showcase in Watson Case Competitions."  

Watson - Building a New Big Data Workforce

It's no secret that employers across the U.S. are seeking job candidates who can
analyze and build strategy around Big Data, or the 2.5 quintillion bytes of
information gleaned from sensors, mobile devices, online transactions and social
networks, to name just a few sources.  A recent Gartner report estimates that
1.9 million Big Data jobs will be created in the U.S. by 2015.  

The Watson Case Competition at  USC, the third in a series hosted by IBM, is the
latest example of IBM's work with academia to advance interest among students in
Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculums that will lead to
high-impact, high-value careers.  The competition is in keeping with IBM's
Academic Initiative which delivers course work, case studies and curricula to
more than 6,000 universities and 30,000 faculty members worldwide to help
students prepare for high-value future job opportunities.   

IBM worked closely with academic institutions during the development and
introduction of Watson. Eight leading universities around the world participated
in the development phase of the system; and more than 10,000 students watched
Watson triumph on the Jeopardy! quiz show in February 2011.  Most recently, IBM
announced it would provide a modified version of an IBM Watson system to 
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, making it the first university to receive such
a system that will enable leading-edge research by faculty and students.   

The competition at  USC  marks the latest collaboration between the university
and IBM. Over the last two years, students at the school's Annenberg Innovation
Lab have been using Big Data analytics technologies to conduct social sentiment
analyses and determine public engagement on topics such as sports, film, retail
and fashion. Two of the biggest projects looked at Major League Baseball's World
Series and the Academy Awards, projects developed for students to explore and
expand their skills as they prepare for new data-intensive careers.  IBM also
collaborated with the  USC  Marshall School of Business for "The Great Mind
Challenge," a global academic initiative focused on providing students with an
opportunity to turn their social networking savvy into business ready skills to
prepare for the jobs of the future.

For more information on the  University of Southern California, please visit

For more information on IBM Watson, please visit

For more information on the  USC  Viterbi School of Engineering, please visit

To join the social discussion about Watson include the hashtag #ibmwatson

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Media Contacts

Kristen Dattoli 
IBM Media Relations, Watson 
1 (617) 869-4378

Amy Blumenthal
Media Relations
USC  Marshall School of Business
1 (213) 740-5552

Megan Hazle
Media Relations Specialist,  USC  Viterbi School of Engineering
1 (213) 821-5555


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