An insight into Cognitive IBM in the words of IBM Leader, Kingshuk Banerjee

In this interview, Kingshuk Banerjee who currently leads the consultative sales and delivery of Cognitive Computing and Analytics Services in IBM GBS shares with us how IBM is helping its clients transform their business using Advanced Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Solutions. He also explains why it is an exciting time for joining IBM now. 


Kingshuk is a Director in the Cognitive Computing Service Line in IBM Global Business Services (GBS). He leads a team of highly specialised Subject Matter Experts worldwide, focused on machine-learning algorithms, stochastic systems and deep-learning constructs. A computer engineer by basic training, he has earned his Ph.D. in Engineering Management from George Washington University, Washington D.C. He is also certified by Cornell University in Executive Leadership.

How are IBM’s Cognitive Business Solutions expected to help clients?

We have reached an inflection point in the Data and Analytics market where most companies tend to differentiate themselves by generating unique value. Some go one step further, attempting to disrupt the eco-system altogether. The conventional analytics, often based on structured data, help differentiate somewhat. But to create a quantum effect in differentiation or disruption – for a clear business advantage – we now need next-generation machine learning techniques and artificial intelligence platforms.  This leap to next generation has just begun, with IBM Cognitive Solutions leading it.

IBM Cognitive Computing goes beyond the standard analytics and structured data. It attempts to understand, reason and learn from vast amounts of unstructured data – sights, sounds, imageries – text, voice and visuals – natural human languages – and big data that is often transient, and in motion. IBM Watson, our flagship product helps analytics industry get over the inflection point, and start a new business value journey with unique differentiation and disruption. The learning systems we build today, based on machine learning and artificial intelligence, are the stepping stones to tomorrow’s automation, freeing human kind to take on more complex challenges, as part of natural human evolution.

What is the industry’s response to cognitive computing? And how is IBM leveraging the potential in India?

The response to cognitive computing is highly encouraging. More than 70% of Chief Information Officers in Fortune 100 companies believe that Cognitive Computing can change the game in a very significant way. From higher orders of automation to new forms of man-machine interaction, Cognitive Computing is expected to pervade a wide spectrum of our day-to-day transactions.

The clients in India are already embracing this new world.  IBM, along with its innovative client partners, is co-creating next-generation computer systems – starting from proofs-of-concept, and demonstrating business value in steps. Cognitive Computing has started impacting strategic decision-making today. In next couple of years, we expect that impact to scale up significantly. We expect to see Cognitive engines at the heart of large-scale operations and critical missions – smart help-desks, perceptive dialogues, intelligent interactions, advise generation and self-help systems – to name a few.

We need natural language processing, image recognition, video analytics, speech processing, language translation, pattern recognition and human behaviour understanding – to leapfrog into next-generation business. IBM is committed to working with new-age companies of India – towards a new India – that is in the forefront of digital revolution.

How is big data and analytics changing business strategy for healthcare? And how is IBM leveraging cognitive computing to transform the healthcare industry?

Big data and Big Insights is a big deal in healthcare. A vast majority of the health-care data being unstructured, it is not readily available for standard analytics that are fed off existing structured databases. IBM’s Watson Health works off that unstructured content, digitally captured but never organised for conventional analysis.

IBM Healthcare solutions, attempt to understand that mass of health data – patient data, prescriptions, drug information, health diagnostics, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, social media chatter, medical journals – to build a knowledge repository that is more comprehensive and ready for better reasoning and learning – so that it can help physicians with improved disease management; pharmaceuticals with faster, better and cheaper drugs; and insurance companies actionable business insights.

In India, doctors in a leading cancer hospital have signed up for IBM cognitive system, for informational help on treatment of breast, colorectal and lung cancers. It helps produce more informed treatment decisions, based on the individual’s unique health status, research and similar case studies and other personalised data.

IBM Healthcare systems aspire to save and improve human lives around the world, at an affordable cost.

How would the Cognitive Computing Era impact the future of Education?

Cognitive computing is about navigating knowledge and bringing up relevant pieces of information in a crisp, timely fashion, and relevant for that situation.  It is about understanding the person – the educator or learner – and the context of that interaction, for improved learning help.

IBM Cognitive systems can help create personalised learning pathways for each individual. It can help generate insights about students, their learning styles, preferences, capabilities and individualised recipe for success.

Would you advise students to acquire analytics skills no matter the degree?

The answer is a big “Yes”. We should try acquiring analytics skills, irrespective of our academic past. Let us not forget that Analytics is about scientific methods and tools, which are rooted in common sense and our logical perception of the world around us. So anybody with a good logical mind, is well-suited for analytics.

In general, it helps to undergo a formal training in quantitative techniques. However, it is important to note that Analytics is not just about number-crunching alone. Communication, Collaboration and Common business sense are the 3 C’s that we value.  The making of a data scientist, involves touching and feeling the data – and intuiting about the generated insights and interpretations. Anyone with a passion for this makes a good fit.

What makes an ideal candidate for Cognitive Solutions Roles?

In general, we hire professionals with quantitative background, good understanding of information technology systems, and high learnability. The candidates should be inquisitive about their surroundings, capable of out-of-the-box, lateral thinking, and demonstrate perceptive intelligence.

However, as I said before – quantitative academic background is welcome, but not mandatory. Somebody with a good logical mind and a scientific inclination is all that we need for a start. We have hired in the past anthropologists, psychologists and social scientists in our Cognitive Computing practice. Actually we encourage applications from logical thinkers with a diverse background.  Like most disciplines, passion is the key to success. And yes – an eye for the detail – helps big time.

What is your message to candidates aspiring to join IBM?

Human society is increasingly dominated by autonomic agents – machines, robots, chat-bots and, virtual agents.  If you are someone who spends sleepless nights wondering about the future, and studying past patterns of human interactions to predict and project into the days to come – we welcome you. Again, all we need is a logical mind, with an attitude and aptitude to learn, and a passion to succeed.

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