Healthcare Technology Featured Article

December 20, 2013

IBM Predicts New Approaches in Big Data Analysis Will Change Healthcare, Learning & Local Shopping

Big data continues to be an important field for technology innovations. In fact, IBM recently predicted big data could change the “way we live over the next five years.” Big data analysis will be used in new ways to assist in healthcare, school instruction, retail purchases and city life.

In the case of schools, students will do homework, read and take tests on a tablet or computer. They can be tracked. There will be no more staying after class to go over work with a teacher. The technology will pinpoint how students best learn and then offer the students appropriate instruction.

"The kids adapt to it instantly," Bernard Meyerson, IBM's chief innovation officer, told NBC News. "These kids are digital, they know how to do this stuff."

"If we don't focus on education the way we focus on health care and other issues, we're in deep trouble," he added.

In fact, IBM is testing the use of big data in a Georgia public school district which has some 170,000 students. “The project aims to improve graduation rates by tracking everything a student does -- including attendance, test scores, how they interact with electronic content, and what they are being taught in the classroom -- and suggesting improvements to tailor their educations,” according to a CNN report.

In the field of healthcare, looking at DNA will improve a patient’s health. Cancer treatments could be referenced against a patient’s DNA or referenced against others patients with similar DNA. There also could be personalized treatments for stroke and heart disease.

In the case of cities, many have cameras on streets. “You can do some amazing stuff with the infrastructure that's already there," Meyerson said. "You can actually make those real-time adjustments in the processes of the city, without adding anything, frankly." One example may be following the number of passengers waiting for a train platform – and adjust schedules appropriately.

Also, to help people with their personal lives IBM is developing a digital personal assistant for tasks like cooking. "We have a 'chef' function that looks at the tastes you like, and literally suggests combinations of flavors you might like," Meyerson said. Or, it could tell you if a pair of shoes you like are on sale at a store as you walk past the shop. There will be a more personalized shopping experience, and quicker delivery of products, too. Sales staff in stores could recommend products based on earlier interests.

Also, another possible move is having a digital guardian to protect someone while they travel online. It will look at someone’s data, devices and applications. Through this info, it can detect what is normal and what may be a deviation. That info could help block a cyber-attack or prevent the theft of an identity. If personal and financial data is being connected to a server in Eastern Europe, it could warn you about a possible hacking, CNN said.

The over-arching theory of this effort is that “in the future, everything will learn,” IBM explains in a statement. For example, machines will learn, reason and engage with people in a “more natural and personalized way.”

Big data analytics, cloud computing and learning technology each play a role in this development. Because some of these trends are already in place, or will soon be present, the marketplace will need to adjust accordingly. It doesn’t just help the patient, student or shopper. It helps to offer a more efficient, economical and precise system of data analysis as it applies to marketing and delivery of various services. It makes sense, too. Why collect all of this data and not use it appropriately?

This also leads IBM’s Inhi Suh, vice president of big data, integration, and governance, to predict that companies will invest more in big data platforms. They will provide more in the way of "reporting, dashboards and planning, predictive analytics, recommendations, and new cognitive capabilities" for transactional, social, mobile and other data types,” she said. “There will also be more cognitive computing apps. Workplaces will change, too. Social media feeds will be monitored to respond to consumer reaction. Data from employees will help human resources staff to do a better job of recruiting, develop, and retaining top talent,” Suh adds.

Big data is there to help improve lives. Let’s use it.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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