Jennifer Zaino

IBM’s Watson Group Invests In Fluid And Its Cognitive Assistant For Online Shoppers

watsonpixnwqEarlier this year The Semantic Web Blog covered the launch of the IBM Watson Group, a new business unit to create an ecosystem around Watson Cloud-delivered cognitive apps and services. One of the partners announced at that time was Fluid Inc., which is developing a personal shopper for ecommerce that leverages Watson. Today, the Watson Group is pushing that partnership forward by drawing from the $100 million that IBM has earmarked for direct investments in cognitive apps in order to invest in Fluid and in helping deliver what it says will be “the first-ever cognitive assistant for online shoppers into the marketplace.”

At the previous event in January, Fluid CEO Kent Deverell discussed and demonstrated the Expert Personal Shopper, now known as the Fluid Expert Shopper (XPS). Still in development, it takes advantage of Watson’s ability to understand the context of consumers’ questions in natural language, draw upon what it learns from users via its interactions with them, and match that against insights uncovered from huge amounts of data around a product or category – including a brand’s product information, user reviews and online expert publications — to deliver a personalized e-commerce shopping experience via desktops, tablets and smartphones.

The first Fluid XPS prototype is being developed for customer outdoor apparel and equipment retailer, The North Face, which Deverell showcased at the previous event.

At the IBM event in January, Deverell painted a picture of the difference between the experience consumers have with a great sales person vs. traditional ecommerce. Good salespeople, he said, “are personal, proactive conversational,” whereas e-commerce is data-driven. He told the audience at the event that Fluid wants to combine the best of both worlds. “A great sales associate makes you feel good about your purchase,” he said, and he envisions Fluid XPS doing the same through natural conversation, the ability to learn about the users’ needs, “to go as deep as you need to and resurface and provide relevant recommendations.”

Read more

Thinknum Sees Financial Analysis In A New Light

thinknumpixThinknum is a startup with the mission: disrupting financial analysis.

In his work as a quantitative strategist at Goldman Sachs, Thinknum co-founder Gregory Ugwi saw firsthand the trials and tribulations financial analysts went through to digest companies’ financial reports and then build their own research reports about their expectations for future performance based on past numbers. The U.S. SEC’s mandate that companies disclose their financial data using XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) was supposed to help them, as well as investors of all stripes and sizes that want to better understand what’s going on at the companies they’re interested in.

“The SEC has mandated that all companies have to release their numbers in a machine-readable format, and that’s XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language),” says Ugwi. The positive side of that is that anyone can now get the stats on companies from Google to Wal-Mart, but the downside is that by and large, they can’t do it in a user-friendly way.

Read more

Schema.org Takes Action

actionstatusThis week saw schema.org introduce vocabulary that enables websites to describe the actions they enable and how these actions can be invoked, in the hope that these additions will help unleash new categories of applications, according to a new post by Dan Brickley.

This represents an expansion of the vocabulary’s focus point from describing entities to taking action on these entities. The work has been in progress, Brickley explains here, for the last couple of years, building on the http://schema.org/Action types added last August by providing a way of describing the capability to perform actions in the future.

The three action status type now includes PotentialActionStatus for a description of an action that is supported, ActiveActionStatus for an in-progress action, and CompletedActionStatus, for an action that has already taken place.

 Read more

Declara Individualizes Large-Scale Learning

coggraphLearning at large-scale. That’s the work Declara is undertaking with its CognitiveGraph platform that leverages semantic search, social platforms and predictive analytics to build context-specific learning pathways for the individuals involved in mass learning efforts. Think, for example, of teachers in a country working to re-educate all its educators, or retail and manufacturing workers in parts of the world who need new skill sets because machines have taken on the work these people used to do.

Adults don’t have the luxury of just being focused on learning, so “we try to help them learn more effectively and quickly, using the CognitiveGraph as a way of knowing where to start from and how to get them to positive outcomes faster,” says co-founder and CEO Ramona Pierson. Its intelligent learning platform will determine what mentors and information exist within a closed private network or on the Web relative to supporting a user’s learning needs; what of all that will be the best fit for a particular user; and then match that learner to the best pathway to acquire the new skills. Among the technologies Declara is leveraging is Elasticsearch (which the Semantic Web Blog discussed most recently here) realtime search and analytics capabilities to turn data into insights.

Read more

Tax Time And The IRS Is On Our Minds

irs

Have you checked out the IRS Tax Map this year? If not, what better way to spend April 15 (aside from actually filing those returns, of course).

The IRS Tax Map, as explained here, actually began as a project in 2002, as a prototype to address the business need for improved access to tax law technical information by the agency’s call center workers. These days, Tax Map is available to taxpayers to offer them topic-oriented access to the IRS’s diverse information products, as well. It aims at delivering semantic integration via the Topic Maps international standard (ISO/IEC 13250), grouping information about subjects, including those referred to by diverse names, in a single place.

It was created for the IRS by Infoloom in cooperation with Plexus Scientific and Coolheads Consulting. Infoloom explains on its web site that it lets customers control what is returned by search queries via a topic map approach that lets them extract from existing content information on the topics they need to represent, without having to build a taxonomy of terms, and add specific knowledge to that information as part of the extraction process.

Read more

Semantic Markup Pays Off But For Whom?

schemapix1 Many eyes are turning to research being done by SEO optimization vendor Searchmetrics about the virtues of semantic markup. Exploring the enrichment of search results through microdata integration, it says it has analyzed “tens of thousands of representative keywords, and rankings for over half a million domains from our comprehensive database, for the effect of the use of schema.org markup in terms of dissemination and integration type.”

Its study is still underway but so far its initial findings include good news – that is, that semantic markup succeeds:

  • Larger domains are more likely to embrace structured data markup, and the most popular markups relate to movies, offers, and reviews.  That said, overall, domains aren’t flocking to integrate Schema HTML tags.

Read more

Load-Control: Semantria Takes On The Social Media Surge Infrastructure Challenge

4091128553_cf90c74e5e_z

Image courtesy: Flickr/Webtreats

Semantria is tackling some of the challenges that come with being a cloud-based social media services provider startup. The company offers a text and sentiment analysis service (which you can read about here) to clients and partners. That includes companies like Sprinklr, which manages the social customer experience for other brands with the help of Semantria’s API for analyzing social signals about those clients.

The good news is that with growing social data volumes, there’s a growing need for semantically-oriented services like Semantria’s that help businesses make sense of that information for themselves or their clients. The downside is that a huge surge in volume of social mentions around a company, its product, or anything else can hit such services hard in the pocketbook when it comes to acquiring the cloud infrastructure to handle the tidal wave.

“Everybody suffers from this kind of thing,” says Semantria founder and CEO Oleg Rogynskyy. “We experience it daily.”

Read more

Machine Learning’s Future: Fortune 500 Buys In, Manufacturing Sees The Light

STServerMartin Hack, CEO and co-founder of machine learning company Skytree, has a prediction to make: “In the next three to five years we will see a machine learning system in every Fortune 500 company.” In fact, he says, it’s already happening, and not just among the high-tech companies in that ranking but also among the “bread and butter” enterprises.

“They know they need advanced analytics to get ahead in the game or stay competitive,” Hack says. For that, he says, they need machine learning algorithms for analyzing their Big Data sets, and they need to be able to deploy them quickly and easily — even if those who will be doing the deployments are coming from at best a background of basic analytics and business intelligence.

“There just aren’t enough data scientists to go around,” he says. It’s very tough to fill those roles in most companies, he says, “so like it or not, we have to make it much, much easier for people to digest and use this.”

Read more

Microsoft Talks Up What It’s Calling The First Truly Virtual Personal Assistant

Microsoft cortanaAs The Semantic Web Blog discussed yesterday here, the Virtual Personal Assistant is getting more personal. Microsoft officially unveiled Cortana as part of the Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone software at its Build event yesterday, and the service effectively replaces the search function on Windows smartphones, both for the Internet and locally.

This statement served as the theme from corporate vice president and manager Joe Belfiore: “Cortana is the first truly personal digital assistant who learns about me and about the things that matter to me most and the people that matter to me most, that understands the Internet and is great at helping me get things done.”

The Bing-powered Cortana is launching in beta mode, and was still subject to a few hiccups during the presentation. For example, when Belfiore asked Cortana to give him the weather in Las Vegas, it reported the information in degrees, and was able to respond to his request to provide the same information in Celsius. But he couldn’t get her to make the calculations to Kelvin. But, he promised attendees, “Try it yourself because she is smart enough to tell you the answer in Kelvin.”

Read more

Amazon Fires Up Fire TV Featuring Voice Search And Content Viewing Prediction Capabilities

retAmazon today unveiled its Fire TV streaming video device. During the announcement event in Manhattan, company vice president Peter Larsen called the $99 set top box “tiny, incredibly powerful and unbelievably simple.” For users, that power and simplicity are designed to be evident in features such as the device’s ability to project and preload the content users will want to see and to navigate via voice search.

A statement by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos reads that, “Our exclusive new ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction) feature predicts the shows you’ll want to watch and gets them ready to stream instantly.” Movies or tv shows are buffered for playback before users hit the play button, the company says; those choices are made by analyzing users’ watch lists and recommendations. As users’ viewing habits change, the caching prediction algorithm will adjust accordingly, and personalization capabilities should get better over time as buyers use the Fire TV device.

Read more

NEXT PAGE >>