5 great stories from IBM Insight 2015

Social Business Manager, IBM

Tech is cool again. Look around the office and the hottest fashion accessory is likely an Apple Watch. And for those of you with young children, I'm sure you know that the hottest toy for this holiday gift-giving season is the Fisher-Price Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo, a small robot that lights up, dances and teaches basic skills like colors and counting. So why shouldn't a conference featuring the latest and greatest technology be equally enjoyable? We all expect to hear big announcements and learn how to troubleshoot some of the most crucial business problems facing today's modern enterprise at IBM Insight. But Insight is also the place where we have the opportunity to discover the "cool" applications of the technologies that are helping businesses every day. Over the past few days, certain stories stood out as marvelous applications of technology and IBM solutions. Here are the top five fun applications of technology featured at IBM Insight 2015:

1. Pepper the robot

Without a doubt, my favorite part of the Day 1 general session was getting to meet the robot powered by IBM Watson, Pepper. Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of IBM Watson, had an entertaining chat with Pepper that showed off the robot's capabilities. The conversation also revealed that Pepper has read all of Mike's blogs and was able to determine several personality characteristics based on his writing style. The opportunities to leverage Pepper, powered by IBM Watson, are exciting. For example, imagine a call-center representative for a large bank that wants to provide accurate information and a positive customer experience in the shortest amount of time possible. With Watson providing answer support to the call-center representative, businesses can service customers in the most efficient way possible, which ultimately saves the organization money and the customer the burden of having to spend extended periods of time on the phone with customer support. And for banks that put Pepper in a customer-facing role at branch locations, there is an opportunity to free up staff members to execute other important business functions.

2. Extraterrestrial life

The search for extraterrestrial life is alive, well and about to get smarter with Apache Spark and IBM Cloud. The SETI Institute, NASA and IBM are working together to target the scanning for extraterrestrial life based on data. IBM helped put a man on the moon, and now decades later IBM is again helping mankind explore the final frontier. From the top tweets showing up in my Twitter stream, many of us were geeking out over the talk about outer space. I know I had Contact flashbacks as Dr. Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute explained how the organization is improving the process of listening for extraterrestrial life. It doesn't hurt that many of us have the upcoming Star Wars release on our minds as well.

3. Ice hockey

I'm sure sports fans will appreciate this next use case of IBM technology. Peter O'Leary, CMO of the Ottawa Senators, took the stage during the Day 2 general session with Alistair Rennie, General Manager of Solutions for IBM. After a successful season, the fan affinity for the hockey team increased, presenting an opportunity for the organization to sell more branded merchandise. However, the organization did not have the infrastructure in place to deal with the increase in sales opportunities. Peter discussed the importance of knowing which products fans were buying at games, which snacks they were purchasing at concessions and other essential business insights obtained through analytics. These actionable insights can be leveraged by departments such as marketing and sales to drive business decisions that increase revenue and business success. And you have to admit, the jersey that Peter personalized for Alistair looked sharp.       

4. 3-D printed cars

Cars have always had a "cool factor." Just think about the popularity of sports like NASCAR and Formula 1, or the dozens of car-centric movies like the classic The Fast and the Furious or the animated flick Cars. They're definitely some of my favorite topics of conversation around the water cooler. So my ears definitely perked up when I heard that Local Motors is 3-D printing cars. Elle Shelly, CMO of Local Motors, took to the stage during the day 3 general session to talk about disruption in the auto industry. Local Motors is shaking up the auto industry by changing the way that cars have been made for over 100 years. What is the result? Local motors is delivering 3-D printed cars that are safe, smart and sustainable.      

5. Filmmaking

And now for the crown jewel of the IBM Insight general sessions. The day 3 general session starred the acclaimed team of filmmaking masters, director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer. They shared anecdotes from the creation of their most distinguished films, including Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind. What I found most interesting about the discussion was their view on leveraging technology in the film and televisions industries. One of the golden nuggets of insight that came from the duo is that when a story is aligned with technology, the audience is in for an indelible emotional experience. Another interesting point that Ron and Brian discussed is the role of social media. In terms of the television experience, social media is helping to inform and enhance the emotional experience. For example, Arrested Development made a comeback because Netflix was able to ascertain that there was an audience for it. The parting piece of wisdom from the general session was quite timely given the announcement that IBM is acquiring The Weather Company: partnerships are powerful.

There you have it. IBM Insight is full of inspiring stories just like my five favorites. Businesses across industries have the opportunity to learn, optimize and innovate with IBM solutions. The variety of solutions from IBM that businesses can take advantage of—including anti-money laundering for banking, producer lifecycle and credential management for insurance and behavior-based client insight for wealth management—is amazing. Request a complimentary workshop for these or any of the other industry-specific IBM Analytics solutions that businesses are leveraging every day. Who knows? Maybe one day your business will have a story that inspires others, just like those featured in this year's IBM Insight conference.