IBM Bans Remote Work

June 22, 2017

The tech blog SiliconBeat reveals a startling development in tech-related employment in, “IBM: So Much for Working from Home.” Thousands of professionals who have built their lives around their remote-work arrangements are now being required to come into the office. For many, the shift would mean packing up and moving closer to one of the company’s locations. As writer Rex Crum puts it:

That’s right. Find your way to an office cubicle, or hit the bricks. The Wall Street Journal reported that IBM began instituting the new you-can’t-work-from-home policy this week, and that the company is ‘quietly dismantling’ the program that has been in place for decades. The Journal said the retrenchment on its employees working remotely was being done so that IBM could ‘improve collaboration and accelerate the pace of work.’ It also happens to be taking place not long after IBM reported its 20th-straight quarter of declining year-over-year revenue. Legendary all-time investor Warren Buffett also said this month that Berkshire Hathaway has cut its holdings in IBM by one-third from the 81 million shares the company owned earlier this year.

But will herding all their talent into their buildings really solve IBM’s financial woes? Not according to this Forbes article. Crum recalls that Yahoo made the same move in 2013, when Marissa Mayer put a stop to remote work at that company. (How has that been going?) Will more organizations follow?

Cynthia Murrell, June 22, 2017

Instantaneous Language Translation in Your Ear

June 21, 2017

A common technology concept in cartoons and science-fiction series is an ear device that acts as a universal translator.  The wearer would be able to understand and speak any language in the world.  The universal translator has long been one of the humanity’s pipe dream since the Tower of Babel and as technology improves we could be closer to inventing it.  The Daily Mail shares, “The Earpiece That Promises To Translate Language In Seconds: £140 Will Be Available Next Month.”

International travelers’ new best friend might be Lingmo International’s One2One translator that is built on IBM Watson’s artificial intelligence system.  Unlike other translation devices, it does not reply on WiFi or BlueTooth connectivity.  It supports eight languages: English, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Brazilian, Portuguese, German, and Chinese (does that include Mandarin and Cantonese?).  If the One2One does not rely on the Internet, how will it translate languages?

Instead, it uses IBM Watson’s Natural Language Understanding and Language Translator APIs, which intuitively overcomes many of the contextual challenges associated with common languages, as well as understanding the nuances of local dialects…This allows it to translate what you’re saying, almost in real-time.

Lingomo might be relying on IBM Watson for its natural language API, they should also consider using Bitext, especially when it comes to sentimental analysis.  Some languages have words with multiple meanings that change based on a voice’s inflection and tone.

The ramifications for this device are endless.  Can you imagine traveling to a foreign country and being able to understand the native tongue?   It is the dream of billions, but it could also end some serious conflicts.

Whitney Grace, June 21, 2017

Watson Enters Two New Fields

June 13, 2017

IBM’s Watson has been very busy, and it is no longer just generating recipes and curing cancer. A couple pieces from the company’s recent PR blitz illustrate two new hats the AI has donned: Endgadget shares, “Watson Could Be the Key to Smarter Manufacturing Robots,” while “IBM Watson Now Being Used to Catch Rogue Traders” appears at Silicon Republic. It looks like IBM is positioning Watson as the AI that can do anything.

Engadget reports that Watson is being tapped to perform quality-control for ABB, a firm that makes manufacturing robots and the software that runs them. Writer Rob LeFabvre describes:

Imagine an automotive assembly line, full of robots that build cars without any human intervention. Someone has to monitor and inspect the machinery for defects, ensuring their safe and efficient operation. ABB’s technology can gather real-time images and then get Watson to analyze them for potential problems, something a human previously needed to do.

Meanwhile, Watson now offers a tool for companies to catch rogue traders within their ranks. Reporter Colm Gorey writes:

Referred to as Watson Financial Services, the new product will become a monitoring tool within companies to search through every trader’s emails and chats, combining it with the trading data on the floor. The objective? To see if there are any correlations between suspicious conversations online and activity that could be construed as rogue trading.

While the service is being tested out on a few trading-sector companies, IBM intends to market it to the growing “RegTech” field.

IBM has pointed its famous AI in many directions, and will likely continue to work Watson into as many fields as possible. We ask, “Can she save IBM?”

Cynthia Murrell, June 13, 2017

Whirlpool Snaps up Yummly, Recipe Search Engine

June 2, 2017

IBM Watson’s book or recipes may have been a harbinger for foodies. Now Whirlpool, the appliance manufacturer, has taken another step into the future with the acquisition of tech start-up company Yummly, a recipe search engine/shopping list creator with 20 million users.  Terms of the deal have not been made public.

Techcrunch reports in Whirlpool Acquires Yummly, The Recipe Search Engine Last Valued At $100M:

Yummly basically can help extend the kinds of services that Whirlpool can offer … it can (generate) more recipes and other suggestions for your food items; Yummly has created a lot of specific parameters for recipe searches which help make results more specific to what users need.

Yummly will maintain its offices and act as a subsidiary of Whirlpool.  The acquisition provides Whirlpool with new avenues into technology and Yummly with a source a revenue as it continues to grow.

As tech start-ups continue to spring up and established companies evolve, nothing remains the same. Whirlpool seems to agree with us at Beyond Search. IBM Watson’s recipes are more like kale sandwiches than a trucker’s special.

Mary Pattengill, June 2, 2017

IBM (The Great Innovator) Tells India: You Are Not Innovative

May 22, 2017

I don’t know much about India. I have interacted with a handful of Indian entrepreneurs over the years. I owned a bit of a company set up and managed by a fellow from India. He struck me as bright and, I suppose, the word “innovative” suits him. I also spent a little time with the entrepreneur who created Aglaya. This is an outfit which has some technology which struck me as innovative if you think performing wireless intercepts when a person of interest is going about their daily routine innovative. I have had other bump ups over the last 40 years. These ranged from bright nuclear engineers at Halliburton Nuclear to chipper MBAS with good idea when I worked at the fun factory Booz, Allen & Hamilton to the assorted engineers I encountered in my other work.

To sum up, Indian engineers are not much different from engineers from other countries. I assume that parental guidance, curiosity, and being intelligent were the common factor. Country of origin was not exactly a predictor in my experience.

Well, gentle reader, that’s not how IBM perceives innovation from an entire country if the data in “New Study Finds 90% Of Indian Startups Will Fail Because Of Lack Of Innovation” is on the money. IBM allegedly learned that because India (now that’s a generalization) is not innovative, Indian start ups will fail. Pretty remarkable finding from the company which has tallied five years of declining revenue and the wonky Watson Lucene-based confection.


Innovative? IBM and its researchers are convinced that their work is changing the world. Don’t believe me? Ask Watson. I would not ask a shareholder.

I learned from the report about IBM’s research:

India might have become the third largest startup ecosystem, but it lacks successful innovation.

India is a big country. Doesn’t it seem likely that some individuals would attempt to start new firms instead of trying to get a job at the local bank?

IBM and Oxford Economics found that

90% of Indian startups fail within the first five years. And the most common reason for failure is lack of innovation — 77% of venture capitalists surveyed believe that Indian startups lack new technologies or unique business models.

Yeah, but don’t startups have a high mortality rate? Don’t the business models track with legal ways to generate revenue widely used by other countries’ entrepreneurs? Heck, most patents are stuffed with references to prior art? The innovation is the cuteness of the wording in the claims in many cases, right?


You think this is innovative? You are uninformed. IBM’s study verifies the lack of innovation in India. Tear this allegedly innovative building down. Go with an IBM glass “instant building.”

Not only are those Indian entrepreneurs unimaginative when it comes to making money, IBM’s study reports:

Other reasons cited for failure include lack of skilled workforce and funding, inadequate formal mentoring and poor business ethics, according to the study. It’s well known that most Indian startups are prone to emulate successful global ideas, by and large fine tuning an existing model to serve the local need…

With more than a billion people, it seems logical to focus on the market at hand.

But IBM’s data seems to impugn India for other faults; for example:

India doesn’t have meta level startups such as Google, Facebook or Twitter….Unsurprisingly, in 2016, Asian Paints was the only Indian organization in Forbes’ 25 most innovative companies, and Gillette India was among Forbes Top 25 Innovative Growth companies.

Ah, ha. The capitalist tool Forbes includes only one company called by the surprisingly American moniker Gillette India (very creative indeed) is on the Forbes Top 25 innovative growth companies.

A guru may be the source of this insightful comment:

Even in evolving AI technology, Indian entrepreneurs are not pioneers.

But IBM sees the sun peeking through the heavy Indian clouds:

The IBM report adds that while strong government promotion of entrepreneurship has strengthened the startup culture, India’s economic openness and large domestic market are significant advantages.

What’s with IBM and its somewhat negative discussion of India? Is there an IBM Watson skeleton in the Big Blue closet wearing an IBM Watson t shirt? Did IBM’s own initiatives in India fail? Did a senior IBM executive have a bad experience at the decidedly non creative Taj Mahal? Maybe an Indian rug did not match the interior designer’s vision for Armonk carpetland?

That odd ball digit zero. I had a math professor or maybe it was my half crazy relative who may have contributed some non creative ideas to the Kolmogorov Arnold Moser theorem who told me that some Indian number crunchers cooked up the idea of a zero. IBM’s report suggests that Brahmagupta’s use of computation with the zero was definitely not innovative. I assume that means my crazed relative was innovative, not autistic, anti social, and usually lost in mathematical wonderland.

IBM is familiar with zeros. That’s the symbol I associate with IBM Watson’s contribution to IBM financial future. IBM is, of course, more innovative. It has lots of patents. Revenue growth? Nah, just money to spend proving that India’s start ups work pretty much like any other country’s start ups. Lots of failures.

Final thought: Why didn’t IBM just ask Watson about India. Why involve humans at all? By the way, where’s IBM’s Alexa, its Pixel phone, or its Facebook social network? Watson, Watson, are you there or just pondering life as an non innovative zero?

Stephen E Arnold, May 22, 2017

Did IBM Watson Ask Warren Buffet about Value?

May 19, 2017

I read “$4 Billion Stock Sale Suggests Warren Buffett’s Love Affair with IBM Is Over.” The subtitle caught my eye. What would Watson think about this statement:

Berkshire Hathaway’s founder Warren Buffett has admitted that buying IBM shares was a mistake. He has sold 30 percent of his 81 million shares because the company failed to live up to the expectations it held in 2011.

If I had access to a fully functioning (already trained) IBM Watson, I would ask Watson that question directly.

Last night I was watching the NBA playoff game between the technically adept Houston team and the programming-crazed San Antonio team. There in the middle of a start and stop game was an IBM Watson commercial.

Let me tell you that the IBM Watson message nestled comfortably amidst the tats, the hysterical announcers, and the computer-literature crowd.

IBM has a knack for getting its message out to buyers with cash in their hands for a confection of open source, home brew, and acquired technology.

Why doesn’t Warren Buffet get the message?

According the the write up, Mr. Buffet explains what message he received about IBM:

… IBM “hasn’t done what, five or six years ago, I expected would happen – or what the management expected would happen, if you look back at what they were projecting, and how they thought the business would develop. “The earnings have been obviously disappointing. I mean, five or six years ago, I think they were earning $20+ billion pre-tax and maybe it’s $13 billion now, and I don’t think the quality of the earnings has improved. “It’s been a period when it’s been tougher than they thought and it’s been tougher than I thought. But I was wrong. I don’t blame them. I get paid to make my own decisions, and sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong.

Interesting but not quite as remarkable as smart software being advertised to NBA fans. Air ball.

Stephen E Arnold, May 19, 2017

Malware Infected USB Sticks on the Loose

May 18, 2017

Oops. We learn from TechRepublic that “IBM Admits it Sent Malware-Infected USB Sticks to Customers.”

The article cites the company’s support Advisory Post announcing the problem, a resource anyone who has received an IBM Storwize V3500, V3700 or V5000 USB drive should check for the models and serial numbers affected. The recommended fix—destroy the drive and, if you’d already inserted it, perform a malware purge on your computer.

Writer Conner Forrest describes:

So, what does the infected drive actually do to a system? ‘When the initialization tool is launched from the USB flash drive, the tool copies itself to a temporary folder on the hard drive of the desktop or laptop during normal operation,’ the IBM post said. Then, a malicious file is copied to a temporary folder called %TMP%\initTool on Windows or /tmp/initTool on Linux or Mac. It is important to note that, while the file is copied onto a machine, it isn’t actually executed during the initialization process, the post also said. As reported by ZDNet’s Danny Palmer, the malware was listed by Kaspersky lab as a member of the Reconyc Trojan malware family, which is primarily used in Russia and India.

It might be understandable if this were the first time this had happened, but IBM also unwittingly distributed infected USB drives back in 2010, at the AusCERT conference in Australia. Let us hope there is not a third time; customers rightly expect more vigilance from such a prominent company.

Cynthia Murrell, May 18, 2017

Passion for the Work Is Key to Watson Team HR

May 17, 2017

Have you ever wanted to be on the IBM Watson team? Business Insider shares, “An IBM Watson VP Says He’s Hired Candidates Without Even Conducting an Interview—Here’s Why He’d Hire You on the Spot.” The brief write-up introduces Watson’s VP of HR Obed Louissant, who reveals that he has offered some folks a job they weren’t actually seeking after speaking with them. Writer Áine Cain specifies:

In certain conversations, Louissant says that he’s been blown away by the passion and engagement with which some individuals speak about their work. … ‘It was more about the experience and what types of places they like to work at,’ Louissant says. If the type of workplace happens to sound just like IBM Watson, the branch of the company that focuses on the question answering computer system, then Louissant says he’s willing to make a job offer right then and there.”

So, never underestimate the power of revealing a passion for your work. It could just land you a better job someday, with Louissant or other corporate leaders who, like him, are ready to snap up enthusiastic workers as soon as they recognize them.

Cynthia Murrell, May 17, 2017

IBM Watson: A Joke?

May 10, 2017

I wanted to ask IBM Watson is it thought the article “IBM’s Watson Is a Joke, Says Social Capital CEO Palihapitiya.” No opportunity. Bummer.

I learned from the real journalism outfit CNBC, which has been known to sell advertising, that:

“Watson is a joke, just to be completely honest,” he said in an interview with “Closing Bell” on the sidelines of the Sohn Investment Conference in New York.

The Social Capital top dog added:

“I think what IBM is excellent at is using their sales and marketing infrastructure to convince people who have asymmetrically less knowledge to pay for something,” Palihapitiya added. “I put them and Oracle in somewhat of the same bucket.”

I like that “asymmetrically less knowledge.” It suggests that the PR firms, the paid consultants who flog the word “cognitive,” and the torrent of odd ball conference talks are smoke and mirrors.

Should one put one’s money into IBM? My reading of the article suggests that the CNBC expert believes that Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are where the action is. What? No Alphabet Google thing?

Several observations:

  1. Describing something in marketing science fiction is fun and can be lucrative. The reality is that Lucene, home brew code, and acquired technology do not add up to a breakthrough in smart software. Sorry, cheerleaders.
  2. Reporting five years of declining revenue puts hyperbole in context. IBM is simply trying to hard to push Watson into everything from recipes to healthcare. The financial reports tell me that the bet is not working.
  3. Creating wild and crazy Super Bowl ads which suggest a maximum refund tips toward carnival marketing. Floating white cubes are just as incomprehensible to me as PT Barnum’s Feejee mermaid.

Perhaps IBM can roll out a TV spot with Mr. Barnum’s Chang and Eng as a spokes-people.

Stephen E Arnold, May 9, 2017

How to Use a Quantum Computer

April 20, 2017

It is a dream come true that quantum computers are finally here!  But how are we going to use them?  PC World discusses the possibilities in, “Quantum Computers Are Here—But What Are They Good For?”  D-Wave and IBM both developed quantum computers and are trying to make a profit from them by commercializing their uses.  Both companies agree, however, that quantum computers are not meant for everyday computer applications.

What should they be used for?

Instead, quantum systems will do things not possible on today’s computers, like discovering new drugs and building molecular structures. Today’s computers are good at finding answers by analyzing information within existing data sets, but quantum computers can get a wider range of answers by calculating and assuming new data sets.  Quantum computers can be significantly faster and could eventually replace today’s PCs and servers. Quantum computing is one way to advance computing as today’s systems reach their physical and structural limits.

What is astounding about quantum computers are their storage capabilities.  IBM has a 5-qubit system and D-Wave’s 2000Q has 2,000 qubit.   IBM’s system is more advanced in technology, but D-Wave’s computer is more practical.  NASA has deployed the D-Wave 2000Q for robotic space missions; Google will use it for search, image labeling, and voice recognition; and Volkswagen installed it to study China’s traffic patterns.

D-Wave also has plans to deploy its quantum system to the cloud.  IBM’s 5-qubit computer, on the other hand, is being used for more scientific applications such as material sciences and quantum dynamics.  Researchers can upload sample applications to IBM’s Quantum Experience to test them out.  IBM recently launched the Q program to build a 50-qubit machine.  IBM also wants to push their quantum capabilities in the financial and economic sector.

Quantum computers will be a standard tool in the future, just as the desktop PC was in the 1990s.  By then, quantum computers will respond more to vocal commands than keyboard inputs.

Whitney Grace, April 20, 2017

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