Collaboration, embracing disruptive tech key: Tharman

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam speaking at the launch of IBM's Watson Centre at Marina Bay.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam speaking at the launch of IBM's Watson Centre at Marina Bay. PHOTO: IBM

Collaboration and embracing disruptive technology are key to maximising the potential of new technology, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

To that end, he urged companies to collaborate, and individuals to embrace disruptive technology.

Mr Tharman was speaking yesterday at the launch of computer giant IBM's Watson Centre at Marina Bay, part of its new Asia-Pacific headquarters. "This centre is... about partnerships between big and small players, and co-creation of solutions. I think it's an interesting space to be exploited... You want to maximise the enabling feature of these new technologies, for small enterprises especially," he said.

While some jobs may be displaced, using new technology can help enhance, create, and place people in better jobs, he said.

The centre, at the Marina Bay Financial Centre, is a first for IBM in housing its research, cognitive solutions and interactive experience teams under one roof to collaborate on business solutions.

The firm's cross-functional approach has generated innovative solutions with quick delivery times.

GOOD LOCATION FOR HQ

Singapore companies and the Government are proud to be the first users of technology. One of the key reasons for having our headquarters here is that it's highly conducive to our business.

MR TONY MENEZES, IBM vice-president of cognitive solutions for Asia-Pacific.

Citing a project delivered for an airline operating across Asia, Mr Stefan Hirsch, the Asean lead for IBM's interactive experience team said that in nine weeks, they created and delivered a solution for the airline to cut boarding time from 22 minutes to seven minutes.

The team's latest tie-up with another carrier, Singapore Airlines, led to the creation of two mobile apps to help pilots prepare for flights.

Mr Hirsch added that demand in the region is healthy and that he expected revenues for the interactive experience team to double this year.

IBM has been focused on growing its cognitive computing portfolio, sold under the Watson platform.

Watson, which began as an artificial intelligence engine which famously beat humans on the TV quiz show Jeopardy!, is a cognitive technology tool that can analyse vast amounts of data, make sense of it, and, critically, learn from new data.

Yesterday, the firm announced its first healthcare project here, in a tie-up with Parkway Pantai healthcare group to use Watson technology in intensive care (ICU) units at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.

The technology will help nurses analyse vast reams of data quickly and offer patient monitoring. For instance, as patients can often develop secondary conditions after ICU admission, the technology helps alert nurses and clinicians to conditions which may not be immediately apparent through monitoring data of the patients' vital signs.

The Watson platform is already deployed here. DBS Bank uses Watson to help relationship managers analyse market and customer data, while the Government uses it to lift services for personal income tax, and employment and work passes.

Mr Tony Menezes, IBM vice-president of cognitive solutions for Asia-Pacific, said that cognitive solutions "will take over the world".

Clients in the Asian region "want to go faster than people think".

"Singapore is a fast adopter of technology. Singapore companies and the Government are proud to be the first users of technology. One of the key reasons for having our headquarters here is that it's highly conducive to our business."

He added that clients are thinking about how cognitive solutions can solve operational efficiencies and create new businesses.

"We are in the early stages of the cognitive era. The business models of how people use it are still evolving and we are going to see exponential take-offs here."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2016, with the headline 'Collaboration, embracing disruptive tech key: Tharman'. Print Edition | Subscribe