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Growing and succeeding in the cognitive era

Using IBM's cloud capabilities, IBM business partners are pushing the boundaries with their innovations.

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"We are embracing new age ISVs (independent software vendors), CSPs (cloud service providers), and born-in-the-cloud startups in the app-based economy, with faster development cycles and access to new markets and buyers, to offer our scalable cloud and SaaS (software as a service) driven solutions." - Hui Li Lee, vice president, IBM Global Business Partners, Asia Pacific

SMARTER search results on hotel booking systems, a locker ledger network to improve "last mile" delivery, and a way to bring e-commerce to India's millions of mom-and-pop stores.

These are but three of many innovative - and revenue boosting - solutions that have emerged from businesses in Singapore and elsewhere, businesses on IBM's PartnerWorld programme, which underwent a major redesign earlier this year.

Changes were rolled out with the aim of helping IBM Business Partners to spur growth, customer satisfaction and revenue in what has come to be known as the "cognitive era" - one in which artificial intelligence and thinking technology will shape businesses, the products and services they offer, and how they offer them.

"As digital and cloud solutions continue to transform industries, now is the time for our partners to deliver cognitive solutions with deep expertise built on the IBM Cloud platform and made available in an omni-channel environment," said Marc Dupaquier, general manager, IBM Global Business Partners, back in February, when IBM unveiled its redesigned PartnerWorld programme.

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In this region, in particular, says IBM Global Business Partners, Asia Pacific, vice president Hui Li Lee, IBM is focused on helping existing Business Partners to create new and innovative revenue streams, by tapping the full breadth of IBM's portfolio.

Already, there are Business Partners that have found success by tapping the IBM PartnerWorld ecosystem of over 40 competencies, particularly the ones in high-growth areas such as cloud, cognitive and security technology.

Here in Singapore, for instance, Zumata Technologies is using IBM Watson, IBM's artificial intelligence (AI) platform for businesses, to power smarter and more personalised hotel recommendations.

The travel technology company - which supplies consolidated hotel inventory services to major global travel and tourism players such as Expedia, Amadeus and Dhisco - is using a combination of Watson APIs (AlchemyLanguage, Visual Recognition and Retrieve & Rank) on its new platform. By aggregating data and images across more than 60 global hotel providers, social media reviews and other sources of information, Zumata says it can now deliver recommendations that are far more sophisticated than a search result that merely sorts hotels by destination and date.

ROOM WITH A VIEW

For instance, a customer could type "I need a luxury hotel in Sydney with a view of the opera house, an indoor pool and free wifi," and be served up images of views from the hotel, amenities and other travellers' reviews of each hotel. The system learns with each interaction and can also learn about each user, to become more personalised over time.

Josh Ziegler, CEO of Zumata, says: "We are delighted to be working with IBM to leverage Watson's capability to process natural language queries and uncover insights from massive amounts of unstructured data - including reviews, blogs, news articles, press releases, images and more - in order to match customers with their perfect travel experience,"

Then, there are startups such as FreshTurf, which has been working with IBM Bluemix Garage developers and designers here in Singapore to create a network of storage lockers for shipping and parcel delivery, by using IBM cloud and blockchain technologies.

The Garage is an initiative that uses the IBM Bluemix cloud platform and agile development methodologies to "create a bridge between the scale of enterprises and the culture of startups". IBM has a network of these innovation centres across the globe; the Singapore one is at Marina Bay Financial Centre.

FreshTurf's founders Kevin Lim and Jarrod Hong want to improve the experience of online shopping in Singapore by eliminating the inconveniences of failed deliveries and tedious claims processes. "As a startup, we wanted a partner and mentor who would guide us through the journey of adopting blockchain and building with cloud, while also helping us to grow," says Mr Hong. They were able to build their concept swiftly that way, the co-founders say.

Indeed, IBM's Hui Li Lee says: "We are embracing new age ISVs (independent software vendors), CSPs (cloud service providers), and born-in-the-cloud startups in the app-based economy, with faster development cycles and access to new markets and buyers, to offer our scalable cloud and SaaS (Software as a service) driven solutions."

POSITIVE SPIN-OFFS

At times, these have wide-reaching positive spin-offs beyond success for the IBM Business Partner.

Take Pace Automation's "RetailSmart" solution, for instance, an end-to-end solution, powered by IBM Cloud, that could change the way millions of micro retailers do business, by getting India's ubiquitous "Kirana" neighbourhood stores e-commerce ready.

"RetailSmart" aims to help these stores deliver an online shopping experience to customers, with safe payment options. It also pulls them automatically into the SmartKirana network, hosted on IBM Cloud from its Chennai data centre.

There is also Talview, a leading HR technology solution provider, which has used 6 Watson APIs on IBM Bluemix, to disrupt the global recruitment industry. Its AI-enabled recruitment platform offers video interviewing, online assessments, behavioural insights, chatbot, simulations and gamification, and allows employers to use sophisticated screening criteria to evaluate candidates speedily.

Security remains an ever-present concern for businesses in this cognitive era, one that solutions such as Samsung SDS Nexsign are aimed squarely at. The biometric authentication solution, showcased at IBM InterConnect 2017, is accessible over IBM's Bluemix cloud platform and provides easy and password-less login using biometric authentication and a fingerprint scanner enabled mouse.

Indeed, IBM solutions are transforming global businesses, from retailers like India's multi-brand footwear chain Metro Shoes, which has launched a new digital commerce platform powered by Watson Customer Engagement and hosted on IBM Cloud, to startups up like Australia's Lingmo International, which has beaten global competitors in the race to market with the launch of an IBM Watson-powered earpiece that can translate spoken conversations within seconds.

IBM says that as its software-as-a-service grows, partners are bringing in new clients too.

Fintech titan Finastra, born in June 2017 of the merger between Misys and D+H, is an example of an IBM Business Partner that recently started using its high-value cloud capabilities.

It runs its FusionBanking Essence core and digital solutions on IBM Cloud and is also collaborating with IBM on a new financial crime product, and a blockchain-based offering. IBM plans to support Finastra as it develops retail banking proof of concepts and product demos, including using Watson APIs in its products.

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