Tag Archives: traditional industries

cognitive technology

Cognitive technology is the future, digital is simply a platform

Digital disruption is no longer confined to the online world – if indeed it ever was. We’ve already begun to see cognitive technology – technology able to perform what were traditionally human tasks – disrupt industries that we’ve previously considered as offline; from taxis to hotels and even door-to-door deliveries.

In order to innovate for tomorrow however, we need to stop thinking in terms of “online” and “offline”, because digital is simply a platform, and it’s “cognitive” that’s the future.

Living in the cognitive era

Throughout the age of digital disruption, we saw industries which have, until now, underestimated the impact that technology can have on their operations.

Now, we find ourselves in the “cognitive era” – an age in which cognitive technology can understand, reason, learn and interact with natural language, and is very quickly bridging the human and machine divide in industries which never expected to be digitally disrupted. 

We are seeing augmented intelligence transform industries which have traditionally had a relatively low demand to “go digital”; industries such as healthcare, natural resources, and even fashion.

The thought of partnering AI technology with a creative industry like fashion seemed a little bit sci fi just a few years ago, yet is now on our doorstep. 

Cognitive technology in healthcare

In healthcare, cognitive technology is already playing a key role in progressing the science of how we tackle the big health battles of today, such as cancer and chronic illness.

The number of Australians affected by cancer is expected to rise by almost 15% between now and 2020, and preventable chronic illnesses place a heavy burden on our health systems. It all comes down to early detection. Take skin cancers and melanomas for example; identifying the subtlest of changes in skin lesions as early as possible is key to a patient’s survival.

IBM Research is using image analytics and cognitive technology to help doctors identify these changes in dermatological images, and improve the rate of early detection.

The same logic applies to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease; the earlier we can identify at-risk patients and put them into preventative care programs, the better their quality of life; and we can also start to lessen the burden on health systems.

Disruption in creative industries

Beyond health, there are other industries ripe for disruption from cognitive technology. Governments and urban planners now count Internet of Things sensors and mobile devices amongst the tools for creating friendlier, smarter and in many ways, self-managing cities.

Even artists and designers have begun to incorporate data into their creative concepts, whether analysing past fashion trends or creating pieces that respond to digital feedback in real-time.

Embracing cognitive computing

The digital age is well and truly a given for all businesses and we must embrace this new era of cognitive computing. The emerging technologies on our doorstep – from the Internet of Things to cognitive technology to quantum computing – will make data even more powerful than it already is.

This means we need to become more ambitious in our disruptive efforts: rather than seeking to simply overturn the latest applications or digital platforms, we should focus on how to apply technology which can understand, reason, learn and interact with phenomena in the physical world, and vice versa.

Dr Joanna Batstone

Chief Technology Officer, IBM Australia 

Vice President and Lab Director, IBM Research

Read next: Joanna Batstone, discusses how scientists and business leaders can work together in disruptive partnerships.

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More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Women in STEM Thought Leadership Series here.

role models

The power of non-linear role models

The world around us is undergoing rapid transformation by people finding innovative ways to use information and technology to better serve our needs. At the heart of these disruptive innovations are people with deep groundings in science, technology, engineering and maths – the STEM disciplines.

Critically, the number of kids studying subjects in school that lead to STEM courses is decreasing. According the Australian Bureau of Statistics only 29% of STEM graduates are women, and in the key disciplines of IT and engineering this falls to 14%. Low enrolment numbers for women in STEM have been a consistent factor since I was an undergraduate in engineering.

Today, Australia competes in the global race for innovative ideas with only half the team – the male half. If we are to develop new industries that move us beyond Australia’s traditional industries and allow us to be globally competitive, we have to change.

For a start, we have to help our kids, and in particular our girls, understand the wealth of opportunities open to them with a STEM foundation. We need to address any perceived or real bias in our high school exam systems and marking arrangements that discourage kids from taking up studies in maths and science. With the highly competitive nature of the results from high school assessments, we need to work to change views that taking STEM subjects could lead to any disadvantage.

We also have to recognise – as a positive – the fact that many STEM graduates will work in roles outside of the classical STEM disciplines. These are role models for a future in which interdisciplinary graduates are able to contribute to the transformation of traditional industries such as the finance, automotive and healthcare sectors.

In an effort to stimulate interest in STEM early on in schooling, Macquarie University runs the FIRST Robotics program in Australia for children in years K–12, with key sponsorship by Google and Ford. This program gives all participants a chance to work as teams that bring together mechanics, electronics, information processing, design and software development skills to build robots and compete with them.

This is an example of how we can not only inspire school students’ interest in STEM, but create pathways for them to pursue these fields into further study, careers, and entrepreneurship in a variety of areas. Today the program involves 5000 kids from 600 schools, and the total numbers of participants across Australia is rapidly growing.

Having stimulated interest at school, we need examples at universities and in the workplace that highlight the important roles that women with STEM backgrounds occupy. This is vital to improving the pull of women through universities and into industries where they are able to make meaningful contributions.

At Macquarie University, we are actively focused on building women’s participation in world-leading research programs through the Science in Australia Gender Equality (SAGE) program. We are able to celebrate the achievements of our world-leading female researchers, including role models such as Macquarie University’s Professor Ewa Goldys (recent winner of a Eureka Award) and Professor Nicki Packer.

Having shining examples of where STEM can take our young women is key to closing the gender gap. We need to expose women to the right kinds of images and messages, which involves having conversations around the non-traditional and non-linear career pathways available to them.

Professor Barbara Ann Messerle

Executive Dean, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Macquarie University

Read next: Deloitte Partner Elissa Hilliard says raising Australia’s STEM IQ means teaching girls foundational skills in their formative school years.

People and careers: Meet women who’ve paved brilliant careers in STEM here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com.

Spread the word: Help Australian women achieve successful careers in STEM! Share this piece on role models using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Graduate Futures Thought Leadership Series here.