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20/09/2016

Cognitive Computing – Our Story

“Our machines should be nothing more than tools for extending the powers of the human beings who use them” – Thomas Watson Jr.

EBI Solutions was established in 2001 and since then the team have been responsible for Information Management and Analytics implementations in some of Europe’s biggest multinationals. Our skills have grown as the company has and we are now confidently helping companies to develop their analytic maturity across a number of departments from IT to marketing.

Our cognitive journey began two years ago when we became one of the first organisations to join IBM’s Watson Ecosystem. This gave us access to IBM’s bleeding edge cognitive technology and a team of experts who were on hand to help us bring our solutions to market. Our first cognitive solution was Ottolly, a cognitive app for automotive technicians that offers instructions on how to fix components of a vehicle.

Ottolly – Natural Language Technical Assistant

cogitive-our-story-2 Ottolly ingests user manuals and guides published by the vehicle manufacturers and uses Watson Q&A services to deliver answers to users of the app. All the beautiful cognitive technology sits under the covers of an intuitive web-based management console and user friendly app which means that queries can be asked in natural language, and a feedback loop ensures that Ottolly’s knowledge is maintained and improved.

From Ottolly to chatbots

So if Ottolly was where it all began, where are we at now?

As we talk to more companies about Ottolly, it’s clear to see that this is just the tip of the iceberg. While Ottolly works wonders for automotive technicians, we quickly realised that the true value of Ottolly lay, not in this specific use case, but in the tooling we’ve built that allows users of all kinds to ask questions in natural language when vast amounts of information are at play.  Our latest cognitive projects have included:

  • A version of Ottolly built for automotive consumers, rather than technicians, allowing them to interact with the user handbook of their own vehicle –  “How do I open the petrol cap?”
  • A web based chatbot that allows tenants of rental properties to solve problems – “My central heating isn’t working.”
  • A Facebook Messenger chatbot that allows customers to create and manage ferry bookings.
  • A chatbot that handles queries based on FAQs which reduces the number of “red calls” – those with no revenue benefit – to the call centre.

The business benefits of these “simple” solutions are huge; improved customer experience, call centre cost savings, improved first call out resolution rates and better resource allocation of, for example, maintenance staff.

Working in partnership with both customers and IBM has allowed us to refine our approach to the process of building cognitive solutions, and has ensured our solutions are best of breed. At every step of the process from design to implementation, we have developed best practice methodologies which have improved our time to value.  What we now have is:

  • A rich and comprehensive toolset for ingesting data from a variety of sources
  • A web-based management console
  • Various app or chatbot user interface options
  • A feedback loop for ongoing training, maintenance and improvement
  • Starter kits for natural language entities, e.g. handling locations, dates, even pet types.

Rapid rate of development

And while we’ve been developing cognitive solutions for more industries and more use cases, IBM has been making our job easier. The Watson that competed on Jeopardy! In 2011 comprised of what is now a single API – Q&A – within a family of 28 Watson APIs with more being added almost every quarter. These include Personality Insights, Language Translation, Tone Analyser, and Retrieve & Rank. Watson APIs are all hosted on IBM Bluemix, an open-standard, cloud-based platform for building, managing, and running applications of all types. This means that, in partnership with EBI, a Watson pilot can start from a low price point, but you can have the confidence that the underlying technology is comfortable scaling to the largest of implementations.

Contact EBI today to start your cognitive journey.

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