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May 02, 2012

IBM Impact 2012 Covers It All

By Mike Westholder

The IBM Impact 2012 general session Wednesday covered it all: big data, mobile devices, application development, product announcements, client success stories, video games, jokes, the Oscars, and even massive multiplayer thumb wrestling.

Titled “Freedom to Achieve Your Application Potential,” the presentation was emceed by engineer/comedian Don McMillan. “There are lots of funny comedians out there; it’s not hard to be the funniest engineer, though.”

Leading off, Rod Smith, vice president of emerging Internet technologies for IBM Software Group, described the next wave of computing. “We’re seeing emerging technologies pick up the pace. It’s not just from an IT perspective, but in our daily lives as well.”

With social media, the growth in mobile devices and big data, organizations are looking for the next generation of applications, Smith noted. Businesses need to add applications swiftly and react in real time to changes in the market, sometimes based on a business user’s hunch about what’s happening. Businesses must quickly verify these hunches because opportunities arise and evaporate at a moment’s notice in today’s marketplace.

This is a challenge for application developers, Smith said. “Applications must be fluid, adjusting to a user’s context (device, time, location, etc.). Requirements aren’t cast in concrete, but are changing all the time.

“An emerging class of business applications will automatically change as the market dynamics change, providing high value,” he noted. Fortunately, IBM delivers strong, scalable platforms that can be used and developed for business value.

 “So instead of spending a good portion of time considering the infrastructure, you can focus on the application,” Smith added.

He predicts the size of developer teams will decrease, with small, focused teams becoming the norm. The new success metrics for development will be:

  • How fast can applications show value?
  • Is the value it provides unique?
  • Does it have low barriers to entry?

 “This means developers will have to understand new business demands and address them with potentially disruptive technologies,” Smith said. “Developers will have more opportunities to collaborate with the business.”

The result will be do-it-yourself applications, with IT departments providing analytics tools and data for business users to work with. He pointed to USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab, an organization of journalism and communications students interested in research. By collaborating with IBM, Annenberg Lab demonstrates the potential of DIY apps.

Professor Jonathan Taplin, lab director, explained how one doctoral student had collected 800,000 tweets and poured this data into an IBM analytics tool. With words in Arabic, English and French, an analysis found connections between several terms. One message was clear, “video is history,” he said.

Taplin added, “We then looked at entertainment in this way to see if we could find links in terms of movies.” The result was an analysis that could forecast the success of a movie based on positive and negative tweets. It’s also able to pinpoint the best use of advertising dollars—Web vs. TV, for example—in shifting social media opinions and box office results.

Working with IBM and the Los Angeles Times, the Annenberg Lab also helped develop an application for tracking Twitter activity about Oscar-nominated films and actors. Through this visual analysis, movie fans on Twitter proved to be good predictors of the winners on Oscar night.

They even tracked sentiment on Twitter during the Oscar broadcast, tracing positive and negative reactions from viewers. “That is the next generation of television analytics,” Taplin added.

Building on the collaboration theme, Jane McGonigal, director of Game Research and Development at the Institute for the Future in Paulo Alto, Calif., focused on the positive impact of video games, noting that 1 billion people worldwide play games at least one hour a day on a connected device.

“Why is this good news? I’ve been researching games for more than a decade to see how games change how we think and act,” McGonigal noted. “They’re having a huge impact on how we can do things.”

Video gamers are better at communication, collaboration and accomplish things at better rates, she said. According to a Michigan State study, for example, kids who play video games scored 23 percent higher on creativity tests than those who don’t. She calls gamers Super-Empowered Hopeful Individuals who are resilient and overcome challenges.

Gamification, therefore, is an important component to engage and interact with customers, workers, etc. “Should we be gamifying? Yes,” she added.

McGonigal also had the crowd take to its feet and join hands in an attempt to break the world record, unofficially, in massive multiplayer thumb wrestling. During the exercise, people linked hands to thumb wrestle with two or more opponents at a time. The previous record was 2,000 thumbs, McGonigal claims, however, she estimated there were 8,000 on the floor Wednesday.

Following that exercise, Beth Smith, vice president of WebSphere at IBM Software Group, quipped: “I ended up with an IBM Fellow on each thumb.”

Smith reinforced the interconnected nature of today’s world, combined with consumerism and mobility, to define the new norm. “Your customers and employees are trying to interact through their devices,” she said. “So apps need to be developed in terms of a consumer market.”

She returned later in the session to outline some IBM announcements, including the acquisition of Tealeaf Technology. She also covered some new features available in the latest releases of WebSphere software. IBM made several product-related announcements this week at IBM Impact 2012.

Building on the application development theme, IBM Fellow and WebSphere CTO Jerry Cuomo discussed the need to transform organizations into engaging enterprises. He used the fictitious Acme Airlines as example to show how IBM software tools can facilitate client engagement by extending core services. He even offered some code for the application developers in the audience.

“Are you ready to become an engaging enterprise?” Cuomo asked.

Also speaking on Wednesday morning was Senior Director of Strategy, Planning and Architecture Kevin Steele. He explained his company’s journey to transform its IT organization in an effort to improve scalability, speed and reliability. One example he used was the reliable performance of the website during the annual spike in traffic that corresponds to its Super Bowl ad. In 2012, it showed no drop in performance, despite a 1,500 percent spike in traffic. 

“We are in pursuit of becoming an engaging enterprise,” Steele noted.


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