Stephen Baker

The Numerati
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IBM: Numerati paradise

November 17, 2009News

It's been about three weeks that I've been "covering" IBM for BusinessWeek. I haven't done any articles yet, but I get a stream of news items that have to be mouthwatering for the Numerati. The fact is, IBM has been pouring loads of research and investment into data analysis. It's key to the company's strategy.

As I researched the book, it seemed they were on exactly the same trail. I went to the Mayo Clinic and learned that they were doing a huge datamining project with IBM. I went to Las Vegas to look at people-finding software, and IBM had bought Jeff Jonas' company, SRD. A few weeks after I interviewed the founder of Ilog, a French optimization company, IBM gobbled up the company for $340 million. And the trend has continued this year. I went to Prague and spoke at predictive analytics conference sponsored by the SPSS. Two months later, Big Blue swooped in and bought the Chicago company for $1.2 billion.

I'm working on another project this week, but have a look at the press news I got yesterday from IBM:

Tomorrow, IBM will announce two major Research advancements that have significant promise to improve diagnoses, making it faster and simpler to get accurate test results, and tackle the treatment of complex genetic problems. First, IBM scientists have created a one-step point-of-care-diagnostic test that can test for many diseases, including one of world's leading causes of death, cardiovascular disease. IBM Research has developed a diagnostic test based on an innovative silicon chip that requires less sample volume, is significantly faster, portable and easy to use. The new test intends to give doctors back precious seconds in diagnosing diseases, so they can react in seconds instead of minutes and sometimes hours. For example, a doctor could know if a patient is having a heart attack within seconds through a small prick of blood vs. having to diagnose the heart attack using several tests that take longer than seconds.

The second announcement involves the use of advanced analytics to collect and correlate genetic information to provide medical experts with a better understanding of the relationships between hereditary diseases and the observable characteristics of the disease. This is a first-of-a-kind project with Italy's Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute to create a platform that will help manage rare hereditary skeletal diseases. If scientists can better understand the correlation between the genotype and the phenotype (observable characteristics of the disease), patients will benefit from faster and more accurate diagnostics, and doctors will better understand the genomic process that takes place. The new system will provide insight into how the chain of mutations develops and eventually makes its way to phenotypes that are observable in the body. It will also store and bring together all available information involved in an analysis – whether clinical, genomic, or imaging data.



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