AI and analytics capabilities will be key as Big Blue helps businesses reopen during pandemic
The Lowdown: IBM is one of a growing number of tech companies – including Aruba Networks, Salesforce, and ServiceNow – that are giving enterprises and SMBs the tools and resources they need to safely have employees come back to the office after weeks of working from home to comply with governmental lockdown orders.
The Details: The Watson Works program, announced Thursday, delivers data-driven insights to inform businesses’ decisions around everything from employees re-entering the workplace and facilities management to allocating space to ensure social distancing. Among the coronavirus-related challenges Watson Works addresses are:
> Facilities management and space allocation: Data collected through Wi-Fi networks, cameras, Bluetooth beacons, and mobile phones will give managers real-time information to create no-go zones, promote social distancing, set cleaning schedules, and monitor crowd density and mask-wearing while protecting employee privacy.
> Employee health: Business officials can made decisions based on evidence about when employees can return to the workplace and when sites should be closed. Data about local infection rates and trends, voluntarily shared employee symptoms and test results, employee and household health risks, and government regulations also can be collected and analyzed.
> Communication: Virtual agents and apps that use Watson’s natural language processing capabilities can make it easier for employees to self-report symptoms, learn whether they should report on a given day, and get answers from employers regarding COVID-19 and HR issues.
> Contact tracing: Watson Works can support care agents and contact tracers as they deal with employee health and identify, track, and interview people infected workers have been in contact with and who should be notified.
The Impact: Businesses face a difficult balancing act as they reopen their offices and other workplaces in a manner that’s most safe for employees and customers while also protecting their privacy and the data collected. Key in many programs from tech vendors are such capabilities around data collection and analysis, intelligence, security, and privacy.
The Buzz: “We’ve designed Watson Works to help businesses navigate the workplace with the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis as effectively as possible,” said Bob Lord, senior vice president of cognitive applications, blockchain, and ecosystems at IBM. “Applying AI models and applications is especially useful in this context, where there are so many different sources of information businesses must consider, and every aspect of the situation is in flux.”