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Cognitive technology and AI on show at Watson Summit in Auckland

Booked-out conference signals growing interest in the next wave of ICT.
IBM NZ managing director Mike Smith opens the company's Watson Summit in Auckland today.

IBM NZ managing director Mike Smith opens the company's Watson Summit in Auckland today.

IBM New Zealand managing director Mike Smith kicked off the company's Watson Summit in Auckland today announcing IBM will join NZ Tech's AI Forum.

Delegates at the booked-out venue at Shed 10 on Auckland's waterfront assembled to see demonstrations of business applications and to hear quick-fire presentations from experts, developers and users.

Cognitive is here today, was the message delivered by Joanna Batstone, CTO and vice president of research of IBM Australia and New Zealand, referencing early users such as Australia's Woodside Energy.

Cognitive systems are not just for large businesses like Woodside she said, citing work undertaken locally with Chef Watson to design cocktails for IBM's recent office opening and in developing Cognitive Fashion. AI is also transforming the treatment of skin cancer, she said, as part of New Zealand company MoleMap's toolkit.

Thirteen-year-old Canadian coder Tanmay Bakshi, billed as the "youngest working algorithmist” in the world followed, describing how he used AI and neural networks to model the human brain and nervous system.

Recently Tanmay collaborated with IBM and others on the open source "Cognitive Story" project to apply cognitive technologies to help individualswith special needs to communicate and express their emotions.

Bakshi said this demonstrates how AI is not replacing people, as often feared, but augmenting them and their lives. 

Watson was developed to allow easy access to deep learning applications, Bakshi said. IBM's Darviz has made this even more accessible, allowing deep learning applications to be developed through dragging and dropping without writing code.

Bakshi also demonstrated another project, DeepSpade, an AI powered spam detector developed for StackExchange.

Jeremy Hubbard, head of digital technologies at challenger brand UBank, owned by Australian banking giant NAB, demonstrated the bank's RoboChat AI powered virtual customer service agent.

RoboChat, which has been live for two months, sits within the bank's webpage servicing customers making homeloan applicationsapplications.

Financial technology company Promontory Financial Group, now owned by IBM, outlined how AI can be used to help ensure regulatory compliance in banking.

A massive skills shortage in compliance worldwide was helping to drive such development, said CEO Dr Jeff Carmichael.

Compliance was once where people considered past their use-by date were sent, he said, Not any more after a "tsunami" of regulation in response to the global financial crisis.

"It is a whole different level of compliance that is expected," Carmichael said.

AI can help indentify, for instance, files that are not in compliance with regulations for further attention.