The Double-Edged Sword of Connecting in the Cloud

Reflections from IBM InterConnect 2017

Cloud computing may be the single most disruptive technology of our time. Gartner estimates that $111 billion worth of IT spending will shift to Cloud this year, and that number will nearly double to $216 billion by 2020. But it’s not just the investment in IT that makes Cloud so ground-breaking. It’s also the resulting possibilities – both good and bad – that we in the business community need to understand and solve so we can execute on our strategies for growth and optimize how we make business decisions.

I had the recent pleasure of attending IBM’s InterConnect 2017 event. For three days the Cloud experience captured my full attention. As the week went on, two key action and reaction themes ran through my mind:

  • The Cloud is creating more ways for people and businesses to connect, interact, and relate with each other and the broader community;
  • As we extend these connections exponentially, we need to consider how we protect against the potentially negative side effects; such as data overload and abuse/misuse by nefarious actors.

Cognitive solutions fueled with relevant data offer the best way to take full advantage of opportunities presented by connecting in the Cloud – and solve for risks that could affect us personally and professionally.

Cognitive solutions fueled with relevant data offer the best way to take full advantage of opportunities and solve for risks presented by connecting in the Cloud.

Identifying Disadvantages of Cloud Computing

Twitter is a great example of how embracing the power of cognitive with right site content is helping them confront the double-edged sword of connecting in the Cloud. While we’ve seen the incredible power of Twitter and other social media to rapidly connect with millions of people at a time, we clearly recognize the potential dangers associated if left unchecked. How do we separate the meaningful from the noise? How do we ensure that a “faceless” platform isn’t used for harmful purposes such as cyber bullying or illegal profit?


In the InterConnect 2017 keynote, Chris Moody (Twitter VP of Data Strategy) discussed where Twitter goes next in fighting online abuse. “We’re starting just now to partner with the Watson team. Watson is really good at understanding nuances in language and intention,” he said. “What we want to do is be able to identify abuse patterns early and stop this behavior before it starts.” By leveraging key capabilities of IBM’s cognitive stack, Twitter will be able to sift through massive amounts of data being created at an ever-expanding rate and then understand and organize it into meaningful categories that can be analyzed for connections and tone. This will be one of the steps taken to identify disadvantages of cloud computing.

Risks of Cloud Computing in Corporate World

We need to identify and overcome similar information overload and detect questionable behavior in the business realm. For example, corporate knowledge workers confront these online risks as they use today’s Cloud-based tools and data to build profiles for given companies that they currently or may want to do business with.

How do researchers contend with what IBM calls the four Vs of information?

  • Volume – there’s often more information out there than we can ever manually sift through
  • Velocity – information is changing and expanding faster than our human capacity to process it
  • Variety – there are many different types of information available to digest and compare
  • Veracity – it’s difficult to discern the relative “truthfulness” of disparate pieces of information

While at IBM InterConnect, I partnered with Adam Orentlicher, Director, Horizontal Applications, IBM Watson to present a framework that helps me think about the interplay between cognitive and content and how it can help business users confront both the opportunities and risks that arise in a digitally connected world awash with data.

Business Discovery with Cognitive and Content is the Best Path for Growth

(Image from InterConnect 2017 presentation “Speeding cognitive business results with ready-to-use Watson apps”)

At Dun & Bradstreet, we maintain the largest commercial database of over hundreds of millions of business records spanning 220 countries that changes over five million times a day. We’re contending with different writing systems, languages, changing country laws, natural disaster impacts, fraud, and so on, to best reflect the identity and state of a business at any moment in time. We work with thousands of customers around the world, helping them bring together disparate data from their internal systems and enrich it with our data and analytics to gain relevant insights they need to make confident decisions.

All this practical experience has brought us to our present thinking that the next evolution of business solutions will require organizations to:

  1. Leverage highly curated trusted data to construct the truth about a business in the moment.
  2. Connect information from a wide variety of sources (structured/unstructured, first party/third party, and public) to build an understanding of business entities and their relationships.
  3. Deliver the right information in context of a given use case and across a dimension of time as business situations change.
  4. Enable effective collaboration between people and systems where institutional knowledge becomes embedded in a cognitive solution.

Dun & Bradstreet is partnering with IBM Watson to bring this vision of content and cognition in the Cloud to life. During the conference, Beth Smith, General Manager, IBM Watson Platform, announced plans to release‪ a new software as a service solution called Watson Company Profiler. This pre-built, cognitive discovery solution will enable company intelligence and analysis for business users. Built using Watson Discovery Service, Watson Company Profiler accesses Dun & Bradstreet’s commercial database to help customers acquire market intelligence to better understand the competitive landscape, product positioning, and to potentially identify new targets for merger or acquisition. 

The reality of cloud computing has forever changed how we’ll connect and do business. Those companies who adopt a cognitive with content approach to business discovery, and truly empower collaboration between humans and systems, will gain significant competitive advantage and overcome risks in the 21st century. 


Learn more about Watson Company Profiler and sign up to be among the first to try it.