What IBM’s NLP breakthrough means for businesses

'The better the ability to understand language and complex topics, better the ability to deliver outcomes for the business.'
13 March 2020

The computing giant wants machines to understand the nuances of human language. Source: Shutterstock

IBM has announced it will commercialize a new technology that helps computers understand human communication better.

The tech giant will integrate advanced features of Natural Language Processing (NLP) to IBM Watson to boost the machine’s understanding and evaluation of the English language with greater clarity. 

The new features originate from IBM Researcher’s Project Debater — the only AI system capable of engaging in a debate with humans on complex topics. 

Rob Thomas, General Manager of IBM Data and AI, said: “Language is a tool for expressing thought and opinion, as much as it is a tool for information.”

The integration of Project Debater with IBM’s Watson serves as a bridge for businesses to “capture, analyze, and understand more from human language and start to transform how they utilize intellectual capital that’s codified in data.”

As a way to develop the new technologies to a more business-centric approach, business documents (contracts and PDFs) are fed to the artificial intelligence (AI) model for refinement. 

The company laid out plans for the integration of Project Debater technologies into Watson to explicitly focus on three abilities — advanced sentiment analysis, summarization, and advanced topic clustering. 

The advanced model is designed to identify and understand figurative language, such as idioms. Moving forward, the technology will also be able to extract textual data from a variety of texts and provide a summary of the topic.

Drawing links between segregated pieces of documents, the technology will also be able to cluster relevant topics and information. Ideally, the technology will be adept in contextual language and able to categorize business language according to industries. 

“The thumb rule for the success of any NLP project is simple and straight forward – the better the ability to understand language and complex topics, better the ability to deliver outcomes for the business,” Chief Analyst, Founder and CEO of Greyhound Research, Sanchit Vir Gogia, explained. 

Advances in NLP initiatives will propel the capabilities and applications of technologies powered by linguistics. Companies with a head start in adopting NLP-inspired systems will experience greater results in terms of enhanced communications and customer services

For instance, ESPN Fantasy Football analyzes millions of football data sources each day during the season and offer real-time insights to enthusiastic fans. 

Based on findings, the system then summarizes the positive or negative commentaries of a player, and to take it further, the organization engages with fans by highlighting the “boom” and “bust” of each player.

Moving forward, the advancement in NLP will yield results with higher accuracy on language analysis.

For financial firms, the applications take on a different form, but the results are equally transformative. KPMG, one of the Big Four accounting organizations, utilizes NLP technology in streamlining tax compliance activities. 

The digital initiative enables more amount of R&D income tax credits to be reviewed and in a shorter time, helping engineers and scientists to stay focused on R&D work. 

The value of NLP does not go unnoticed as “over 73 percent large organizations globally are either already running a project or looking to launch one in the next 12 months.

“The fact that the work on NLP is moving from IBM’s research labs to commercial availability now, goes to show the progress that has been made with Project Debater and the technology,” Vir Gogia said. 

Essentially, Vir Gogia told TechHQ, the impact of the development would expand across all levels of an organization. 

“Such technologies can significantly benefit organizations looking for better insights from their data and, most importantly, establish a better connection with customers and stakeholders.”