May 17, 2012 – IBM is fanning out the business possibilities for its advanced analytics supercomputer Watson with new student-led use cases to detect weather patterns, natural resource opportunities and travel efficiencies.

The University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business harnessed Watson’s analytic discovery, mining and pattern recognition capabilities for a contest that delved into key to issues surrounding transportation, retail and energy. Taking first place was an initiative that synced up weather information and census data – a mix of structured and unstructured content – to recognize emergency resources and administrative needs in the event of storms. Other top entries relied on the supercomputer’s cognitive reasoning capabilities to weed through risk management, compliance and environmental impacts of mining for oil, gas and minerals, as well as a use that parsed massive data sets to maximize security and streamline movement at airports.

All told, the contest involved 25 MBA students split into seven teams that submitted proposals that were judged by business school faculty, western New York business leaders and IBM executives.  Mark Zupan, dean of the graduate business school at the university, said in a news release that the academic competition shows “great opportunity for building further impact in scholarship and teaching through such an initiative in fields as diverse as finance, marketing, consulting, operations, and health care management."

More than just another high-profile rollout of Watson, IBM stated that the Rochester university student applications are meant to promote learning of data’s place across industry verticals. Leaders in education and top IT vendors have warned about the gap in first-hand experience in growing practices such as advanced analytics and big data from students entering the workforce.

In October, IBM put Watson up against top tech and business school students in a competition meant to stoke interest in analytics as a basis for financial services and scientific research. Since Watson made its human-beating debut on the TV trivia show “Jeopardy!” in February 2011 – an appearance four years in the making – Big Blue has followed through on its intent to link the advanced analytic supercomputer to a wide range of projects. Watson has been the basis of a commercial application for up-to-date health care data and client information at Citibank, and is expected to be included in IBM’s future plans for cloud computing and data connectivity.

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