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Deep Thinking in IBM Rochester With Watson Analytics

Charles Guarino reflects on the IBM i Driveway to Watson event.

"You and i" in white against a purple banner, white chat bubble in righthand corner, with two planets colliding below.

Today, Charles Guarino is our guest blogger to elaborate more on a topic Steve discussed in August.

I’m Going!

Recently COMMON and IBM announced a very special collaborative event, the IBM i Driveway to Watson. As someone who was completely intrigued by the original Jeopardy! challenge between Watson and champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, I was pumped—not sure how else to describe it. Pumped. I’d have the opportunity to communicate directly with Watson, the same Watson that is now being used in the healthcare space, making significant strides in patient care and outcomes.  For two days, we would be working with IBM i experts who would demonstrate various ways to exploit this cognitive technology and better understand a completely new way of thinking, using a modern business computing paradigm. I didn’t know exactly what to expect but again, I was pumped.

It’s a Whole New World

To be best prepared for the two-day event, I did some preliminary research and visited  One of the main interests to me is how Watson can process data in its natural form, structured or unstructured.  IBM describes our current time as The Cognitive Era. As it says right on the website, “Watson can understand all forms of data, interact naturally with people, learn and reason, at scale.” This is achieved through Natural Language Understanding, or NLU.

Sessions at the Driveway Event

With the session titles listed below, it was clear this was to be no ordinary event. Instead, it was a perfect example of firehose drinking:
  • Introduction to Bluemix
  • Introduction to Watson
  • Connecting Watson to IBM i from Open Source (On-premises vs Cloud)
  • Prepping and Untangling Data from Watson
  • Db2 for i and the Art of the Possible with Watson Services in Bluemix
  • Db2 for i and Watson Analytics
  • Connecting RPG to the World
  • Rest APIs for IBM i
  • Client Stories: Real-world Stories and Successes
  • Hands-on with RPG and Web Services
  • Hands-on with Database
  • Hands-on with Open Source

Event Highlights

I always tell attendees at my sessions when you attend a workshop or a conference, an important metric of success is when you leave with just one or a few nuggets of new and useful information. Here are some key takeaways of my new nuggets.

IBM Bluemix

This was the first level of confusion for me.  Bluemix and Watson seemed inexplicably intertwined.  Two separate sessions were presented, one on Bluemix and the other on Watson.  Each demonstrated how you could use either one independently or collaboratively.   Bluemix is a vast collection of products and services that can be incorporated into your existing applications.   For example, we were shown a real-life application that uses a drone instead of an insurance claims adjuster to take pictures of storm damage on the roofs of houses.  Those images are then transmitted to IBM Cloud where they are analyzed to recognize storm damage, assess new material and labor charges for the given area and produce a claim, all within a couple of hours instead of the traditional few weeks.  To accomplish this requires several of the Bluemix services.  You can learn more about these at

Watson Analytics

When IBM first acquired The Weather Channel, to me they seemed strange bedfellows. It was said it was done to deepen information analytics. While it might not have been entirely clear at the time exactly how all the pieces fit together, today it is abundantly clear. Weather plays a huge factor in all aspects of our lives, and using Watson Analytics we can measure its impact. For example, by incorporating IBM Bluemix and historical weather information with years of sales history, new and interesting patterns can be revealed that were never possible before. And by using weather forecasts, a sales team can be leveraged into the proper areas to maximize future sales. Other examples of better decision making cited by IBM are improving air travel, home energy usage and “turning insurance companies into prevention companies.” And this is only the beginning. It’s pretty amazing stuff.

Language Translation and Tone Analyzer

We were given a working RPG program for language translation, interfacing with Watson under different scenarios, such as SQL, PASE, cURL, Python, Node.js and Java. Source code was provided in each example. It was amazing. In addition, we were introduced to communicating with Watson using REST APIs using IBM i SQL HTTPGETCLOB and JSON_TABLE functions. Amongst them was Watson’s tone analyzer, a service that determines the tenor of written text. For example, it can determine if an inbound email contains a complaint or praise, which could affect which customer service department it is routed to.

Final Thoughts

My two days at IBM Rochester were jam packed with extremely useful and exciting information. If you’re considering attending the next event, I wholeheartedly recommend you review the links included in this blog. They will help you better understand the technology as it is presented to you.  Plus, your interest level will immediately start to rise and before you know it you’ll be reading for hours about this technology. To really wrap this up, read my Facebook and Twitter posts. They went something like this – “For the last two days I've been in meetings learning and interacting with IBM's Watson. It is so thrilling, and I feel reenergized and as excited about computers as when I first got into the field decades ago.” I have a strong feeling you will feel the same way.

IBM i Driveway to Watson - November 28-29.

With an IT career spanning over 30 years, Charles Guarino has been a consultant for most of them. Since 1995 he has been founder and President of Central Park Data Systems, Inc., a Long Island and New York City area-based IBM midrange consulting and corporate training company. In addition to being a professional speaker across the United States and Europe, he is a frequent contributor of technical and strategic articles and webcasts for the IT community. He is a member of COMMON’s Speaker Excellence Hall of Fame and The Long Island Software and Technology Network’s Twenty Top Techies. In 2015, Charles became the proud recipient of the Al Barsa Memorial Scholarship Award.  Additionally, he currently serves as a member of COMMON’s Board of Directors and the Strategic Education Team (SET).  He has recently completed a long-term role as the monthly Q&A host and chairman of the speaker committee for LISUG, a Long Island IBM i User’s Group

Charles can be reached at
LinkedIn -                                                                  
Twitter - @charlieguarino
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