The Next Wave (Part 2)

Jack Lynch
Written by Jack Lynch
on June 28, 2012

As I pointed out in my first post and as I will also be talking about to attendees of Wolters Kluwer’s 2012 Technology Conference in my upcoming key note tomorrow, the next wave of technology innovation I see coming our way is something that I call “Intelligent Content EveryWare”. As we are moving towards an era of Ubiquitous Computing and continue to move along the data to information to intelligence continuum, great opportunities open up that allow us to add even more value to the work lives of the professionals we serve. Let’s look at two important developments that form the basis for “Intelligent Content EveryWare:” Intelligence and Actionable Content.

In the last year we have been reminded of one of the great ambitions of computer scientists for decades—to replicate the intelligence of human beings in silicon. Siri, the Virtual Assistant with attitude, began helping us with restaurant tips and driving directions while Watson beat the all time Jeopardy champion, Ken Jennings at a know-it-all game most of us mere mortals have grown accustom to losing. It is tempting to think that the era of Artificial Intelligence has arrived and it is just a matter of time before virtual doctors and attorneys begin to dot the professional landscape. It is tempting until you understand that a human being performs 10,000 trillion calculations per second and functions in the ethereal realms of judgment and imagination where not even a magic decoder ring can unlock the mystery and majesty of human intelligence.

But to address the practical pressures health care, legal and financial professionals face today, we do not need to replicate their intelligence. There are far more modest and yet compelling uses of artificial intelligence in our industry. Today, Google spends over $2 billion a year in R&D and, according to Peter Norvig, its chief researcher, a large chunk of that is dedicated to artificial intelligence. In Search, for example, Google is using intelligence to better anticipate an end user’s intent and use “reasoning” to sift through an ocean of information to get the user exactly what they want.

Open Domain Q&A systems like Watson use Natural Language Processing to semantically deconstruct a question before pouring through thousands of volumes of text to derive a handful of hypothetical “answers” which are then tested with evidence for confidence before the most confident answer is selected for the end user. It completes the entire process in a few seconds with the aid of a supercomputer and illustrates how powerful the sub domain of semantics can be for our industry.

Sometimes the best response to a question is another question. Virtual Advisors use their knowledge-bases to narrow the problem space through an intelligent dialogue. Much in the same way you experience when you go to see a doctor or lawyer, they use their expertise to narrow in on the problem before pointing to a solution or handing off the client to a human expert with a much more narrowly defined problem space.

Finally, Artificial Intelligence will be used in monitoring and surveillance as we instrument corporations and health care facilities with intelligent sentries that dedicate themselves to looking for out-of-boundary conditions and alert professionals when the conditions arise. Here, the value proposition is to reduce the number of false positives so when a professional gets an alert they will listen and take action.

For centuries we have been using tools as extensions of our physical selves. Now we can use tools as extensions of our mental selves. Technology as extension will allow a doctor to allocate more of their time to higher value activities, increase their capacity for delivering care to a larger number of patients and, as counterintuitive as it seems, personalize patient care.

Today we are going through a paradigm shift in how content is delivered to our customers. A shift from the model where professionals search for the information they require to do their work to the model where Wolters Kluwer plays a far more proactive role in matching content to a professional’s work context. From a technology perspective, that means moving from a model where we structure content through meta tags and taxonomies to make it more “discoverable” to a model where we continue to structure for discoverability but also use Natural Language Processing, Text Analytics and domain expertise to make the content more “actionable”.

You may have noticed that six months ago if you asked Google “who won the Red Sox /Yankees game last night?” The result would have been “News Results for the Red Sox”. In contrast, today they will give you the answer to your question: Red Sox 4 – 1 Yankees. Google is extracting “entities”– a person, place or thing from unstructured text and then they place the entities, the relationships among entities in semantic stores so questions can be asked of the data. In effect, we are moving from delivering documents to answers– answers that can be incorporated into the production of a work product or used as decision support. 

This is what we are beginning to call at Wolters Kluwer– “actionable content.” It is important because the professionals we serve have less time and more information to manage. And it is also important because content is no longer contained within the covers of a book or the boundaries of a proprietary interface. Professionals are mobile. The content they use to do their jobs needs to be accessible from anywhere and delivered in a manner that is appropriate to their location and context. As a result, the content we produce needs to be more “intelligent” and “context aware” which brings us to EveryWare that I will discuss in my next post.


There have been made comments on this article

  1. John Barker on at

    In addition to “ubiquitous computing”, I like the concepts of “ambient computing” and “ambient content.” They all refer to the same thing but each phrase could be relevant in different contexts. The Internet of Things is also a component (everything has a URL, sensors are embedded in every object).

Leave a comment

Exploring trends, content, technology, and new ideas in the global information industry. New posts every Monday, Friday, and whenever the innovation bug inspires us. Visit to learn all about us.
Recent comments