BUN – Bluemix for the UN ecosystem

16 Jun 2017 12:45h - 14:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports from WSIS Forum 2017]

This session was highly interactive as its goal was to introduce participants to the new collaborative platform created by IBM, called BUN: Bluemix for the UN Ecosystem.

Mr Felix Stähli (co-founder Impact Hub Geneva) welcomed everyone and introduced Impact Hub Geneva as a centre for collaborative space for public, private, and international sectors to work together on producing new societal models that connect all sectors, industries, and cultures. Stähli then asked the audience to think of a problem they encountered in their line of work and which could be solved by leveraging technology and partnership with the private sector. He posed the same question at the end of the workshop and demonstrations, after the audience was familiarised with the Bluemix cloud and the BUN platform.

The moderator, Mr Phillipe Sierra (IBM Global Client Executive for the United Nations ecosystem) explained that the session would explain Bluemix, give a demonstration of its potential use, and, lastly, present the BUN platform. Sierra began by defining Bluemix as a cutting-edge technology, a hybrid cloud with more than 130 available services such as Blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Watson. He then gave a demonstration of the Watson and Terminuter services included in the Bluemix cloud. Watson recognises natural language and processes unstructured data. The user can pose questions, and Watson will draw on results based on ranking, and provide meaningful data from its database. Sierra pointed out that organisations can be featured there if they want their information to be included in the results. Terminuter is another service application, a cognitive assistant that can take minutes during meetings. Moreover, it interacts with participants in the meeting if something is unclear and Terminuter is able to ask questions, understand information, and go beyond simply writing it down. However, the application is still in its beta version and is not yet available on the market. Sierra then explained how BUN works and what it is. BUN is a collaborative platform, not a procurement one. The idea behind it is to allow a space for UN ecosystem participants to meet up, work on projects using new technology, and coordinate better. BUN is free to use, and provides a space for proposing projects and discussing them, as well as for cataloguing them for further dissemination.

Mr Pierre Kauffmann (IBM Senior Enterprise Architect) noted that Watson is a big IBM brand, which is very complex, and is a part of the services offered by Bluemix. Some Bluemix services are free, some cost a fraction of a US dollar, but others cost more. Kauffmann explained three examples of Bluemix implementation for field assessments. His first example involved prototyping a solution for school equipment assessment. The idea behind it, according to Kauffmann, was to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities in order for clients to be able to grasp the volumes of information they have. A non-governmental organisation might be concerned with procuring certain materials for its projects, and could give simple, natural language input to Watson, who will further structure it and give it meaning. Watson can categorise and learn what needs and patterns an organisation has. Kauffmann gave another example of a service included in Bluemix, where any staff member, including non-technical ones, can easily deploy applications in the field in minutes. For his last example, Kauffmann showed a video to demonstrate the possibilities of a drones visual recognition system using Watson. The IoT has taken flight, and now drones can use automated visual recognition to scan surfaces and terrain, and the send the data to Watson for visual representation and collection. The system also provides task scheduling for better productivity. According to Kauffmann, the point of these services is ‘training the programme (AI), and not programming it’. He invited participants to try the cloud applications, and emphasised that some services are not IBM services, because Bluemix is an open standards cloud.

by Jana Mišić