IBM Connect: Blending Apple, Social Media, and Watson to Obsolesce Email

February 05, 2016
By: Rob Enderle

I’m at IBM Connect this week, and as with all IBM events since the IBM/Apple (News - Alert) partnership, this is as much a showcase for IBM software as it is a showcase Apple’s products in the workplace.  Now I’ve been following email for decades, but this is the first time I’ve seen a major change in how email is handled. In fact, this really isn’t email; this is something very different and, for those of us who are struggling with this new blend of email and social media, it could be a godsend.  The product is called IBM Verse and you can watch a video of how it works here.     

Let me explain. 

Applied Analytics

The problem with email and social media is that both are out of control and the typical blending of communication increases this complexity significantly.  The information is all there, but finding it has gone from difficult to nearly impossible.   However, with applied analytics, the communications can be parsed and ranked so that the important messages are flagged for you and all the messages are grouped by interaction. 

You might have a series of projects that you are responsible for or engaged with.   This groups the messages by project and allows you to better make decisions with regard to hour time.  For instance, if you get a meeting request you can immediately see who else is attending, much like when you receive a social media friend request you can see who else that person knows.   If the meeting doesn’t have anyone you feel the need to interact with you can more quickly decide not to attend rather than the more typically sneaking walk by the door before you decide to go in the room. 

But analytics aren’t just applied to organizing your communications; it is tied into your creation of messages as well.  For instance, your email is analyzed real time and words are highlighted that Watson feels need to be changed to make the note more powerful or less negative.  

In effect, you get a scalable editor for all communications.  A clear benefit would be if you are mad, having IBM (News - Alert) Watson flag that the snarky message you are sending your boss or distribution list potentially saving you from sending something out that might damage your reputation or career. 

All of this is designed to work off of your personal computer, iPhone (News - Alert), iPad, and often on your Apple Watch.  This makes the application not only very easy to use but extremely portable.   

The only thing that seemed to be missing was integration with voice mail which, for me, was somewhat ironic given that was one of the first things we did when I worked at IBM in the 1980s.  

Wrapping Up:  Self-Writing Email

One of the other things they showcase earlier in the show was the ability for an AI like Watson to tell jokes.  This suggests a future capability where Watson actually parses the email, summarizes it, and auto responds, not with a generic “out of office” but with a self-generated custom response based on parameters that were both set and learned from how you dealt with it.  This would be flagged in summary with a recommendation for any additional response.  

One nice feature is the ability to retain state from laptop to mobile device.  This means if you start an email or social message on your Mac (or PC) but have to run, you can pick the message up from your iPhone or iPad, complete, and send it when you have a moment on the road (hopefully not when you are driving). 

It has been a long time since I’ve gotten excited about email.  You know the first email program I ever used was from IBM and I hated it, I could love IBM Verse.