May 18, 2012 By Tanya Roscorla
More than a year after the IBM Watson supercomputer beat two human champions on "Jeopardy," seven teams of MBA students competed to figure out applications for Watson technology.
Twenty-five students from the University of Rochester Simon Graduate School of Business submitted proposals to a judging panel of faculty, business and IBM leaders. IBM announced the top three proposals on Thursday, May 17.
Two of the three winning teams included MBA students who concentrated in marketing. The first-place team had four members from Spain, Germany, Pakistan and the U.S.
"It just highlights how harnessing the brainpower from different corners of the globe is such a valuable skill in this day and age, and it's something we pride ourselves on promoting at the school," said Mark Zupan, dean of the University of Rochester Simon Graduate School of Business.
Watson's data analysis capabilities could identify weather patterns more accurately, the first-place team proposed. By gathering weather and census data, the technology could help organizations respond faster and allocate resources more efficiently when rough weather comes their way.
The second-place team suggested that Watson's cognitive reasoning abilities could help energy companies spend their resources more effectively when exploring where to mine. They could also evaluate the environmental impact of that mining.
Watson also could be applied to airport travel, according to the third place-team. By analyzing large data sets, Watson technology could increase security and cut back on wait time.
These proposals could help policymakers better handle information during natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the tsunami in Japan or fires.
So-called "big data" allows marketers to figure out how to price and position products more effectively. And it gives managers the scientific data they need to make decisions.
In this contest, these students practiced what the school preaches: Frame the problem, analyze the potential solutions and communicate the best possible ones.
A version of this story originally appeared on our sister publication Converge.
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