The growing potential to monetise data and extract business value from it means businesses and vendors must consider who owns the data collected it the process of doing business, and who has a licence to use it.

Data is increasingly seen as a company asset that may drive up the valuation of data savvy businesses or be traded in a marketplace. Using anonymised data to determine larger trends to produce better products and services is appealing to both software vendors and their clients.

For Harriet Green, IBM’s General Manager, Watson Internet of Things, Customer Engagement & Education groups, the answer is “compellingly simple.”

The data always belongs to the client.

“The data is our client’s data, that is their most precious DNA, and not something that you put into a huge knowledge graph,” Green told Which-50 during an interview at IBM’s Amplify conference in Las Vegas last week.

“Our competitors who do not behave in this way have made it more complicated. For us, it’s compellingly simple. The DNA of your business, your enterprise, is your data. We don’t look at it. We don’t play with it. We don’t take it. It’s your data.

“If you look at many of our competitors, you go to terms and conditions number 4, and it’s their data for them to hang on to as long as they wish.”

Green believes this position on ownership, as well as assurances around data security is why IBM has been so effective to date.

IBM’s rules around the ownership of data is included in its principles on cognitive computing, which the company unveiled at the Davos World Economic Forum earlier this year.

In the name of transparency IBM will make clear:

  • When and for what purposes AI is being applied in the cognitive solutions IBM develops and deploys.
  • The major sources of data and expertise that inform the insights of cognitive solutions, as well as the methods used to train those systems and solutions.
  • The principle that clients own their own business models and intellectual property and that they can use AI and cognitive systems to enhance the advantages they have built, often through years of experience. IBM will work with its clients to protect their data and insights, and will encourage their clients, partners and industry colleagues to adopt similar practices.

The other key principle of IBM’s approach to AI is to augment human intelligence, not replace it:

“From an IBM perspective we very, very firmly believe in all aspects of cognition and artificial intelligence that the purpose is to augment the work of humans. It is not to replace. In fact, none of the previous waves of technology have replaced humans. We’re still here, we’re still doing work. It’s just different work, it’s just different work. And we don’t see that changing,” Green said.

“This year alone 1 billion people will be touched in some way by Watson. It’s all part of a $2 trillion market for advanced decision support.”

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