from: BSC -CNS Newsletter Issue 12: March 2016 (PDF version, 2.8Mb)

We are entering into an extremely exciting period for interdisciplinary research, where ecosystems like the ones found at BSC, will evolve to cope with new challenges. Cognitive Computing, the next big thing in Big Data, represents a great opportunity for each and every one of us at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center.

We are now at a turning point in the history of computing. Throughout its short history, computing has undergone a number of profound changes which can be thought of as waves. In its first wave, computing made numbers computable. The second wave made text and rich media computable and digitally accessible. We are now experiencing a third wave that will also make context computable. This will be done with systems that embed predictive capabilities, providing the right functionality and content at the right time, for the right application, by continuously learning about them and predicting what they will need.

Examples include identifying and extracting contextual features such as time, location, task, history or profile, to present an information set that is appropriate for a person at a specific time and place. The general idea is that instead of telling a computer system what to do, we are going to simply throw data at the problem and tell the computer to figure it out for itself. We have changed the nature of the problem from one in which we try to explain to the computer how to drive, to one in which we say, “Here’s a lot of data, figure out how to drive yourself”.

In order to be able to do this, computer software needs to imitate brain functions such as: inference, prediction, correlation and abstraction, giving the systems the possibility to do this by themselves. This explains the use of the word “cognitive” to describe this new computing. These reasoning capabilities, the complexity of the data, and the time to value expectations are driving the need for a new class of supercomputer systems. A lot of research is still necessary in order to integrate the best Analytics knowledge with new Big Data technologies and the awesome power of emerging computational systems in order to interpret massive amounts of heterogenous data at an unprecedented rate.

We have seen tremendous technological innovation in the supercomputers space over the past years. BSC has already contributed with impressive innovations. There is still a long road ahead and Cognitive Computing is an opportunity that we cannot let escape. We look forward to the challenge of continuing to position BSC as an essential facilitator and practitioner of excellent data intensive science and innovation.

Mateo Valero, BSC Director and Jordi Torres, Group Manager at BSC.