Thursday, August 28, 2014

IBM Watson Ushers in a New Era of Data-Driven Discoveries

Available now as a cloud service, IBM's Watson Discovery Advisor is designed to scale and accelerate discoveries by research teams. It reduces the time needed to test hypotheses and formulate conclusions that can advance their work -- from months to days and days to just hours -- bringing new levels of speed and precision to research and development.
Building on Watson's ability to understand nuances in natural language, Watson Discovery Advisor can understand the language of science, such as how chemical compounds interact, making it a uniquely powerful tool for researchers in life sciences and other industries.  
Researchers and scientists from leading academic, pharmaceutical and other commercial research centers have begun deploying IBM's new Watson Discovery Advisor to rapidly analyze and test hypotheses using data in millions of scientific papers available in public databases. A new scientific research paper is published nearly every 30 seconds, which equals more than a million annually (Source: CiteSeerx). According to the National Institutes of Health, a typical researcher reads about 23 scientific papers per month, which translates to nearly 300 per year, making it humanly impossible to keep up with the ever-growing body of scientific material available.
In 2013, the top 1,000 research and development companies spent more than $600 billion annually on research alone (Source: Strategy&). Progress can be slow, taking an average of 10 to 15 years for a promising pharmaceutical treatment to progress from the initial research stage into practice (Source: Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America). Using Watson Discovery Advisor, researchers can uncover new relationships and recognize unexpected patterns among data that have the potential to significantly improve and accelerate the discovery process in research and science.
“We're entering an extraordinary age of data-driven discovery," said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president, IBM Watson Group. "Today's announcement is a natural extension of Watson's cognitive computing capability. We're empowering researchers with a powerful tool which will help increase the impact of investments organizations make in R&D, leading to significant breakthroughs."
Leading life sciences organizations are deploying Watson Discovery Advisor to advance discoveries in ongoing research projects, including Baylor College of Medicine, Johnson & Johnson and The New York Genome Center.
  • In a retrospective, peer reviewed study released this week by Baylor College of Medicineand IBM, scientists demonstrated a possible new path for generating scientific questions that may be helpful in the long term development of new, effective treatments for disease. In a matter of weeks, biologists and data scientists using the Baylor Knowledge Integration Toolkit (KnIT), based on Watson technology, accurately identified proteins that modify p53, an important protein related to many cancers, which can eventually lead to better efficacy of drugs and other treatments. A feat that would have taken researchers years to accomplish without Watson's cognitive capabilities, Watson analyzed 70,000 scientific articles on p53 to predict proteins that turn on or off p53's activity. This automated analysis led the Baylor cancer researchers to identify six potential proteins to target for new research. These results are notable, considering that over the last 30 years, scientists averaged one similar target protein discovery per year. 
“On average, a scientist might read between one and five research papers on a good day,” said Dr. Olivier Lichtarge, the principal investigator and professor of molecular and human genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology at Baylor College of Medicine. “To put this in perspective with p53, there are over 70,000 papers published on this protein. Even if I’m reading five papers a day, it could take me nearly 38 years to completely understand all of the research already available today on this protein. Watson has demonstrated the potential to accelerate the rate and the quality of breakthrough discoveries. "
  • Johnson & Johnson is collaborating with the IBM Watson Discovery Advisor team to teach Watson to read and understand scientific papers that detail clinical trial outcomes used to develop and evaluate medications and other treatments. This collaboration hopes to accelerate comparative effectiveness studies of drugs, which help doctors match a drug with the right set of patients to maximize effectiveness and minimize side effects. Typically, comparative effectiveness studies are done manually, requiring three people to spend an average of 10 months (2.5 man-years) just to collect the data and prepare them for use before they are able to start analyzing, generating and validating a hypothesis. In this research study, the team hopes to teach Watson to quickly synthesize the information directly from the medical literature, allowing researchers to start asking questions about the data immediately to determine the effectiveness of a treatment compared to other medications, as well as its side effects. 
  • IBM Watson will be supporting the analysis in New York Genome Center’s clinical study to advance genomic medicine. The clinical study will initially focus on clinical application of genomics to help oncologists deliver DNA-based treatment for glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer that kills more than 13,000 Americans each year. Despite tremendous discoveries into the genetic drivers of diseases like cancer over the past decade, big data makes it difficult to translate DNA data into life-saving treatments. Based on results from the clinical study, IBM Watson could soon help scale up the availability of personalized treatment options.
Industry Implications 
Discovering something new is applicable to many domains such as medicine, law, finance, etc., that all require deep insight into a large body of information and protocols. Cognitive computing will allow human experts to interact with large bodies of data and research and the knowledge and insight of many other experts in their field. For example, Watson could be used to:
  • Accelerate a medical researcher's ability to develop life-saving treatments for diseases by synthesizing evidence and removing reliance on serendipity
  • Enhance a financial analyst's ability to provide proactive advice to clients
  • Improve a lawyer's merger and acquisition strategy with faster, more comprehensive due diligence and document analysis
  • Accelerate a government analyst's insight into security, intelligence, border protection and law enforcement and guidance, etc.
  • Create new food recipes. Chefs can use Watson to augment their creativity and expertise and help them discover recipes, learning about the language of cooking and food by reading recipes, statistical, molecular and food pairing theories, hedonic chemistry, as well as regional and cultural knowledge
IBM Watson Discovery Advisor has the potential to transform industries and professions that rely heavily on data, including law, pharmaceuticals, biotech, education, chemicals, metals, scientific research, engineering, and criminal investigations. For more information, visit
IBM Power Systems serves as the infrastructure base of Watson, supporting the high volume of data needed to drive cognitive insights.
For more information on IBM Watson, please visit:
To join the social discussion about Watson, include the hashtag #ibmwatson. Follow Watson onFacebook and see Watson on YouTube and Flickr.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Inkjet versus laser – which is best and when is it best?

By Heinrich Pretorius, Canon and OKI Product Specialist at DCC

Printers are common in both the workplace and home. Although many businesses are working towards a paperless environment with the increase in ‘green’ awareness, printers are still an essential office tool. A common question asked when purchasing a printer for the home or office is whether to purchase and inkjet or laser printer. Each printer is unique to various environments and have their own pro’s and con’s, however, the needs of the user will ultimately decide on the printer of choice – inkjet or laser.

Purchasing a printer for the home or office is no simple task and various considerations need to be taking into account before this purchase is made. The key question to ask oneself is whether a laser or inkjet printer suits your needs, and which device will benefit you in the long run. User can generally distinguish the main differences between inkjet and laser, however, it can be difficult to establish which one is right for you.

In the past, the Cost Per Page (CPP) with an inkjet printer far outweighed the CPP of a laser. According to, the “CPP can be determined by calculating the cost of a printer cartridge divided by its yield”. However, with the emergence of new and improved inkjet technology, one can increasingly see inkjet printers competing with, and sometimes beating, laser printers on this issue. Understanding the differences and target markets for each printer will offer users more insight as to which printer would suit their environment best.

Laser printers make use of toner cartridges that contain ink powder. Through an electro photographic printing process, laser beams scan the surface of photo-sensitive drums to form a latent image. The toner is then affixed to non-charged areas of the drums, developing the latent image and finally transferring to the sheet of paper. Inkjet, on the other hand, works by making use of heat. Simply put, an ultra-fine nozzle is connected to a reservoir of ink, with a small heating element at the front of the nozzle. When the printer is switched on, a bubble forms inside the nozzle and a tiny drop of ink is expelled at a high speed. The heating element is switched on and off in response to the data from the computer, which processes the image from the file.

Laser printers are designed for large office environments or departments requiring high print volumes. Initial investments in laser printers may be higher than inkjet printers, however, the CPP was far less when compared to inkjet printers, especially if the print volumes are high. On the other hand, inkjet technology traditionally lent itself to the smaller office, home office and consumers. This is mainly due to its small form factor, saving these environments space. Furthermore, the initial investment of inkjet is far lower than that of the laser, however, the liquid ink used in these printers are more costly than toner and cater for low print volumes. Therefore, the laser printer offered organisations with a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) than that of the inkjet printer.

However, the emergence of new and improved inkjet printers, along with Multifunctional Printers (MFPs) are blurring these lines when choosing a printer. Due to new technology, inkjet printers are now providing a significantly lower CPP. This technology is further leading to the use of these printers within the larger office environment, and not solely for the home user and consumer. Furthermore, with the emergence of connectivity, inkjet printers are now also providing users with the ability to print from anywhere by making use of a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device. This is further changing the game within the printing arena.

In conclusion, there are a number of printers available on the market. Choosing between an inkjet or laser printer will depend on your needs. Inkjet printers are still ideal for the small office, home office or consumer market due to the small form factor and the ability to cater for low print volumes. Laser, on the other hand, still lends itself to larger organisations where large print volumes are required. However, with the latest technology in inkjet, these printers are entering the large print volume market, lowering the CPP and aligning with the CPP of lasers. It is essential to understand your printing requirements and budget before purchasing a printer for your organisation. Understanding these devices and what they offer will ensure the correct printer is selected for your daily printing needs.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Make sure your mobile devices can take life’s knocks in style

by Heinrich Pretorius, Targus Product Specialist at DCC

The mobile workforce has firmly entrenched itself globally and locally, the variety of devices has grown, it has also become increasingly common for the same user to have multiple devices. Most commonly, these devices include a notebook and a tablet. While portability is the biggest advantage of these devices, this same feature can also be their downfall – portable devices are more likely to be dropped, bumped or otherwise damaged. Protecting this expensive equipment adequately is therefore essential, to ensure that mobile devices can take the knocks of an on-the-go lifestyle.

The rise of the mobile warrior has been fuelled by increasing portability of computing devices, including notebooks and tablets. With tablets, the screen is often the most vulnerable piece of hardware – to which anyone who has ever dropped one of these devices will attest. Cracked glass makes the entire device practically impossible to use, and tablets often cannot be repaired but must be replaced in their entirety, which is an expensive exercise. Notebooks, while they are slightly more robust, are also prone to damage from knocks and bumps, primarily with regard to the hard drive. Devices with Solid State Drives (SSDs) are less vulnerable, but the majority of notebooks still contain traditional spinning platter Hard Disk Drives (HDDs). If these are dropped or bumped excessively they can become corrupt or fail completely, causing data loss that can be detrimental. While smartphones too have evolved as part of this movement, the size of a phone makes it easier to put away safely in a pocket or a handbag. When it comes to protecting notebooks and tablets, however, specialised solutions are necessary.

Quality should be the overriding feature to look for in any physical protection for mobile devices, and in many instances the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ rings true. Tablets and notebooks are expensive, so buying the cheapest case to protect them is counterintuitive and could cause problems further down the line. Quality can be judged by the look and feel of the materials, the zips, the handles, and any fixtures and fastenings, as well as the padding that holds devices in place. In addition, the warranty is a good indication of quality. A manufacturer that is willing to provide a lifetime warranty against defective workmanship is confident that they are offering the very best possible quality. After all, every time something is returned under warranty, it costs the manufacturer money and profit.

While quality is very important, in today’s world, choice is also critical – in terms of style, colour and functionality. For corporate users, a leather attaché case with pockets for business cards, documents, phones, tablets and notebooks might be the most appropriate option. For a student, photographer or someone in a less formal environment, a backpack would be better suited. There are even cases for ladies that resemble a designer handbag, allowing the fairer sex to carry their devices in style and sophistication without compromising on quality. Whatever the look of the case or cover, however, their ability to physically protect devices is essential – they need to be durable, water resistant and able to handle the rigours of continuous use.

Mobility is here to stay, and as the number of devices we carry increase and their value in our lives skyrocket, protecting our equipment is more important than ever. From students to corporate executives, men and women, fashionistas or the more traditionally inclined, there is something out there to suit everyone’s style. Just be sure that the quality lives up to the essential nature of the job – a lifetime warranty is the best guarantee that covers sleeves and cases, ensuring they will not let you down.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Choosing the right Microsoft Office product to suit your needs

By Ruben Naicker, Microsoft Product Specialist at Drive Control Corporation

Microsoft Office is the most widely used productivity software packages in the world, and is available in several different versions for different users. For consumers, however, these different suites can cause confusion. Do you need Home and Student, Home and Business or the Professional edition? Or would Office 365 suit your needs better? Not having a clear understanding of the differences between these suites and what each of them offers can lead to an incorrect purchase. This creates unnecessary frustration and expense, as users may need to purchase additional products to get the solution they need. Choosing the correct Microsoft Office solution will ensure you get the appropriate solution for your needs, with the best combination of value for money and functionality.

How many users and devices do you need a solution for?
This is the first question users should answer before purchasing an Office software package, as the various solutions cater to different numbers of users and devices. Office Home and Student and Professional editions are single device licenses, meaning that each package can only be installed on a single computer. For multiple devices, one license will have to be purchased for each device. Office Home and Business edition offers a license for one user for one device. Office 365 Personal offers a single user license that is valid for two devices - one PC or Mac and one tablet, including iPad. For a single user with more than one device, this is the most cost effective solution. Office 365 Home is a household license valid for five PC or Mac devices as well as up to five tablets, while Office 365 University is aimed at students, valid for two devices, be it a combination of either PCs, Macs or tablets.

What applications do you need?
The different versions of Microsoft Office also come with different combinations of applications. Office Home and Student includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, but does not include Outlook. Users who require Outlook in addition to the core Microsoft applications will need to purchase Office Home and Business. Office Professional includes all of these applications as well as Publisher, which can be used to design and create newsletters and brochures, and Access, allowing users to create desktop databases. The different packages of Office 365 include all of the applications of Office Professional, with the exception of Publisher and Access, which are not available when Office 365 is installed on Apple devices. Personal and Home versions are aimed at home users, while University is only available for students.

What operating system am I running?
Microsoft Office Home and Student, Home and Business and Professional editions are only compatible with Windows 7 and Windows 8. If you are running a Mac device, you will need to purchase Office for Mac, which is available in Home and Student and Home and Business editions. Alternatively, Mac users can make use of Office 365 Home, which is compatible with up to five devices on both Windows and Mac Operating Systems (OS) plus up to five tablets, including iPad.

To sum it up
Microsoft Office Home and Student is best suited for users who want the basic Office suite on a single PC for the family. Home and Business is best suited for users who want the basic Office suite, plus Outlook. These products are also available in Office for Mac versions for Apple users. Microsoft Office Professional is for those who need the basic Office suite, Outlook, Access and Publisher giving the ability to create marketing material on a single PC.

Microsoft Office 365 for consumers is available as follows: Personal, Home and University. Office 365 Personal is available for a single user on one PC or Mac as well as one tablet. Office 365 Home is best for families that want all Office functionality on up to five PCs or Mac and five tablets, plus easy access on smartphones. Both are available with a one-year license, either as a single payment or a monthly fee. Office 365 University is best for students who want Office on up to two devices – PCs, Macs or tablets. It is available as a four-year subscription at a special discounted rate, either up front or per month. All of the consumer versions of Office 365 now also include 60 Skype world minutes per month, which enable users to call landlines in 48 countries. All Office 365 solutions also offer 1 Terabyte (TB) of OneDrive cloud storage, which can be accessed on all connected devices as well as Android smartphones and iPhones, so important documents and applications are not lost even if the physical device is damaged, lost or stolen.

Understanding your needs, and the features available on each version of Microsoft Office can help to alleviate the confusion around purchasing this vital software tool. By answering these three questions and matching your needs to the Office product best suited to your situation will ensure that users get exactly what they need without frustration or added expense.