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View from India: Cognitive computing comes of age

The India economy is increasingly going the e-way, with e-payments, cashless transactions and card circulation growing exponentially. Technology is the lifeline of every single domain and homegrown enterprises need to protect themselves from cyber attacks. Cognitive technology, which helps in the detection of cyber threats, is expected to permeate every domain in the country over the next two years.

Cognitive abilities help open up the otherwise untapped potential of data. They sense the subtle signals sent out by machines which were not factored in until now because of the sheer volume and complexity. At the global level, the cognitive computing landscape is dominated by IBM, Microsoft and Google, with IBM a leading light with its IBM Watson computer.

“The adoption of cognitive computing is essential for every organisation because a certain amount of hidden value comes from hidden data. Hence it’s essential to expand the company’s ecosystem to leverage the benefits of cognitive computing and take into account technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) associated with it,” said Sreekanth Arimanithaya, Senior Vice President iWFM India co-managing director, DXC, speaking at the Best Practices Meet (BPM) 2017, a Nasscom initiative in Bangalore. 

What cognitive computing does is to make sense out of data in an accurate manner and helps detect cyber threats. Cognitive computing can analyse structured and unstructured security data. Cognitive systems can learn and recognise terms and make connections between them. Verticals are lapping it up as cognitive security solutions can lower the risk of cyber crime.

Traditional cyber security tools like anti-malware and antivirus software serve the purpose, but because they rely on structured data they take time to identify data breaches. Cognitive computing, led by machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing, speech recognition and robotics can reach out to unstructured data as well. This makes it a faster and more accurate way of interpreting and detecting threats and dealing with them.

Today, offices are virtualised with scalable operations. Security too needs to be beefed up to meet the new network demand. Industry leaders are realising the importance of having an ecosystem of security, which is agile, programmable and has hardware agnostics.

There will be a demand for skilled security workforce to protect cyber assets. Hence it’s important to equip professionals and ensure they have the necessary skill set, retraining where appropriate and orienting them towards domain knowledge, data science and skill incubation.

On the one side, companies are reorienting their workforce towards cognitive technologies. On the other side, investors are beginning to put their money into cognitive-led enterprises. “We invest in companies that detect network vulnerabilities. Cognitive computing is a practical tool in healthcare as well, we also invest in startups that use cognitive computing and AI to achieve accuracies in many verticals including healthcare. The precision it offers allows more bandwidth in terms of patient interactions,” explained Prayank Swaroop, a principal with Accel in India.

Besides healthcare, end-point security companies use cognitive technologies to glean information on the fluctuating patterns in the cyber space. However, there is no single cookie-cutter approach to handling identity threat, data breach and domain and critical infrastructure attack. 

“The OODA Loop, which observes, evaluates and plans actions based on the security landscape, finds applications in cyber-security space,” said Sahir Hidayatullah, CEO, Smokescreen Technologies Pvt. Ltd. One of India's new cyber-security companies, Smokescreen’s proprietary technology detects targeted hacker attacks before they cause a business impact. The company has investigated many of the highest-profile data breaches in the country, with clients that include critical national infrastructure, global financial institutions and Fortune 500 companies.

Often security is a step behind crime and unless prompted by crime and threat, it rarely comes to the forefront. It’s important to have a cloud-based ecosystem of security, which is agile and programmable and hardware agnostic. All aspects of the security solution need to be transparent.

“The challenge lies in ensuring that machine and learning work together and a move in this direction is to create intelligent machines that can interact with humans, mimic the brain and solve problems,” added Partha Talukdar, assistant professor, department of computational and data sciences (CDS) at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). CDS is a new interdisciplinary engineering department covering computational science and engineering and scalable computer and data systems.

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