By Corey Moss

In the wake of the news of the Samsung acquisition of HARMAN this week, I consider other recent news of a major partnership announced by HARMAN to be highly influential in terms of technology innovation and expansion. This special technology partnership brings together HARMAN and IBM, and in the words of Mohit Parasher, President of HARMAN Professional, “This is just the beginning.”

On October 25th, at World of Watson, IBM and HARMAN announced this partnership to bring intuitive voice-activated, intelligent assistance to hotels, offices and hospitals throughout the world. In the IBM Internet of Things Blog Harman and IBM Watson IoT team up to help improve patients’ lives it states:

For 60 years, Harman has been a well-known provider of audio, video, lighting and control systems for prestigious venues worldwide. The company is a leader in designing interfaces that are intuitive, easy to use, and adaptable to specific surroundings and use cases.

Now Harman and IBM have come together to address the problem of customer engagement: providing intelligent, adaptable solutions based on IoT and cognitive computing to help make the lives of patients, guests and professionals easier.

Parasher considers this is a huge milestone for the HARMAN Pro AV division and stated how IBM is one of the world’s largest and most respected providers of software and services where HARMAN is the world’s leading developer of audio, video, lighting, and control applications.

mohit_parasher

Parasher also points to their respective strengths as being truly complementary where the partnership presents a game-changing opportunity to open doors, leverage installed bases and deliver an even more complete solution. While the joint technology solution just completed pilot testing, everyone involved has been extremely pleased with the results and the opportunities it creates for a long list of end-to-end, voice-controlled AVL solutions in the future.

There is a challenge pointed to here as basis for such a partnership where according to IBM, in a technologically crowded world, it is becoming more and more difficult to engage effectively with the people we seek to interact with; whether those people are our customers, patients or even co-workers. The hospital environment becomes a prime example here, where (according to the IBM Internet of Things blog) 80% of physicians describe themselves as overextended or at capacity. The non-urgent or non-life-threatening needs of patients naturally take a backseat. Meanwhile, the patients themselves may feel uncomfortable or anxious in their hospital room – unsure how to use the TV, change the lights, the temperature or call for help when they need it.

jbl-prototype

In the hospital environment, IBM and HARMAN have worked to bring voice-activated technology to patients’ rooms at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. A prototype JBL smart speaker was tested at the hospital (picture right) which showed how, with voice commands, a patient can control their environment, answer questions, and alleviate demands on already overtasked hospital staff. The cognitive system is able to respond to their inquiries based on the huge depth of built-in knowledge about the hospital itself, the room, the connected devices within the room, the employees and much more.

The solution that both companies are bringing to the table as a result of this partnership: intelligent, customized assistance. Hospital patients can use voice commands to adjust the feel of their room, altering the temperature, turning out the lights or even asking whether their test results have come in yet. As referenced, the cognitive system has the capability of responding to enquiries based on the huge depth of built-in knowledge about the hospital itself, the room, the connected devices within the room and more. The voice-activated assistant can even tend to many of their non-medical needs, freeing up medical professionals when they are most needed.

As for the hospitality industry, there are obvious applications where this intelligent customized assistance technology can act as a virtual concierge; addressing each guest by name, making personalized recommendations and controlling objects in the room so that guests can create a comfortable environment that suits them. Where hotels may have a great amount of information about the individuals staying with them, and for the most part may not utilize this data as well as they can in terms of guest preferences, with this intuitive technology they may well have the ability to better serve their clients.

While no solution is a one-size fits all, because Watson is a cognitive system, it can be trained with a body of knowledge that is ever-expanding – constantly adapting to changes in the environment and providing new solutions with the most up-to-date information.

As the enterprise, along with IT and audio visual industries continue to have focused and targeted discussions about the internet of things, this major partnership may well prove to be the first which shows a true convergence between tech realms – through IoT and cognitive computing. In this, HARMAN and IBM have come together to address the problem of customer engagement: providing intelligent, adaptable solutions based on IoT and cognitive computing to help make the lives of patients, guests and professionals easier.

A statement in the HARMAN blog HARMAN AND IBM PIONEERING VOICE-ENABLED COGNITIVE ROOMS sums it up this way for the company: This is just one of many such solutions HARMAN is working on, as we find ways to provide solutions that offer a truly connected lifestyle. With pioneering work like HARMAN is doing with our partnership with IBM, we are simplifying the way people interact with technology and connect to the world around them.

An excellent comment about technology, partnerships and more joint innovation and advancement to come.

Watch an Overview of HARMAN & IBM’s Technology Pilot Program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Watch Mohit Parasher’s Keynote Address at IBM’s World of Watson Conference.

 

Note:  This partnership is still very much in force for the future after this week’s acquisition announcement.