Mastercard Partners with IBM to Deliver Big Data Analytics to Merchants

Mastercard Inc. has announced plans to team up with International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) to give its merchant customers access to Big Data analytics.

According to a statement made by the multinational financial services corporation, Mastercard has implemented IBM's Watson computer algorithm along with transaction data gathered from its own Local Market Intelligence (LMI) to provide merchants with artificial intelligence-driven analytics.

According to various reports, Mastercard is accepted by some 30 to 33 million merchants worldwide, making it among the most widely used credit cards in the world. In addition to being accepted by major retailers like Wal-Mart, Amazon and Target, Mastercard is also accepted by smaller stores and businesses. But these small-to-mid-sized merchants lack the resources and tools necessary to collect and use data – a problem that Mastercard hopes to solve by partnering up with IBM.

The partnership between Mastercard and IBM will allow merchants to access and use Big Data to cut costs, streamline services, and protect against fraud. As noted by MasterCard Advisors’ Pierre Burret, merchants have been able to access data in the past, but due to lack of skills and resources they haven't been able to apply it for practical applications. Burret says the partnership between Mastercard and IBM will assist merchants in making use of this data, essentially turning Big Data into Smart Data.

Of course, the real beauty of this service is its ability to capitalize on IBM's Watson algorithm. Watson is an AI-based computer system that was developed by the company's DeepQA project for use in the game show Jeopardy. Led by researcher David Ferrucci, it was given access to an estimated 200 million pages of data (structured and unstructured), including the entire Wikipedia database, consuming roughly 4 teabytes of disk storage. Not surprisingly, Watson beat its opponents, including former winners Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings.

But IBM has no plans of retiring Watson just yet. Instead, it's using the advanced AI computer in other projects, including its recent partnership with Mastercard.

There is an increasing wealth of data today that merchants can leverage to better understand their market and consumers," MasterCard Advisors senior vice president Eric Schneider said. "However, smaller merchants often don't have the resources to maximise the insights. That's the value of this platform turning big data into smarter data that is easily accessible and actionable."

The service will be offered through a subscription-based platform, meaning merchants can pay either a monthly or annual fee to use Mastercard's new data analytics service.

So, when can you expect to see Mastercard's new Big Data analytics service available for merchants? While there's been no exact date announced for its released, the company says that it will likely be launched in mid-2016. Singapore is expected to receive the service first, after which it will be rolled out across other Asian territories and then the rest of the world.

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