Guiding Eyes for the Blind teams up with IBM

Guiding Eyes for the Blind teams up with IBM

March 30, 2016

Guiding Eyes for the Blind is a nonprofit that breeds, trains, and places guide dogs with individuals with vision loss and children with autism. The organization has an immense amount of paperwork, including medical records, genetic mapping, and correspondence between trainers and host families. In order to progress and be more efficient, Guiding Eyes for the Blind is working with the IBM Cloud to simplify data organization and analysis processes.

According to the general manager of the IBM Cloud Platform, William Karpovich, “Guiding Eyes is a great example of how IBM Cloud can help organizations innovate new business models and processes that were heretofore unthinkable. Through the IBM Cloud, Guiding Eyes is now able to advance even further its critical work in breeding, raising and training service dogs for those in need.”

Why the IBM Cloud helps

Part of Guiding Eyes for the Blind’s success lies in its ability to analyze traits including health, behavior, and more. Through trait analysis and specialized breeding, the organization can help match more dogs with individuals in need.

Founded in 1954, Guiding Eyes has graduated over 7,300 service dogs. The new partnership with IBM is forecasted to help improve graduation rate by 36 percent. This is a staggering number because it costs about $50,000 to train each guide dog. “By migrating more than half a million health records and more than 65,000 temperament records on thousands of dogs to the IBM Cloud, the organization will be afforded greater reliability, simplicity, and scalability,” explains PRNewswire.

Looking forward

Moving to the cloud also opens up more possibilities. It provides colleagues, researchers and other interested parties with access to analyze Guiding Eyes for the Blind’s genetic and behavioral data.


For example, Dr. Chris Tseng, a computer science professor at San Jose State University, and his students are working on a project to evaluate data for Guiding Eyes using IBM Watson Personality and Natural Language Processing. By the end of the semester, “they hope to establish a process for identifying data patterns and correlating traits, environmental conditions, and personalities—of dogs and trainers.”

When most people think of companies with significant amounts of data, large corporations or tech companies come to mind. However, having a way to organize and store records is also beneficial for the nonprofit sector. As the CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Thomas Panek states, “People don’t typically think about an organization like ours as a Big Data company, but we cannot succeed or grow without it.”

Watch this video to see Jackson progress from a small puppy to a trained guide dog and loving companion. About 50 percent of dogs don’t make it through the program, but they are placed with autistic children or used for sniffing out drugs, guns and explosives.