In a demonstration of how serious it is about storing and tapping Big Data in the cloud, IBM has formed the Watson Group. The company will invest more than $1 billion to develop and commercialize cloud-delivered cognitive innovations.
IBM called the move a strategic shift to accelerate a new class of software, services and apps that think, improve by learning, and discover answers and insights to complex questions from massive amounts of Big Data. The investment includes $100 million for venture funding to support its ecosystem of start-ups and businesses building Watson-powered cognitive apps in the IBM Watson Developers Cloud.
"IBM has transformed Watson from a quiz-show winner into a commercial cognitive computing breakthrough that is helping businesses engage customers, healthcare organizations personalize patient care, and entrepreneurs build businesses," said Michael Rhodin, senior vice president of the IBM Watson Group.
"Watson is one of the most significant innovations in IBM's 100-year history, and one that we want to share with the world. With these investments we strive to make new markets, reach new buyers and transform industries and professions."
Putting Watson in the Cloud
As usual, IBM is moving strategically into the future. According to technology research firm Gartner, smart machines will be the most disruptive change ever brought about by information technology, and can make people more effective, empowering them to do "the impossible."
Led by Rhodin, the IBM Watson Group will tap subject-matter experts from IBM's Research, Services, Software and Systems divisions, as well as industry experts who will identify markets that cognitive computing can disrupt and evolve, such as healthcare, financial services, retail, travel and telecommunications.
A major initiative for the IBM Watson Group will be to continue advancing its research and development to accelerate the delivery of cognitive innovations to organizations via the cloud. As part of this initiative, IBM will engineer Watson to be deployed on SoftLayer, the cloud computing infrastructure business recently acquired by IBM.
We asked Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, for his thoughts on the billion-dollar investment into a cloud-based Watson. He told us the dollar amount signals how serious Big Blue is about the next-gen technology.
"As speech recognition becomes increasingly sophisticated, from a technology point of view it is smarter for customers to buy Watson as a service rather than putting a lot of money up front for a system that could be out of date in fairly short order," King said.
"This is also, frankly, something that IBM's competitors simply don't have an answer for. Offering Watson as a service is going to carry a unique value proposition for IBM."
New Watson Services
IBM also announced three new services based on Watson's cognitive intelligence: IBM Watson Discovery Advisor; IBM Watson Analytics; and IBM Watson Explorer. IBM Watson Discovery Advisor aims to change the way industries such as pharmaceutical and publishing conduct research. It will delve into the influx of data-driven content that today's researchers face, and uncover connections that can speed up and strengthen their work.
IBM Watson Analytics allows users to explore Big Data insights through visual representations, without the need for advanced analytics training. Guided by sophisticated analytics and a natural language interface, Watson Analytics automatically prepares the data, surfaces the most important relationships and presents the results in an easy to interpret interactive visual format.
IBM Watson Explorer is designed to help users across the enterprise uncover and share data-driven insights more easily, while helping organizations launch big data initiatives more quickly.