IBM Looking to Offer Watson on the Cloud

By | Apr 16, 2012

In 2011, IBM put Watson to the test on the game show Jeopardy, pitting the supercomputer against record-winning champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Watson bested its opponents in all three rounds.

Later that year, the tech giant opened Watson up to the commercial sphere and announced a partnership with Wellpoint, a major provider of health care insurance in the United States. The IT leader joined the supercomputer's natural language Ppocessing, machine learning, and deep question answering (QA) capabilities with clinical language understanding (CLU) and Nuance Communication's speech recognition solutions, enabling Watson to aid doctors and nurses in diagnosing patients and developing treatment plans.

On March 5, 2012, IBM expanded the scope of Watson further, partnering with Citigroup. The financial services corporation will use Watson to analyze financial and client information to improve digital banking for its customers.

Just a few days later, IBM made clear its intention to integrate Watson on its SmartCloud. "[Watson] may look at using cloud to handle data ingestion which process and analyze data for a particular use case," Tweeted IBM officials during a Twitter chat on March 8. "IBM will work with clients on deployment preferences but intends to deploy [Watson] on both private and hybrid cloud," added the multinational corporation on its IBMWatson account.

As technology moves forward, the need for supercomputers increases. Ninety percent of all the data in the world was created in the last two years, and a staggering 80 percent of that data is unstructured or only semi-structured. Regular computers can't understand this kind of data, but Watson can.

IBM is moving Watson further into the commercial realm, meaning that more and more businesses will have access to the features that the supercomputer provides. Harnessing unstructured information can improve business practices and propel companies to the top ranks.

It might be a while before Watson is made available to midsized businesses, but the AI-powered system has the potential to streamline and even revolutionize problem resolution for companies. According to General Manager for IBM Watson Solutions Manoj Saxena in an interview with CNET, companies must feed information to Watson and ask the supercomputer questions to train it. Once Watson is configured and running, the system can be used to find answers to complex problems.

The real issue, however, is developing Watson for different purposes across different industries. In response to a question from Twitter user BButlerNWW about widescale deployment, IBM said, "[Watson] requires unique data sets and user interfaces for each use case. This requires tremendous engineering."

IBM suggested hosting Watson's QA engine on the cloud and storing classified information on the premises.

Although the AI-powered computer isn't available on the cloud yet, IT professionals should take heed of the benefits that predictive analytics can provide. IBM found that the leading performers in business were 5.4 times more likely to use business analytics. And as Watson becomes more available to the commercial sector, businesses that jump on the supercomputer bandwagon will probably find themselves several steps ahead of businesses that don't.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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