IBM’s Watson to be commercialised by new business unit

IBM has announced it is creating a new business unit aimed at commercialising Watson, the big data, artificial intelligence system and machine learning system best known for beating a human opponent on a 2011 episode of US game show Jeopardy!

The computing giant began development on the system in 2005 as a successor to Big Blue, a computer system that had beaten chess master Garry Kasparov in chess in 1997.

The company’s new business unit, the IBM Watson Group, will be headed by Michael Rhodin, who previously oversaw the IT giant’s software solutions group as senior vice president.

The company says it intends to invest $US1 billion in commercialising the system, including investments into start-ups using the technology.

It follows the announcement in November 2013 that the company would make the Watson API available for developers through a service called Watson Developers Cloud.

Aside from continuing research and development on the system and releasing a cloud-based version of the system, IBM has also announced three new services based on Watson.

The services include a big data analytics service (Watson Analytics), data mining (Discovery Advisor) and an enterprise data visualisation framework (Watson Explorer).

“Named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, IBM Watson was developed in IBM’s Research labs. Using natural language processing and analytics, Watson processes information akin to how people think, representing a major shift in an organization’s ability to quickly analyse, understand and respond to Big Data,” IBM says in a statement.

“IBM collaborated with eight universities to develop Watson’s capabilities. Over the past three years, IBM has introduced through its Academic Initiative a range of academic programs to prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s cognitive computing leaders.

“Watson’s ability to answer complex questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence is transforming decision making across a variety of industries.”


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