Spending a day with IBM’s Watson
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8 October 2014Daniel W. Latimore
As an IBM alumnus (but no longer a stockholder) I’ve gotten pretty used to seeing the company do things a certain way. And then I attended a day-long “Watson at Scale (aka Ecosystem 2.0)” event on October 7 and had a lot of my old notions upended. Watson, of course, came to prominence when it won Jeopardy in 2011. Immediately after that IBM began experimenting with a select number of industries (Healthcare, Travel and Retail) to demonstrate proofs of concept and learn what works and what doesn’t. Beginning in January of 2014, Watson expanded dramatically and is now covering 26 industries. IBM proclaims that Watson is the harbinger of a new era of computing, what they call “Cognitive Computing.” There’s just too much information being created today for any single person to digest; Watson aims to “amplify” experts’ capabilities. Doctors, salespeople, and wealth managers are but a few examples. IBM says there are four key attributes to understand:
- Watson understands natural language (computational linguistics).
- Watson is a voracious reader
- Watson provides recommendations with confidence levels
- You don't program Watson, you teach it
- Consulting to investigate and establish what Watson will do for the firm
- Priced products (e.g., oncology)
- SAAS revenues from running Watson for individual projects
- A cut of the revenue that partners earn from Watson projects
- Is playing the role of an ecosystem platform
- Is using partners to reach consumers, realizing that IBM’s strength is as a B2B company
- Has built a new physical space, reversing a trend of selling real estate and having employees work remotely
- Is not trying to do this on the cheap
- Is focused on just a few areas