IBM Watson: 29 Signs Of Progress - InformationWeek

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10/8/2014
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IBM Watson: 29 Signs Of Progress

IBM's Watson Group touts customer successes, new partners, APIs, and cloud services as it opens headquarters in New York City.

IBM Predicts Next 5 Life-Changing Tech Innovations
IBM Predicts Next 5 Life-Changing Tech Innovations
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Ten months ago, IBM announced its intention to commercialize its Watson cognitive computing technology by launching a dedicated business unit and committing $1 billion to development. This week that new unit, the IBM Watson Group, is cutting the ribbon on its shiny new headquarters in New York City's Silicon Alley, and on Tuesday it offered an impressive progress report on the state of the business.

The highlights included:

  • 5 Watson customer-deployment wins, including ANZ Bank in Australia, Bumrungrad International Hospital in Thailand, a first-ever Spanish language deployment with CaixaBank of Spain, Deakin University in Australia, and Metropolitan Health of South Africa
  • 11 startups demonstrating applications built on the Watson development platform
  • 5 new Watson competency centers opened in Dublin, London, Melbourne, São Paulo, and Singapore
  • 8 Watson APIs made available (and the promise of 50 more in the pipeline) where initially there was one

Watson is needed, said IBM executives, because the sheer volume of information is outstripping the ability of humans to consume and make sense of what's available. The problem is particularly acute for doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, oil and gas explorers, IT and telecommunications engineers, and other professionals who struggle to keep up with constantly evolving industry knowledge. The info glut will only be compounded as sensor-based, Internet-of-Things-style apps produce yet more data.

[Want the scoop on Watson's newest app? Read IBM Watson Data Analysis Service Revealed.]

Watson's calling is consuming and finding connections in vast stores of information so it can help people quickly make better decisions. That's happening in healthcare, life sciences, financial services, retail, and other domains.

Customer ANZ Bank is poised to roll out a Watson Engagement Advisor application in store-front "Grow" centers in Australia and New Zealand where customers can seek advice on insurance, investment, and retirement products. Watson will serve in a self-service role, in direct interaction with customers, and in an advisory role, helping ANZ financial advisors to deliver personalized advice. In either case there's input from customers, with particulars gathered about their age, life circumstances, income, and financial situation. Watson's task is to appropriately connect that with a vast array of insurance and other financial products and deliver concise, high-confidence, personalized recommendations -- rather than a dumb, endless list of search results.

ANZ's deployment is an on-premises equivalent of USAA web- and call-center deployment in which Watson is advising retiring military personnel on an array of topics including education, health insurance, housing, and retirement decisions. The eight-month deployment required extensive training on USAA internal documents as well as external content from the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense.

Ed Harbour, VP of Watson Implementations, in front of IBM Watson Group's headquarters in New York City.
Ed Harbour, VP of Watson Implementations, in front of IBM Watson Group's headquarters in New York City.

Once applications are proven, the hope is that deployment times will get shorter and shorter. The deployment at Bumrungrad International Hospital announced on Tuesday, for example, is based on the oncology-advisement deployment pioneered at Memorial Sloan Kettering, according to Ed Harbour, VP of Watson Implementations.

"Bumrungrad is going to replicate and leverage that same package that we jointly brought to market with Memorial Sloan Kettering, and getting to reuse

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Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio

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D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
10/8/2014 | 12:52:09 PM
IBM Execs In NYC
IBM had a whole yarn about moving the IBM Watson Group to New York City, rubbing elbows with other companies there like Google and Facebook, and taking inspiration from the younger workforce in the city. The invite for the event said "business casual," but the funny thing was seeing all the IBM execs there in blue and gray suits, minus the ties -- as if losing the tie suddenly makes you "Silicon Alley" casual.

There was one IBM exec there who was actually wearing jeans, but after he gave a talk, the IBM exec playing emcee made sport of him for wearing cowboy boots -- as if he's some sort of rebel. I'd bet anything that the IBMers will all be wearing their ties there on Wednesday when CEO Ginni Rometty shows up for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. You can take the fish out of Somers and Armonk, but you can't change a corporate culture overnight.
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