IBM Goes Global with Increasing Number of Watson Clients
Big Blue's Watson is going where it has never gone before. IBM is taking its artificially intelligent computer system that processes vast amounts of big data to answer questions asked in natural language to the global corporations.
IBM on Tuesday made four noteworthy announcements: new Watson clients across six continents and more than 25 countries; Watson's move to learn Spanish; the first wave of Watson ecosystem partners rolling out new apps for various industries; and the opening of IBM's global Watson headquarters in New York City's Silicon Alley, as well as five new Watson Client Experience Centers around the world.
"Watson is bringing forward a new era of computing, enabling organizations around the globe to launch new businesses, redefine markets and transform industries," said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of IBM Watson Group. "Watson is fueling a new market and ecosystem of clients, partners, developers, venture capitalists, universities and students. The next great innovations will come from people who are able to make connections that others don't see and Watson is making possible."
Goal: Transforming IT
That may sound like hype, but Watson was the first and is the most aggressive in its category. Whether or not it will launch new businesses, redefine new markets and transform industries remains to be seen but the computer system is attracting corporations and believers who are buying into the promise.
Industry analysts also see the potential of systems like Watson. According to market research firm Gartner, smart machines will be the most disruptive change ever brought about by information technology, making people more effective and empowering them to "do the impossible."
Again, Watson is out in front of the pack and is posting momentum as companies adopt cognitive technologies to change how they interact with customers. In a few weeks, IBM says, ANZ Global Wealth in Australia will unveil the Watson Engagement Advisor Tool in its Sydney 'Grow' center and to more than 400 financial planners.
Meanwhile, Bumrungrad International Hospital in Thailand plans to use Watson to improve the quality of cancer care at its medical center in Bangkok and case evaluation at referral offices in 16 countries on four continents. And in a world first, Deakin University will tap the power of Watson to develop an online student engagement adviser application to deliver 24/7 online and mobile access for the university's 50,000 students.
CaixaBank and IBM are joining forces to develop a cognitive system built on Watson to understand Spanish. Metropolitan Health in South Africa is pushing out the first commercial application of Watson on the African continent, using the computer system to advance customer health advisory services for its 3 million customers. And IBM ecosystem partners like Terry Jones, founder of Travelocity and founding chairman of Kayak.com, is launching WayBlazer, a startup travel company powered by Watson.
Impressive Range of Partners
Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told us we're seeing IBM succeeding with its vision for Watson, positioning the computing system as a technology that is capable of transforming just about any business or research application.
"The sheer variety of partners and new customers they are dealing with is very admirable," King said. "These are not the kind of partners that jump into things at the drop of a hat. They firmly believe that Watson will deliver real value for them."
Although we'll have to wait to see the case studies that will undoubtedly come out of these new deals, King said the interest and confidence these companies are displaying in Watson demonstrates the value of vocal search technology.
"Rather than having to key in queries, the idea of simply being able to verbally engage with a back-end system that can provide you with the information you need is very compelling," King said. "As far as I know, nobody really has anything of this magnitude. There are other vocalization or verbalization technologies out there, but I don't know anybody else that is delivering anything like Watson."
Image credit: Watson product shot with logo from IBM.