You know something important is happening in the world of predictive analytics applications when Big Blue announce a $1bn investment in developing and commercialising their latest technology. At the same time announcing a move to massive new, dedicated premises in New York.
IBM Watson, which has been emerging on the tech landscape over the last few years after it famously won the US TV quiz show Jeopardy, has finally landed. IBM describe it as a ‘breakthrough natural language-based cognitive service that will provide instant access to powerful predictive and visual analytic tools for businesses.’
Or put more simply, ‘Watson Analytics allows non-technical professionals in marketing, sales, finance and human resources roles to make more informed business decisions by analyzing huge volumes of data using familiar business terms instead of technical jargon.’
The new system enables business professionals to get predictive answers to questions like those below in a fraction of the time, and potentially more accurately, than if they had gathered data and thought it all through themselves.
- What are the key drivers of my product sales?
- Which benefits drive employee retention the most?
- Which deals are most likely to close?
Why is it called IBM Watson?
IBM Watson is named after IBM’s first CEO, at the time acclaimed as the ‘world’s greatest salesman’, Thomas J. Watson. Between 1914 and 1956 Watson grew the organisation into an international leader. Working with punched card tabulating machines at the time he could hardly have imagined a ‘cognitive technology that processes information more like a human than a computer’.
It’s not a bad choice of name. If IBM’s confidence is anything to go by the new Watson may be just as transformational as the original. On the Watson website one the first things you’ll read is ‘Together we’ll do things generations before couldn’t dream of.’
IBM Watson website – more Silicon Alley than IBM Enterprise?
It could be significant that the dedicated IBM Watson website is rather removed from the normal visual appearance and tone of the IBM enterprise, more Silicon Alley. The page about the new, New York headquarters makes it clear that IBM are aiming to work together with developers and entreprenuers to create new applications using Watson. The new offices include a design studio, solution centre and incubator that are clearly designed to foster a collaborative approach.
What is IBM Watson?
Watson is different from previous commercially available predictive analytics solutions. It’s a super computer capable of artificial intelligence. It’s cognitive ability means Watson can understand questions asked in natural language and then crunch structured and unstructured data, faster than the human brain, to find the answer.
Watson is also a more self-serve solution for the average business user. In the launch announcement Bob Picciano, Senior Vice President, says “Watson Analytics is designed to help all business people – from sales reps on the road to company CEOs – see patterns, pursue ideas and improve all types of decisions.”
Mr Picianno went on to say, “We have eliminated the barrier between the answers they seek, the analytics they want and the data in the form they need. The combination of Watson-fueled analytics to magnify human cognition, the vast potential of big data, and cloud-scale delivery to PCs, smart phones and other devices is transformational.”
Put simply, Watson will help all business professionals, find the answers they are looking for in the easiest way possible. Whether they are involved in marketing, sales, operations, finance or human resources Watson will play a role. It removes the need for users to have data ready for analysis, a clear idea of the type of analysis needed, and the skills and time to build a model for analysis. Watson will do all this for them.
What technology does Watson use?
Whilst the user interface of Watson is simple the underlying technology is of course as sophisticated as it gets. A unified analytics and data experience on the cloud, hosted on SoftLayer and available through the IBM Cloud Marketplace. It will also be available on IBM Bluemix for developers and ISV’s.
When is IBM Watson available?
Watson analytics will begin to be available in beta test form from November 2014. It will be a cloud-based service with free and premium services.
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