The days of IBM’s Watson supercomputer being satisfied with being a Jeopardy champion are over. IBM announced on Thursday that it is creating a cloud-based open platform for Watson that it hopes will “enable a worldwide community of software application providers to build a new generation of apps infused with Watson’s cognitive computing intelligence.” Among the many apps that IBM’s platform partners are launching alongside the Watson platform are Fluid, an online retail app that “calls upon Watson’s ability to understand the nuances of human language and uncover answers from Big Data,” and Welltok, a health application that will let consumers have “conversations” with Watson and let it develop a series of health itineraries to meet their needs. IBM’s press release follows below.
IBM Watson’s Next Venture: Fueling New Era of Cognitive Apps Built in the Cloud by Developers
IBM Opening the Watson Cognitive Platform to Global Community of Entrepreneurial Software App Providers, from Start-ups and VC Backed Companies to Established Players
ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that, for the first time, it will make its IBM Watson technology available as a development platform in the cloud, to enable a worldwide community of software application providers to build a new generation of apps infused with Watson’s cognitive computing intelligence.
The move aims to spur innovation and fuel a new ecosystem of entrepreneurial software application providers – ranging from start-ups and emerging, venture capital backed businesses to established players. Together with IBM, these business partners share a vision for creating a new class of cognitive applications that transform how businesses and consumers make decisions.
To bring this shared vision to life, IBM will be launching the IBM Watson Developers Cloud, a cloud-hosted marketplace where application providers of all sizes and industries will be able to tap into resources for developing Watson-powered apps. This will include a developer toolkit, educational materials and access to Watson’s application programming interface (API).
IBM partners that build Watson-powered apps in the cloud will be able to choose from two sources of data-driven content, to prepare their apps to uncover insights for users. App providers can use their own company’s data, or access the IBM Watson Content Store, featuring third-party content that offers data-rich resources that can fuel Watson’s ever expanding knowledge.
IBM will also connect its app-building partners with skilled professionals who can help advance their creative visions into market-ready products and services. IBM has committed more than 500 of its own subject matter experts as part of the overall program, in areas such as design, development and research. In addition, application providers participating in the ecosystem are expected to be able to connect with freelance professionals whose expertise can serve as a complement to their existing teams, from programmers to app developers.
“By sharing IBM Watson’s cognitive abilities with the world, we aim to fuel a new ecosystem that accelerates innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit,” said Michael Rhodin, Senior Vice President, IBM Software Solutions Group. “With this move, IBM is taking a bold step to advance the new era of cognitive computing. Together with our partners we’ll spark a new class of applications that will learn from experience, improve with each interaction and outcome, and assist in solving the most complex questions facing the industry and society.”
IBM is unveiling its new ecosystem vision with three business partners that have developed early versions of Watson-powered apps, targeted to enter the market in 2014:
Fluid: Fluid, which builds online shopping experiences for retail businesses to drive customer engagement and conversion, is developing the Fluid Expert Personal Shopper(sm) powered by IBM Watson. The app calls upon Watson’s ability to understand the nuances of human language and uncover answers from Big Data. Consumers who use Fluid’s app will interact with rich media and dialogue with Watson, as their newfound “cognitive, expert personal shopper.” The Fluid app incorporates the information users share and questions they ask to help them make smart, satisfying purchases by putting a knowledgeable sales associate in the hands of consumers, on demand.
MD Buyline: This provider of supply chain solutions for hospitals and healthcare systems is developing an app to allow clinical and financial users to make real-time, informed decisions about medical device purchases, to improve quality, value, outcomes and patient satisfaction. Hippocrates powered by IBM Watson will provide users with access to a helpful research assistant that provides fast, evidence based recommendations from a wealth of data, to help ensure medical organizations are making the best decisions for their physicians’ and patients’ needs.
Welltok: A pioneer in the emerging field of Social Health Management™, Welltok is developing an app that will create Intelligent Health Itineraries™ for consumers. These personalized itineraries, sponsored by health plans, health systems and health retailers, will include tailored activities, relevant content and condition management programs, and will reward users for engaging in healthy behaviors. Consumers who use Welltok’s app — CafeWell Concierge powered by IBM Watson – will participate in conversations about their health with Watson. By leveraging Watson’s ability to learn from every interaction, the app will offer insights tailored to each individual’s health needs.
Accelerating the New Era of Computing
More than two years after IBM Watson’s triumph on the TV quiz show Jeopardy!, IBM will share Watson as a platform to fuel new business ventures and advance the fast-emerging era of cognitive computing.
IBM is at the forefront of this era, as noted by analyst firm Frost & Sullivan, which recently recognized IBM Watson with the 2013 North America Award for New Product Innovation. Gartner Inc., which cites IBM Watson in its Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2014, predicts that by 2017, 10 percent of computers will be able to learn as Watson does.
To grow its community of business partners, IBM will work with its premier network of strategic Venture Capital partners, whose role will be to identify, engage and support application providers that are well positioned to create and market Watson-powered apps. IBM will also leverage its deep bench of Independent Software Vendor partners to expand its ecosystem of cognitive computing innovation.
“The significance here is that IBM will enable other companies, large and small, to embed access to Watson into their products and services, or better yet, to build applications on top of it,” said Mohamad Makhzoumi, Partner at New Enterprise Associates and board member at Welltok. “This could bring about a paradigm shift not only in how people interact with computers, but in how we live our lives.”
Fostering Cloud Based Collaboration
Since Big Data is the fuel that powers Watson’s capabilities, IBM will give app providers the option to use their own data, or provide them with access to the IBM Watson Content Store, which can supply data-rich content that – when crunched by Watson – can augment an app’s capabilities.
This includes Healthline, a leading provider of intelligent health information, data and technology solutions. Healthline is providing its comprehensive, contextually relevant health reference library to enable the promotion of healthy lifestyles, support disease prevention, and offer clinically significant, medically reviewed health information to everyday people so they are able to make more confident healthcare decisions.
Once app providers have identified content that is relevant and valuable to their needs, they can use the ecosystem’s cloud-hosted services to upload the information into Watson.
In addition to fueling innovation with Big Data, IBM’s new Watson ecosystem will spark opportunities for career professionals in a range of fields, including Big Data and analytics, design, development and linguistics. App providers are expected to have access to a community of talent providers that can match professionals with projects requiring their essential skills.
IBM plans to collaborate with talent partners such as Elance, which operates an online work marketplace of more than 3 million freelancers specializing in such fields as app development, web programming and graphic design. Elance plans to create clouds where app providers can tap into highly-skilled freelancers who are available on-demand to build Watson-enabled apps, and have completed an IBM certification program.
Readying Watson-Powered Apps for the Marketplace
IBM will offer a platform for testing, training and deploying Watson-powered apps, to help application providers prepare their cognitive applications for success in the marketplace. Once the app is refined and ready, app providers ranging from start-ups to established businesses can market their apps to business customers and consumers.
Organizations that are interested in collaborating with IBM to develop Watson-powered applications can visithttp://www.ibm.com/innovation/us/watson/watson_ecosystem.shtml to learn more.
IBM Watson: Then and Now
Since its introduction in 2011, IBM Watson has evolved from a first-of-a-kind status, to a commercial cognitive computing system. Watson has gained a 240 percent improvement in system performance, and a reduction of 75 percent in the physical requirements needed to run the system which can now operate from a single Power 750 server with Linux from a cloud computing environment.
IBM’s mission to spark a new generation of Watson-powered apps is the latest milestone in the company’s initiative to developcognitive system offerings that help its clients and partners succeed, in a range of industries including healthcare and customer engagement.
IBM, WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have partnered to develop an oncology solution designed to help physicians identify individualized treatment options for patients. Wellpoint also has partnered with IBM to develop a solution that helps facilitate the review process between a patient’s physician and health plan, to advance the quality and timeliness of care.
IBM is partnering with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to develop a Watson-powered technology that helps MD Anderson’s physicians and researchers expand treatment options, match patients with clinical trials and accelerate novel discoveries into the fight against cancer, starting with leukemia.
In May 2013, IBM unveiled the IBM Watson Engagement Advisor, a commercial breakthrough that helps businesses deepen engagement with customers, by quickly addressing questions, offering advice to guide purchase decisions, and troubleshooting problems. The Watson Engagement Advisor was the first commercial offering developed in partnership with IBM Design, the company’s newly-formed design team.
Named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, IBM’s transformational cognitive technology was developed in IBM’s Research Labs. Using advances in natural language processing and analytics, Watson can process information similar to the way people think, representing a significant shift in the ability for organizations to quickly analyze, understand and respond to vast amounts of Big Data. The ability to use Watson to answer complex questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence has enormous potential to improve decision making across a variety of industries from healthcare to retail, telecommunications and financial services.