Oct 11, 2016

IBM Watson

Written by Avantgarde
Reading time: 4 mins


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Developed in IBM’s (Twitter: @IBM) DeepQA project by a research team led by David Ferrucci and named after IBM’s first CEO Thomas J. Watson, “Watson” (Twitter: @IBMWatson) is a technology platform that uses Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to get insights from large amount of unstructured data and supporting evidence to help people and businesses make better and faster decisions.

Originally developed to compete at human level on a quiz show called Jeopardy! it aims to replicate a high-functioning human’s ability to answer questions, through an access to 90 servers with a combined data storage of over 200 million pages of information, which it processes against six million logic rules.

Its first commercial application took place at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center together with WellPoint, a health insurance company to assist in management decisions in lung cancer treatment. Watson’s application however, is not restricted to the medical field, in fact it has applications in every industry and profession due to its ability to learn vast amount of industry related data and combine it with people’s observations, reactions, emotions, thought process put to use in a logical and efficient manner. It acts as a cognitive assistant that helps every professional be the best in their field by sharing expertise and improving consistency across the company.

Even though the idea behind the technology remains the same but the capabilities of Watson are separated into different specialized components which can be used to solve particular business tasks. 

In a recent interview, Ginni Rometty, Chairwoman, President and CEO of IBM, one of the world’s largest companies with market capital of over $140 billion explained how Watson is designed to make decisions and tasks faster, cost effective and more precise.

According to her, as the companies become more and more digital, there is an explosion of data that is impossible to understand and therefore poses a need for a better way to solve problems and give meaning to such data. Watson, does exactly that by accessing all possible data and quickly analyzing information to add value to the unstructured information.

Watson is currently assisting different businesses in maximising their product reach and efficiency. For instance, in medical field, Watson assists doctors by providing potential diagnosis and treatment based on understanding and reasoning, check hypothesis against data from literature and texts fed into it from some of the best institutions.

It also assists in editing feature film trailers by helping editors put together the most popular trailers by providing inputs which are the analysis made by watching different movies and understanding how people respond at different scenes and picking elements that would duplicate reaction with new movie.

Currently, IBM is also working closely with Campbell to help create soups that would connect people to their childhood memories with the help of Watson which will study people’s reactions and changes in their brain when tasting the soup and provide analysis of the results to produce a soup that would fit the description. 

In business context, it analyses unstructured data from news articles, research reports, social media posts and enterprise system data and puts it all together to add meaning to it and provides insights on the nature of the business, financial performance and trends driving the business, identify opportunities to help users increase performance and sales. It also helps enhance understanding of business accounts by collecting, filtering and analyzing structured and unstructured information.

It can not only quickly extract information from millions of records and reveal insights, patterns and relationships across data and industries but also reduces costs by reducing dependence on higher cost channels. It can further answer common industry questions and personalize customer interactions.

Apart from the business, medical, FMCG and entertainment industry, Watson will also play a major role in day-to-day activities of an average person. From supporting a search engine to assisting people in shopping through online retail platforms or even getting recommendation for dinner, Watson will transform the way people make decisions by increasing efficiency, reducing response time and improving effectiveness of decisions.

IBM has been successful in creating a platform that would expand greatly the range of real world information, suggesting limitless horizons for artificial intelligence. Even though some of the greatest minds like Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk still fear that artificial intelligence will someday take over the world, others also feel that the potential of AI is huge and can be a significant help to humanity in the long run.


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