IBM Watson is moving quickly. Just five years after it first made headlines, the cognitive computing platform has been cloud-enabled and expanded into multiple industry verticals. What began as essentially a very cool parlor trick has become central to Big Blue’s business model.
The next phase is here. The commercialization of Watson to date has been at the broad organizational level. The clients for the most part have been big players. Now, IBM is making Watson available to much smaller organizations and even individuals. PCWorld reports that IBM is introducing Expert Storybooks, a series of data discovery models that can help everyday people solve problems:
With baseball statistics from AriBall, for example, Watson Analytics is offering an Expert Storybook to build predictions of player performance for users to get an edge against their fantasy baseball competitors. A Storybook built with The Weather Company is designed to help users incorporate weather data into revenue analysis; a Twitter Storybook helps analyze social data to, among other things, measure reputational risk.
It’s an interesting strategy. On one level, IBM Watson is doing things such as helping in the fight against cancer. On the other, it is helping folks decide upon the best middle inning relief pitcher. The popularization of IBM Watson is deliberate and very important. Anyone watching the current baseball playoffs has seen spots featuring the platform and both Ken Jennings – the human champ whom IBM Watson famously beat on Jeopardy in 2011, and Bob Dylan.
Another new IBM Watson endeavor, which coincidentally is sports-related, perfectly illustrates the platform’s potential. IBM Watson is teaming with Irish firm Orreco and the Oregon Track Club to create “Coach Watson.” The goal is to enable Watson:
…to combine physiological test data, biomarker data and data on nutrition and sleep into an individualized training program that the Oregon Track Club can use to optimize the schedules and performance of its runners. In addition, Coach Watson will be able to analyze the latest research findings from medical journals.
This may sound like a bit of overkill. All runners really have to do is run faster than the person in the lane next to them. The reality, though, is that races often are decided by a few hundredths of a second. It is entirely possible that Coach Watson will be able to boil through all that data to provide the edge.
IBM also announced last week the formation of IBM Cognitive Business Solutions. The company said that the practice will use input from more than 2,000 professionals in machine learning, advanced analytics and data science and development. The release cited research from IBM’s Institute for Business Value that suggests that the highest performing companies put a premium on cognitive abilities.
It is clear that IBM feels that it has a winner – a big winner – in IBM Watson. It has methodically expanded its mission in a number of ways in the years since it beat Jennings. That aggressiveness clearly won’t stop.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.