Purchase of Denver cognitive computing firm is “start of a new journey” for IBM Watson
IBM has acquired a cognitive computing company that will bolster the development of IBM Watson, the firm’s deep learning artificial intelligence supercomputer.
The buy up of Denver-based AlchemyAPI, which delivers scalable cognitive computing APIs, sees IBM take on board a pool of more than 40,000 developers across the globe that have worked on the AlchemyAPI platform to build cognitive-infused applications.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
IBM said that the technology is expected to enhance Watson’s ability to “ingest, train and learn the ‘long-tail’ of various data domains”, as well as help the platform target specific industries.
Watson gained prominence in 2011 when it won the US quiz show Jeopardy against two human competitors. During the game, Watson had access to 200 million pages of content, as well as the full contents of Wikipedia, all without being connected to the Internet. Watson won $1 million, and development of the computer has continued since then.
Currently, Watson is being focused on the health industry, with cognitive learning features being researched which could eventually help doctors across the world diagnose patients and find the correct clinical trials for individual subjects.
Most recently, IBM Watson teamed up with Japanese telco SoftBank to train the supercomputer to speak Japanese.
SoftBank, which also owns Yahoo! Japan, will be able to market the offering in the education, banking, healthcare, and retail industries in Japan.
“We believe people who speak many different languages want to use Watson—and most people on the planet do not have English as their native language,” said Michael Karasick, head of innovations for IBM’s Watson team.
Founded in 2005 and headquartered in Denver, AlchemyAPI’s deep learning platform enables clients, partners, developers and other third-parties to build cognitive-infused applications with data analysis capabilities such as taxonomy categorisation, entity and keyword extraction, sentiment analysis and web page cleaning.
AlchemyAPI said its software platform processes billions of API calls per month across 36 countries and in eight different languages: English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.
“Today is the start of a new journey for AlchemyAPI, our customers and our user community, as we join IBM, the leader in cognitive computing,” said Elliot Turner, CEO AlchemyAPI. “We founded AlchemyAPI with the mission of democratising deep learning artificial intelligence for real-time analysis of unstructured data and giving the world’s developers access to these capabilities to innovate. As part of IBM’s Watson unit, we have an infinite opportunity to further that goal.”
In January 2014, IBM launched the dedicated IBM Watson unit, a business dedicated to developing and commercialising the cloud-delivered cognitive computing technology. The move signified a strategic shift by IBM to turnaround its falling revenues and deliver a new class of software, services and apps that think, improve by learning, and discover insights from massive amounts of Big Data. IBM invested $1 billion into the Watson unit, focusing on development and research, and bringing cloud-delivered cognitive applications and services to market. This included $100 million available for venture investments that support IBM’s ecosystem of start-ups and businesses building cognitive apps powered by Watson.
IBM CEO Gina Rometty said that Watson will make $10 billion in annual revenue within 10 years, however, it seems IBM is far behind this projection. In 2013, Watson only managed to bring in $100 million.
IBM has so far struggled to monetise Watson, but it hoping that by tapping in to a large developer base as well as continuing research into the health industry, as well as others, revenue should start to increase. IBM said that before AlchemyAPI’s acquisition, it had made more than 7,000 apps for Watson. The official purchase will see IBM able to broaden its development community and entice customers with apps made by third-party companies.
“IBM continues to invest in Watson’s core technology and cloud development platform, amplifying a robust Watson ecosystem where third party organisations are creating new businesses and solutions powered by Watson,” said Mike Rhodin, SVP, IBM Watson.
“Our ability to draw upon both internal and external sources of innovation, from IBM Research to acquisitions like AlchemyAPI, remain central to our strategy of bringing Watson to new markets, industries and regions.”