IBM Creates Watson Unit, Pledges £608m Investment

IBM is to invest $1 billion in order to create a dedicated division for its Watson computing technology

Named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, IBM Watson was developed in IBM’s Research labs. Using natural language processing and analytics, Watson processes information akin to how people think, representing a major shift in an organisation’s ability to quickly analyze, understand and respond to big data. Watson’s ability to answer complex questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence is transforming decision making across a variety of industries.

Data analyticsHowever, despite its capabilities, the complexity of the Watson solution has sparked criticism by some. David Lloyd, CEO of virtual agent provider IntelliResponse, said Watson does not offer what companies need. “For the average retail bank or fast-growing startup, Watson is like buying a Formula One car for your 20-minute commute,” he said.

In November 2013, IBM announced it would make Watson available as a development platform in the cloud, enabling software application providers to build a new generation of apps infused with cognitive computing intelligence. This includes the Watson Developers Cloud: a cloud-hosted marketplace where application providers can tap into resources for developing Watson-powered apps, including Watson’s API. Three partners will go to market in 2014 with Watson apps, from  Fluid to transform how consumers shop, from MD Buyline to help hospitals procure devices, and WellTok to enable health plans to engage their members. More than 760 applicants have shared their ideas for creating cognitive apps that redefine how businesses and consumers make decisions.

IBM collaborated with eight universities to develop Watson’s capabilities. Over the past three years, IBM has introduced through its Academic Initiative a range of academic programs to prepare students to become tomorrow’s cognitive computing leaders.

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Originally published on eWeek.