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IBM is placing Watson at the foundation of a new cloud platform for enterprise applications

IBM is placing Watson at the foundation of a new cloud platform for enterprise applications

In a bid to spur innovative application development blending enterprise cloud services with artificial intelligence IBM announced Thursday that it will be launching a cloud service for developers that is based on its popular Watson supercomputer. The company says its cognitive computing platform will help application developers bridge the gap between human and computer intelligence.

The tech giant’s Watson supercomputer, which famously featured on the popular TV game show Jeopardy two years ago (and won), has a number of built-in technologies that make appearances in other IBM offerings – natural language processing and machine learning techniques, primarily. IBM said that it will make its Watson cognitive computing technology available as a cloud service for developers to create a “new class of cognitive applications” using native Watson APIs.

“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,” he said, adding that Watson will enable developers to able to build applications that “we can’t even imagine today.”

Developers will be able to host their applications on IBM Watson Developers Cloud, a cloud-based marketplace where applications can tap into Watson’s cognitive computing resources. IBM will also provide app developers with a software development kit specifically for the Watson platform, and offer the option to tap into their own data sources or third-party data content stored on the Watson Content Store.

IBM said that its vision is to enable developers to create applications that make customer-to-business interactions easier and more intuitive, a concept underscored by the products and services being developed by some of the company’s initial partners on this platform.

Fluid, which helps companies build online retail and shopping experiences, is developing an application that taps into Watson’s ability to understand nuances in human language, and uses frequently asked questions in combination with user data to create intuitive digital “personal shoppers” for consumers. Welltok, a relatively new player in the health care sector, is leveraging Watson’s cognitive abilities in the development of a social health management app that lets users interact with Watson to generate health and wellness insights tailored specifically for them.

“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.”

The potency of the Watson platform, which has a unique ability to process structured and unstructured data and return results that can be easily metabolised by people, is fairly obvious – and the massive influx of data it will receive when companies start hosting their data on Watson’s content store will make the platform even “smarter”.

“When you start thinking about what Watson can do and how it can be applied, the ideas come very quickly in terms of what you can do with it and there really is almost no vertical where this solution can’t be applied in an innovative way,” said Kent Deverell, co-founder and chief executive officer of Fluid.