IBM Bringing More Powerful Watson Supercomputer to the Cloud
November 14, 2013

IBM Bringing More Powerful Watson Supercomputer To The Cloud

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) created a supercomputer that could outsmart human contestants on the game show “Jeopardy!,” and the Watson technology will soon be offered as a cloud-based tool for application developers.

This will include access to the IBM Watson Developers Cloud, an online marketplace that will provide resources for developing apps, as well as a content store with data from third-party providers. This could allow developers the ability to use Watson as a resource for everything from basic shopping tips to a dispenser for medical advice.

IBM’s goal is to spur innovation and fuel a new ecosystem of entrepreneurial software application providers, which could range from start-ups and emerging, venture capital (VC)-backed businesses to more established companies.

“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 in a statement. “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."

This new version of Watson in the cloud could also serve as a turning point in how small companies, as well as individuals, access technology that was previously only accessible to corporate giants – such as IBM.

“The next generation will look back and see 2013 as a year of monumental change,” Stephen Gold, vice president of the Watson project at IBM, told the New York Times. “This is the start of a shift in the way people interact with computers.”

Moreover, this technology could further spur that innovation as it is open to a wider audience of users.

“There is so much more that can be accomplished by drawing on the creativity of individuals, organizations, entrepreneurs, startups and established businesses that truly innovate every day on their own,” Gold told Bloomberg. “Watson can be this ultimate assistant to help individuals get their questions answered and their problems solved.”

The New York Times also reported that Watson might have some competition, as a company appearing at an Amazon conference said it had utilized an Amazon cloud of computer servers and in just 18 hours had run what would have taken 264 years on a single server. That project, which was devised to find better materials for solar panels, cost just $33,000 via Amazon’s cloud servers. It would have required an estimated $68 million to build and run the same project on a similar computer just a few years ago.

This competition could, in turn, push Watson into even higher gear, and already IBM has unveiled its new ecosystem with three business partners thatplan to roll out early versions of Watson-powered apps. Set to enter the market in 2014, these include Fluid, which builds online shopping experiences for retail businesses. Its app calls upon Watson's ability to understand the nuances of human language and uncover answers from Big Data; MD Buyline, a supply chain solutions provider; and Welltok, a pioneer in the emerging field of social health management.

“Through our collaboration with IBM, I look forward to marrying the world's leading cognitive computing platform with Welltok’s ever increasing volume of disparate health information such as health conversations, activity data, health content and health benefit information to push innovation and activate consumers to take charge of their health and wellbeing,” said Jeff Margolis, Chairman and CEO of Welltok, Inc. in a statement. “Welltok will have an unprecedented opportunity to leverage massive amounts of unstructured information to help consumers achieve healthier, happier lives by providing them with the right tools and information they need to avoid preventable health problems and to improve their overall health and wellness.”