IBM Debuts Watson-Powered Apps in the Cloud

At an unveiling event for IBM Watson at its New York City headquarters today, IBM introduced several Watson-powered applications developed by start-ups and Ecosystem Partners for the IBM Cloud. With solutions for the financial services, healthcare, IT services, nonprofit, retail, security, and travel industries, this round of applications leverages Watson's unique capabilities and demonstrates its analytic versatility.

Built on IBM SoftLayer, the apps are armed with functionality that relies on Watson's advanced cognitive capacity, including an ability to understand natural language, process vast amounts of disparate forms of big data, and learn from past interactions, according to a company statement. The Watson platform represents "a new era of computing," and IBM's network of app developers is helping its customers "do the impossible," the statement also said.

Watson Mobile Developer Challenge winner GenieMD, for example, implements Watson's cognitive intellect and powerful data analytics to empower patients to better understand their health conditions and seek the right treatment. The app allows users share their symptoms, receive an initial diagnosis of the problem, find the right specialist, and develop a treatment plan. The app can store information on pre-existing conditions or other ailments, and keep a person's medical history in full context when diagnosing or making care suggestions.

Today's unveiling was an important milestone for IBM, which only launched the IBM Watson Group—a business unit tasked with developing and commercializing the Watson-powered cloud offerings—in January. "[IBM] has accomplished a great deal in nine months. They've moved from research concept to commercialization. We're at the beginning of digital transformation in every industry and the cognitive computing category that IBM has put on the map represents the future of IBM as well as a key part of digital disruption," Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, says. "From healthcare to travel to cooking to financial services, there's a wide range of industries already beginning this journey," he adds.

The announcements that stemmed from the event are also likely to silence concerns over how realistic, practical, and viable Watson is in a business setting, according to Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research. Still, IBM has work to do before organizations get on board. "While there can be no question that IBM is throwing its full weight behind Watson, it will be key to understand how out-of- the-box Watson insights can be used by business practitioners versus how much service engagement will be needed to get there," Mueller says.

In addition to the new apps, IBM has launched new cognitive services through IBM Bluemix, the company's cloud-based app development platform. The services include user modeling, which uses linguistic analysis to map personality traits based on communication patterns; concept expansion, which interprets text based on context; and several translation services as well. Following the introduction of these new tools, users will gain access to a growing set of APIs and content that will enable them to incorporate these features into new and existing applications.

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