IBM invests $1bn in Watson super-computer to become ‘Siri for business’


IBM is to invest $1bn (£608m) creating a new business division for Watson, supercomputer that once won an episode of TV game show jeapardy.

Watson, named after former IBM president Thomas Watson, beat its human rivals in the US TV quiz show in 2011 (see clip above).

The new investment aims to make Watson into a ‘Siri’ for business, designed for users to ask questions, with Watson giving answers, such as medical diagnoses for hard-to-diagnose diseases, or the likely outcome of business decisions, on the spot.

The investment includes a $100m fund to boost innovation around Watson-related developer apps.

The new division will be run by Michael Rhodin, former senior vice president of the company's software solutions group.

Watson aims to mimic how people think, using natural language capabilities and analytics, but can process vast amounts of information faster than the human brain.

IBM plans to farm out Watson's abilities to businesses and consumers via its cloud computing infrastructure, Softlayer.

The company said the investment comes in response to a growing demand for cognitive computing - a more intuitive, human-centric form of artificial intelligence that understands the nuances and complexities of language and can learn from experience and new evidence.

"We have reached the inflection point where the interest is overwhelming and we recognised we need to move faster," said Stephen Gold, vice president of Watson Business.

According to Gartner, by next year there will likely be a large and growing market for Watson-derived smart advisors and it said that Crédit Agricole predicted that these systems will account for more than 12 percent of IBM's total revenue in 2018.

IBM's full year revenue in 2012 was $104.5 billion.

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