At the EY Strategic Growth Forum, I had a chance to hear Bob Pemberton, VP of Corporate Development at IBM, talk a little bit about The Watson Group – a new business unit created to help entrepreneurs harness the power of the Watson computer.
For those of you who haven’t met Watson, he (or is it she?) is a huge leap forward in cognitive computing (essentially self-learning systems). It has been in development for a while, but its real public coming out came in 2011 when it beat two top contestants on Jeopardy!
So what’s the big deal? It’s just a super powerful computer, right? Wrong! It’s so much more! Watson can take both structured (think spreadsheets) and unstructured (think comments on Twitter) data and actually teach itself. Traditional computers can only compute what they’re programmed to do, but Watson can essentially program itself to come up with new answers.
Now with the Watson Group, any business can benefit from this computing power by purchasing a subscription and then using a set of standard tools to develop new applications. Here are a couple of pretty interesting examples:
Bon Appetit Magazine created Chef Watson to look at and analyze classic recipes to come up with new twists that people would be likely to enjoy.
Pathway Genomics is using Watson to create health and wellness applications based on a specific person’s DNA (see, I CAN eat those French fries!)
SparkCognition is using Watson not just to react to – but to predict and prevent the next cyber security attack.
There are implications for our field as well – testing campaign concepts, measuring programs, predicting behaviors of large populations, predicting trend shifts. It’s a great time to be a data nerd.
So, if you had access to Watson (and the technical smarts to develop the programs), what would you ask?