IBM Envisions Watson as Supercharged Siri for Businesses
The avatar for the Watson supercomputer. Source: IBM via Bloomberg
International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) researchers spent four years developing Watson, the computer smart enough to beat the champions of the quiz show “Jeopardy!” Now they’re trying to figure out how to get those capabilities into the phone in your pocket.
Bernie Meyerson, IBM’s vice president of innovation, envisions a voice-activated Watson that answers questions, like a supercharged version of Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s Siri personal assistant. A farmer could stand in a field and ask his phone, “When should I plant my corn?” He would get a reply in seconds, based on location data, historical trends and scientific studies.
Finding additional uses for Watson is part of IBM’s plan to tap new markets and boost revenue from business analytics (IBM) to $16 billion by 2015. After mastering history and pop culture for its “Jeopardy!” appearance, the system is crunching financial information for Citigroup Inc. and cancer data for WellPoint Inc. The next version, dubbed “Watson 2.0,” would be energy- efficient enough to work on smartphones and tablets.
“The power it takes to make Watson work is dropping down like a stone,” Meyerson said in an interview. “One day, you will have ready access to an incredible engine with a world knowledge base.”
IBM expects to generate billions in sales by putting Watson to work in finance, health care, telecommunications and other areas. The computer, which 15 million people saw beat former “Jeopardy!” champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, is the company’s most high-profile product since it sold its personal- computer unit to Lenovo Group Ltd. (992) seven years ago.