Where’s Watson?



Was it 15 minutes of fame?

Without fail, once or twice a year my family gets together and tries to figure out which IBM commercial fits with my current job at IBM. “Are you making the planet smarter?” asks my niece.

So it was with great fanfare in February 2011 that IBM Watson appeared on Jeopardy! (a favorite game show in my family). My job became cool again. I could tell people at parties about Watson beating favorite Jeopardy! champions instead of having to fend off guesses about my (less-than-game-show-worthy) day job.

Then what happened? Watson got to work. Where does Watson, an artificial intelligence computer system that understands questions posed in natural language, find work?

Healthcare Industry

Most notably Watson entered the healthcare industry. Big data is almost an understatement in healthcare. Medical knowledge doubles every five years. How do medical professionals keep up with that in addition to seeing patients, doing paperwork and performing the rest of their day jobs?

IBM has partnered with organizations in the healthcare industry to take advantage of Watson’s transformational technology. Watson’s ability to analyze, understand and respond to big data has allowed doctors to spend more time with patients, personalize treatment and respond more quickly.

  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering is developing a tool built on IBM Watson to help doctors create individualized cancer diagnostic and treatment recommendations.
  • Wellpoint is leveraging Watson to match new discoveries and clinical information and present it to doctors and nurses in the context of an individual patient.
  • At Cleveland Clinic medical students will interact with Watson on challenging cases, encouraging innovation by medical students to address challenges from a new perspective and allowing Watson to build a deep medical knowledge base.

Watson is a natural fit in the healthcare industry, which has a large amount of unstructured data to be analyzed. However, it isn’t the only industry where Watson can be found.

Finance industry

Would you trust Watson as your financial advisor? Maybe not yet, but soon. Banking and finance institutions are investigating Watson technology to tackle big data related to market conditions, trends and risk. Paired with knowledge of clients’ past investment behavior, Watson technology can be a powerful tool (and competitive advantage) for financial institutions.

Citi and IBM officially announced a partnership in March 2012 to explore possible uses of Watson technology.

What’s next?

What really gets me thinking is what’s next for Watson.

In May 2012, the University of Rochester Simon School of Business partnered with IBM on an academic competition for Watson applications. Twenty-five MBA and master of science students submitted seven proposals. The winning entries addressed crisis management during natural disaster situations, mining and streamlining travel.

Other industry applications are not far behind for Watson. Ultimately, Watson takes a process and makes it more efficient. It is a tool that can analyze data from any industry and present a hypothesis on addressing a challenge posed in natural language.

What would you do with Watson?

Follow Watson’s adventures on Twitter @IBMWatson.

Karin Broecker currently leads a team of software architects in making sense of the IBM software portfolio to help address business challenges. Karin has tackled the big three in STG: System z, Power Systems and Storage. In addition, her background includes application development, IT architecture, education and people management. She loves building a strategy, practicing yoga and enjoying life. Follow Karin on Twitter: @kbreks

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