IBM to offer Watson as development platform

IBM is preparing to make its advanced Watson supercomputer available as an open cloud platform to third party developers next year, opening up possibilities for applications based on its IA capabilities.

The new API will allow coders complete control over its front-end, letting them directly converse with the computer in real time using questions posed in natural language, getting answers back with relevant content from its database.

Requests to use Watson can be submitted through IBM’s website starting from this week, although pricing has yet to be finalised.

The Watson ‘cognitive’ supercomputer is designed to use natural language processing and analytics to quickly and accurately answer complex questions by sfiting through big data and processing information in a way that is similar to the way humans think.

According to IBM, it ‘represents a significant shift in system architecture and the ability for organisations to quickly analyse, understand and respond to big data.’

In 2011 the computer demonstrated its human-like abilities to analyse language by winning the $1 million prize on the US game show Jeopardy! which presents general knowledge questions in the form of answers, and contestants must respond with the most likely question.

Since then, IBM says the compute has improved its performance by 240% and has shrank from the size of a master bedroom to a single Power 750 server the size of ‘four pizza boxes’ running Linux.

While on Jeopardy! Watson used a 2,900 core system and 15 terabytes of RAM, whereas it now has between 16 and 32 cores and uses only 265 gigabytes of RAM.

This year computer has been demonstrated in beta in a number of industries from healthcare to finance and academia, but the open API will be the first time the computer will be commercialised for anyone to build their applications on.

In February this year, IBM announced that Watson’s first commercial application would be to assist in evidence-based decision making in lung cancer treatment.

Products were unveiled by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centres and US health insurance company WellPoint that combine Watson’s processing abilities with clinical knowledge to assist medical professionals in arriving at the optimal treatment for patients.

See also: Five mobile app development success stories

In May, IBM offered its ‘Ask Watson’ solution as customer service representative for businesses, with the ability to guide customers on product decisions solve problems and field questions and feedback via a mobile app.

In academia, IBM recently announced that it would be lending a modified version of Watson to the first university to use a computer of this kind – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, for research use. It will supposedly help prepare students for careers in big data and analytics.

The Watson cloud platform will include development toolkit, API and an application marketplace as well as instructional and educational information.

Click here to see a video that features perspectives from companies building apps embedded with Watson’s cognitive abilities

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...