IBM expands Watson's reach with data platform, iOS integration, bots, education efforts

IBM rolled out a series of new services for Watson as well as outreach to educational institutions to broaden its ecosystem.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

IBM launched a series of Watson technologies to incorporate machine learning, a data platform, conversational tools called Virtual agent, more integration with MobileFirst for iOS apps and education efforts to boost the cognitive computing ecosystem.

The barrage of announcements comes as IBM hosts a Watson conference in Las Vegas. IBM CEO Ginny Rometty will use a keynote speech to outline the Watson portfolio, ecosystem and customer base. Here's what you need to know.

IBM's Watson Data Platform. The company is combining its Watson data ingestion engine with its cloud services and its machine learning technology. The idea is to mix the tools in one platform so machine learning is easier to digest for business decision makers.

Big Blue added that its Watson Data Platform will enable collaboration between data pros such as data scientists, engineers, analysts and developers. The platform is able to ingest large volumes of data up to 10GB a second, cleanse and edit information, provide collaboration and drag and drop services for analytics.

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Watson Virtual Agent. IBM rolled out Virtual Agent as a cognitive conversational technology that is aimed at boosting customer engagement. With the move, the company uses Watson to play in the bot space. Watson Virtual Agent will allow customers to pretrain bots with cross-industry content and adapt faster.

Virtual Agent can be deployed against social media, SMS, mobile and embedded in technologies. Staples, Autodesk and the Weather Company are reference customers. Virtual Agent is available with Watson Conversation on IBM's cloud.

Watson for MobileFirst for iOS apps. IBM said that it will integrate Watson into a series of MobileFirst for iOS apps. The custom apps are delivered via IBM's partnership with Apple. In a nutshell, IBM's natural language processing, Watson Conversation and Watson API's have been optimizing with Apple's iOS speech framework.

Industries mentioned by IBM for the Watson-iOS collaboration were travel, retail and financial services.

Watson for Cloud Video. Watson is being used in digital video to track unstructured data, analyze information and make better use of content. Audience insights, video scene detection and live event analysis will be available via IBM Cloud.

As IBM rolled out new Watson tools, it also moved to formalize certification and education around cognitive computing. The moves, which compliment a newly launched certification, include:

  • An AI nanodegree via Udacity. Udacity will offer a program that incorporates Watson basics with artificial intelligence education. The aim is that the nanodegree will allow students to gain knowledge and build out their project portfolio. Udacity will offer two 13-week terms.
  • Via academic software distributor Kivuto Solutions, IBM will offer free access to its Bluemix platform as a service and Watson offerings. Any accredited university, community college or high school with a STEM program can tap into Watson.
  • Pearson, an education publisher, will integrate Watson as part of its digital learning program to combine cognitive computing with courseware.
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