IBM Watson Centre, Garage & Design Studio open in Singapore

All three facilities are located in the financial district, offering customers and partners access to IBM's cognitive and design capabilities and a platform to testbed prototypes based on emerging technologies such as blockchain.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

IBM has set up three new facilities in Singapore touted to offer access to its cognitive computing and design capabilities as well as a testbed to build product prototypes based on emerging technologies.

Located at tech vendor's local office at Marina Bay Financial Centre, the new IBM Watson Centre houses both IBM Garage and IBM Studios and serves as the regional hub, offering customers and industry partners in Asia-Pacific a platform on which to test out new ideas using IBM's cognitive and data analytic technologies.

The Singapore outfit also now serves as the company's new headquarters for the region.

Speaking at the launch Thursday, IBM executives heralded "a new era" of cognitive where everything could be "reimagined" and reengineered to break new grounds. Businesses' transition towards digitisation had generated huge volumes of data and, with the advent of cloud, that now could be harnessed and fed into machine-learning systems.

These would then generate critical insights and intelligence into the business environment, paving the way for cognitive thinking and better decision-making. In healthcare, for instance, doctors were tapping Watson to develop new treatments for brain cancer.

Noting that machine learning could be used across any vertical, Anthony Menezes, IBM's Asia-Pacific vice president for cognitive solutions, said: "We believe we're at the dawn of a new era...[where] cognitive solutions will take over the world. We expect it to be part of every decision made over the next five years."

Menezes noted that IBM had been investing in cognitive technologies over the last decade, creating various products and services to support this space.

In doing so, it has identified three key attributes around the way its cognitive platform: understands, focusing on how it interacts with humans through text, voice, or natural language; the way it reasons, by extracting and putting context to information; as well as its ability to learn at scale so that it continues to learn and expand its knowledge through every interaction and around an organisation's processes.

There are 5,000 IBMers across the Asia-Pacific trained in cognitive technologies, including data scientists, researchers, software engineers, and analytics experts. The new Watson Centre also will offer education, hackathons, and workshops tailored for various communities such as startups, developers, and systems integrators.

DBS Bank had signed up to work with the facility to develop new services based on, what it described as, disruptive technologies and to support the Singapore bank's own initiatives in fintech.

Speaking at the launch, DBS CEO Piyush Gupta noted that traditional financial services providers were facing increasing competition from fintech players and non-traditional players, which were aggressively targeting the financial services value chain. Chinese e-commerce operator Alibaba, for instance, had loan relationships with 37 million SMBs (small and midsize businesses) and 300 million customer credit scores.

"And they're doing things banks are not allowed to do. This is the reality today," Gupta said. "They're reimagining our world very differently from how we had imagined it." He added that this had pushed the need for traditional players such as DBS to rethink the customers' journey and improve its service delivery. Organisations also would need to adopt a new mindset to fully transform its business model.

"The difference between [the likes of[] Alibaba and a bank is the people, mindset...[having the] flexibility and willingness to do things differently. The best way to do is to give people the tools to reimagine and develop [new products and services," he said, pointing to the IBM Watson facility as a platform in which experiment with new ideas while tapping the tech vendor's cognitive expertise.

Private healthcare group Parkway Pantai also was tapping the Watson platform to offer proactive patient monitoring and using real-time data analysis to facilitate early intervention. These, it hoped, would improve the quality of patient care and medical outcomes in its intensive care units at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital in Singapore.

Parkway Pantai's CEO of Singapore operations division, Kelvin Loh, said in a statement: "Systems like cognitive computing can continuously read, monitor, and quickly make sense of vast amounts of data. With decision support tools like Watson, our clinicians and nurses can get data in the right context, faster, and personalised to the patient's needs. This translates to greater efficiency and better outcomes for our patients."

In conjunction with the Watson launch, IBM also officially opened its fifth global Garage site in Singapore, which would allow developers, customers, and startups to testbed tools and processes based on blockchain technologies.

The vendor itself had adopted blockchain internally, applying the technology to its global financing business with the aim to resolve disputes between the company, its partners, and customers.

IBM also opened its 30th global Design Studio in Singapore, touted to provide design and digital experts to help its customers develop new business models and products. The facility houses more than 100 designers trained in building "interactive experience" and offers workshops in digital transformation, cognitive experience design, and mobile and omni-channel application development.

IBM was targeting to double its team of designers at the local studio facility by year-end. Other Design Studios in the region included Bangalore, Dubai, Melbourne, and Shanghai.

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