Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: AI and the Future of Business

IBM Watson: What are companies using it for?

IBM's cognitive computing system, Watson, is more than just a champion Jeopardy contestant. Here's how Watson is being used to power a variety of practical applications.

ibm-watson
IBM Watson has become an icon of artificial intelligence. Image: IBM

Whether you call it a supercomputer, a cognitive computing system, or simply a question answering matching system -- IBM Watson is perhaps the most well-known example of artificial intelligence in use today.

Although garnering attention for its somewhat kitschy applications as a Jeopardy contestant, or even an at-home chef, Watson is actually powering quite a few practical applications across a variety of industries.

Here are five different types of applications where Watson is making an impact.

1. Healthcare

The medical field is the sector that is likely being impacted the most by Watson. For starters, Watson has taken residence at three of the top cancers hospitals in the US -- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the Mayo Clinic -- where it helps with cancer research and patient care. In terms of cancer research, Watson is speeding up DNA analysis in cancer patients to help make their treatment more effective.

For physicians, Watson is helping with diagnoses. A dermatology app called schEMA allows doctors to input patient data and, using natural-language processing (NLP), helps identify potential symptoms and treatments. Additionally, Watson uses vision recognition to help doctors read scans such as X-rays and MRIs to better narrow the focus on a potential ailment.

It's used in veterinary medicine as well.

2. Finance

In the financial sector, Watson use is typically geared toward its question and answer capabilities. By not only answering questions, but also analyzing them as well, Watson can help give financial guidance and help manage financial risk.

In Australia, the company ANZ Global Wealth is focused on the latter. The company uses the Watson Engagement Advisor Tool, an NLP SaaS offering, to observe and field customer questions. Similarly, DBS bank in Singapore uses Watson to ensure the proper advice and experience for customers of its wealth management business.

3. Legal

When it comes to the law, most of us likely have more questions than answers on any topic. However, startups such as ROSS Intelligence Inc. are using Watson to make it easier to get answers to your burning legal questions.

According to ROSS's website, users can ask questions in plain English and the app uses NLP to understand the questions and then sifts through the entirety of a database to return a cited answer with relevant legislation. ROSS also monitors potential changes to relevant laws and alerts you when changes occur.

Singapore's Inland Revenue Authority is another organization using Watson to help answer legal questions, deploying Watson to field questions about tax.

4. Retail

Modern retail experiences are all about personalization. Natural Selection is an app created by Sellpoints that uses Watson's NLP capabilities to present products to customers at the most appropriate point in the buying cycle. This can help reduce the overall number of clicks until conversion for an online retailer.

Watson is also being used in online travel purchases. Travel company WayBlazer has created a Discovery Engine that uses Watson to take in and analyze data to better link additional offers and customize preferences for individual consumers.

5. Fantasy Football

This may seem like an odd place for IBM Watson to make a mark, but the fact is that there's a ton of data that can be leveraged in fantasy sports. Edge Up Sports has a Watson-powered platform that analyzes NFL data to help fantasy football fans make better choices during the season. It analyzes data such as news about the teams and tweets from individual players. It specifically relies on Watson APIs and IBM Watson Personality Insights to streamline the research process for fantasy sports.

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