IBM's Watson lands new partners and opens NYC office

IBM has announced Watson first major steps beyond playing against Jeopardy! to mobile and cloud.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

IBM's $1bn bet on its cognitive computing platform Watson is paying dividends, with the company announcing a slew of new Watson partners, clients and the grand opening of its New York City office.

Ten months on from IBM's first signal that it would make greater efforts to commercialise Watson, the company is showing off how its investment is bearing fruit, announcing a bevy of new clients and startups that are using Watson to power their own cognitive services and apps. 

The company's New York City headquarters for the Watson Group is now officially open for business and will be home to a new Watson Client Experience Centres with additional centres in an initial five cities around the world including Dublin, London, Melbourne, Sao Paulo, and Singapore. The five facilities will be co-located with IBM Research and Design teams.

The New York facility will house 600 IBM Watson employees and aims to lure the city's small (relative to Silicon Valley) but growing startup scene to jump on the Watson bandwagon.

Besides offering a place to show off first-hand Watson’s capabilities, it will also host a design lab for improving cognitive apps and services used by IBM clients and partners, as well as an incubator to connect entrepreneurs with subject matter experts.

To support its effort to drive for developers to adopt cognitive computing in their apps, IBM also introduced a new set of big data crunching services as part of IBM BlueMix, which runs on its cloud platform SoftLayer as well as IBM's cloud. BlueMix services on offer to developers that build Watson-powered apps include user modelling, machine translation, language identification, concept expansion, message resonance, relationship extraction, question and answer, and visualisation rendering.

Some of the 'ecosystem partners' that have jumped on board Watson include WayBlazer, a travel app headed up by founder of Travelocity Terry Jones, and London's Red Ant, the maker of a customer intelligence app for salespeople. It's also signed up developers in security, non-profit, healthcare and veterinarian medicine.

"Watson is bringing forward a new era of computing, enabling organisations around the globe to launch new businesses, redefine markets and transform industries," said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of the IBM Watson Group.

"Watson is fueling a new market and ecosystem of clients, partners, developers, venture capitalists, universities, and students. The next great innovations will come from people who are able to make connections that others don't see and Watson is making possible."

Some Watson clients will also be helping the company develop new skills, such as Spain's CaixaBank, which is teaming up with IBM to teach Watson how to understand Spanish.

Other customers using Watson to improve client engagement include Australia's ANZ Global Wealth, the Bumrungrad International Hospital in Thailand, Deakin University in Australia, and Metropolitan Health in South Africa.

IBM in January announced it was investing $1bn in establishing the new Watson Group to commercialise cognitive computing, including $100m earmarked for investments in startups that build apps powered by Watson.

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