Finding additional uses for Watson is part of IBM’s plan to tap new markets and boost revenue from business analytics (IBM) to $16 billion by 2015. After mastering history and pop culture for its “Jeopardy!” appearance, the system is crunching financial information for Citigroup Inc. and cancer data for WellPoint Inc. The next version, dubbed “Watson 2.0,” would be energy- efficient enough to work on smartphones and tablets.
IBM expects to generate billions in sales by putting Watson to work in finance, health care, telecommunications and other areas.
It takes a while for Watson to do the “machine learning” necessary to become a reliable assistant in an area. Watson’s deal with WellPoint (WLP) was announced in September of last year, and the system won’t master the field of oncology until at least late 2013.
Researchers also need to add voice and image recognition to the service so that it can respond to real-world input, said Katharine Frase, vice president of industry research at Armonk, New York-based IBM.
As the technology is improved, a mobile Watson could become an extension of services that IBM already offers to business customers such as WellPoint, the second-biggest U.S. health insurer. The move fits into a broader push to promote analytics software, which helps customers diagnose problems and spot patterns in everything from infant mortality to South American floods. IBM agreed to buy Kenexa Corp. for about $1.3 billion yesterday as part of the effort.
To “teach” Watson a subject such as oncology, researchers feed the machine with answers to relevant questions. They then ask it to answer similar queries by analyzing documents, websites and books at 66 million pages a second. After enough times telling the machine which answers are accurate, Watson can develop expertise to assist a doctor.
“It’s going to recommend to you the answer and show you the evidence,” Frase said.
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