Can Watson grow into a multi-billion dollar business and become the source of IBM’s recovery and resurgence? The company is betting its future that the answer is a resounding yes. Watson is basically IBM’s version of artificial intelligence technology and the firm is trying to stay focused on commercializing it. There is no denying that even though there is an artificial intelligence frenzy in the tech industry, IBM’s version does stand out in the crowd. Billions of dollars have already been invested by IBM in the Watson business unit, which was created at the beginning of 2014 and now employs approximately 10,000 workers.
The big-ticket marketing drive of IBM include the clever television ads that depict Watson trading quips with famous personalities like Bob Dylan and Serena Williams. After getting off to a slow start, Watson has shown its mettle by providing assistance in doing daunting tasks such as diagnosing cancer. Nonetheless, industry experts are still questioning as to how quickly a business can be built around Watson by IBM. According to a researcher at Gartner, IBM is pursuing huge initiatives that are not only very expensive, but can also take years to take root and they are trying to swim upstream with them.
IBM states that adapting Watson’s technology in industries like manufacturing and healthcare is definitely a long term commitment. It also said that this commitment had begun in 2011 when Watson had succeeded in beating human champions on the quiz show ‘Jeopardy’. IBM executives have said that the years of applied-science projects and investments are now transitioning into money making opportunities in prominent markets. They gave an example of the strategy used by the company by pointing to a new offering of Watson in genomics. Starting on Monday, IBM is working with the medical laboratory company, Quest Diagnostics, for offering Watson diagnostic analysis and gene sequencing as a cloud service to oncologists who are treating cancer patients.
The service will also make use of the expertise and genomics data of the Broad Institute and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. A senior vice president, John E. Kelly said that this is basically the commercialization of the Watson technology on a broad scale. IBM executives have said that the technology has the ability of making precision medicine and can also help in ensuring tailored therapies are available to millions of cancer patients instead of the small number who are treated currently at elite medical centers possessing genomics expertise. Approximately 14 million people in the US are suffering from cancer.
As per IBM executives, this new genomics service is only one step in their aim to build a complete ecosystem of software developers and corporate partners that use the Watson technology. Watson can provide a programmer with code that enables a startup’s software to read and interpret legal documents quite easily. As far as a big company is concerned, Watson can not only provide software, but IBM consultants can also help them in customizing their marketing techniques and improving their customer service.