IBM Just Made Cognitive Computing And Advanced Analytics Accessible To Everyone.

December 10, 2014 by Olivier Blanchard - 3 Comments

There’s so much stuff going on and so much information about a million different news items being shared all day long that sometimes, big changes in the world don’t necessarily make headline news. As you know, I’ve been spending a little more time recently digging into the world of innovation, particularly platform innovation: the kind of stuff that, at the risk of sounding like a futurist, is pretty much civilization-changing. Big pivot innovation. New sandboxes from which the world’s next technological leaps will come from. Well, in case you missed it, something pretty big just happened that probably should have gotten more media attention than it did. (And no, it isn’t that IBM has partnered with Twitter… although if you follow the trail of bread crumbs, you’ll end up where I am going to take you today.)

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about the future of business analytics and how it wasn’t where most people thought it was? Here’s the follow-up, and it’s kind of big because now it isn’t somewhere out there anymore. It isn’t just available for the select few. IBM just made Watson Analytics accessible to pretty much everyone.

If, like me, you’re an IBMer, or you have been paying close attention to all of this, you already know what this is and what it means. Carry on. (Or share this with peers and friends who might not have any idea that they can now use Watson to do all sorts of things their department or organization didn’t even know they could do.) If you aren’t an IBMer and don’t know what in the world I am talking about, or who this Watson guy is, or why this is a big deal, read on.

A little background to get you caught up:

If you’ve heard of Watson, it is probably in conjunction with its well publicized appearance on Jeopardy.

As cool as that is, Watson is a lot more than just a Jeopardy-busting supercomputer. Watson is a learning computer. It isn’t even a “computer,” really… it’s a lot more than that. It’s a cognitive computing platform. It uses natural language to interact with users, to learn, and to express itself. Watson is being used to solve a growing spectrum of problems, from curing cancer (accelerated research) to looking for predictive modeling insights into consumer needs. Moreover, the Watson ecosystem, leveraging the cloud, is now scalable like never before, which brings us to IBM being able to make Watson accessible on a scale never attempted until now.

Before we get too far into that, check out this piece on cognitive computing, new horizons of anayltics, and how Watson is changing the game. (Come back when you’re done.)

Welcome back! One more bit of background on Watson before we go on. Check out this quick little video:

Now that everyone is caught up…

So here’s the big news in case you missed it: Up until now, it was pretty difficult to get access to Watson. The analogy I heard over the weekend was that Watson was a bit like the Pharell Williams or the Will.i.am of cognitive computing: big star, super talented, everyone wants to work with him (well… it) and hang out, but… you know, there are only so many hours in the day and there’s work to be done. Watson was pretty focused on some really sweet projects, but the rest of us common mortals just sort of had to enjoy the fruits of Watson’s labors from the sidelines.

Well, no more. IBM has decided to kick the velvet rope to the curb and let everyone have access to some of Watson’s capabilities in an open beta. You can also check out this press release for more info.

(Speaking of Pharell, go ahead and do a happy dance. I’ll wait.)

Welcome back! I have more good news: the beta is currently free. (Well… it’s a freemium model, but that’s still a pretty sweet deal.) Go ahead and dance some more if you want. I won’t judge.

Welcome back. Okay, now let’s get to some of the meat and potatoes of this thing.

If you want to skip ahead of the class, you can go here to find out all about Watson and explore Watson’s pretty rich ecosystem all on your own.

If you’re here for the digested version, here’s what you need to know:

1. For starters, Watson will help you crunch your data in ways that will blow your mind.

Since this press release explains the broad lines super clearly, I’ll just go ahead and quote it:

“IBM Watson Analytics automates the once time-consuming tasks such as data preparation, predictive analysis, and visual storytelling for business professionals. Offered as a cloud-based freemium service, all business users can now access Watson Analytics from any desktop or mobile device.”

Here are some pretty pictures to help expand what it means:

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Note: you can click on any of the above images for more info.

2. Watson does more than the obvious. Say data crunching isn’t your main focus. Say you want to focus specifically on automated customer engagement, or in-house SME support, and natural language search (yes, even as a first customer service layer). Check out what Watson can do for you there:

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Note: go ahead and click on that green box to read more.

3. What if you need a little help with research?

Watson can help with that as well. Here’s how:

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And yes, this is totally applicable to market research. (Want to find out more? Right here.)

4. You can also use Watson as a platform to build a new generation of super awesome apps.

Don’t take my word for it, but what I’ve seen so far, I mean the apps and solutions I have seen from IBM partners using Watson to power their data modeling and predictive analytics, makes the stuff you were using six months ago (and possibly still using right now) look like twenty-year-old tech. (I gave you a glimpse into social business applications here.)

So here’s the thing: You can click here to start exploring the world of Watson Analytics, you can already go hang out (or lurk) on the Watson Analytics discussion boards, and/or you can click here to go explore (and hopefully join) the growing developer community that is already building tomorrow’s killer apps and solutions.

It doesn’t really matter if you’re trying to build (or find) a better social media monitoring app, or if you’re doing medical research, or looking to create real-time heat maps of the impact of memes on hate speech, or trying to predict who in the 29601 is probably hungry for pizza right now (and determine how far they may currently be from your pizzeria). Whatever your project’s focus: curing cancer, ending world hunger, alleviating traffic congestion, understanding your customers better or just building wicked smart-home apps, you now have access to a brand new sandbox. Whether you have innovation in your blood or understand the need to stay a step ahead of your competitors, you owe it to yourself to dig into this.

Remember a few weeks ago when I talked about humanity entering a new era of accelerated innovation? This is part of that change. This is one of those moments, when we’ll look back and say this was one of the big first steps into what happened next.

5. So now what?

I’m pretty sure I have already linked to everything you need to read, so now it’s really about walking you to the front door. To get started with Watson right now, just click here.

All right, that ought to do it for now. Go forth and… build something amazing (or just use the beta to find ways of increase your sales and be your company’s new hero – whatever floats your boat). It’s 100% up to you what happens next. If you do end up doing something really cool with this though, let me know. I’d love to hear about it.

Cheers,

Olivier

PS: More reading if you’re looking for case studies:

Want to let Watson look at your DNA and give you health advice?

Want to see how Watson could help completely rethink travel?

Want to see how Watson can help you score more client work?

Want to let Watson create recipes for you out of scratch?

Want a smarter, cooler, better digital assistant than Siri?

 Want Watson to help you with customer support?

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This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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