IBM Watson Goes to Work in NYC’s Silicon Alley

IBM has formed the IBM Watson Group, a new business unit aimed at the development and commercialization of cloud-delivered cognitive innovations. The new unit, which will be based NYC's Silicon Alley, was unveiled at an event in New York City by Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and CEO. Rometty was also joined by Michael Rhodin, who will lead the new group, as well as customers and partners. Rhodin most recently served as senior vice president, IBM Software Solutions Group, responsible for delivering industry-specific solutions in high-growth areas such as Business Analytics, Smarter Commerce, SmarterCities and Social Business. 

Noting that today is an important moment in both IT and IBM history, Rometty said, “Today is all about Watson 2.0.” Named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, IBM Watson was developed in IBM’s Research labs to address the grand challenge of answering the world’s hardest questions. IBM created artificial intelligence with Watson by using natural language understanding, enhancing its innovative question answering ability, and the technology came to prominence in 2011 when it defeated two former champions of the game show "Jeopardy."

The IBM Watson Group will be headquartered at 51 Astor Place in New York City’s “Silicon Alley” technology hub. The group will include approximately 2,000 professionals, including the team that initially worked on Watson, with the goal of designing, developing and accelerating the adoption of Watson cognitive technologies to transform industries and professions.

The new group will tap subject matter experts from IBM’s Research, Services, Software and Systems divisions, as well as industry experts who will identify markets that cognitive computing can disrupt and evolve, such as healthcare, financial services, retail, travel and telecommunications.

IBM Makes $1 Billion Investment in Watson Group

The move signifies a strategic shift by IBM to enable a new class of software, services and apps that think, improve by learning, and discover answers and insights to complex questions from massive amounts of big data. IBM will invest more than $1 billion into the Watson Group, focusing on development and research and bringing cloud-delivered cognitive applications and services to market.

This will include $100 million available for venture investments to support IBM’s recently launched ecosystem of start-ups and businesses that are building a new class of cognitive apps powered by Watson, in the IBM Watson Developers Cloud. 

Watson is taught, not programmed, and, by design, gets smarter over time, said Rometty. Observing that 80% of the world’s data is unstructured, not to mention massive volumes of data about data, Rometty said that Watson is built for a world of big data and has the potential to transform business and professions everywhere. It is not a super search engine, she noted. “It can not only find the needle in the haystack but it also understands the haystack.”

Underscoring the importance of the new Watson Group, Rometty pointed out that IBM does not create new groups often, doing so perhaps once a decade.

As part of this initiative IBM says it will engineer Watson to be deployed on Softlayer, the cloud computing infrastructure business recently acquired by IBM. 

New Services Based on Watson

In addition to launching the IBM Watson Group, IBM announced three new services based on Watson’s cognitive intelligence.

  1. IBM Watson Discovery Advisor will delve into the influx of data-driven content today’s researchers face, and uncover connections that can speed up and strengthen their work. 
  2. IBM Watson Analytics allows users to explore big data insights through visual representations, without the need for advanced analytics training.
  3. IBM Watson Explorer provides users with a unified view displaying all of their data-driven information, as well as a framework for developing information-rich applications that deliver a comprehensive, contextually-relevant view of any topic for business users, data scientists and a variety of targeted business functions.

Watson at the Core of a Larger Ecosystem

With the goal of fostering a larger ecosystem to create new solutions based on Watson, for entrepreneurs and start-ups, the Watson Group's Silicon Alley headquarters will provide a business incubator offering the technology, tools and talent to create and launch new products and businesses based on Watson's cloud-delivered cognitive intelligence. As a result, business partners will gain the support to achieve their visions for solving industry and societal challenges, and meeting marketplace demands that are currently unmet. 

The Watson Group’s headquarters will also provide a client solutions center, serving as a place for IBM clients to experience cognitive technologies and learn how they can help transform their businesses. In addition, the headquarters will host a design lab for continuously enhancing the user experiences for cognitive applications and services used by IBM clients and partners, and offer workshops and seminars on topics such as development skills, as well as networking opportunities. 

For more information on IBM Watson, visit

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