Not only will the certification program enable developers to test and validate their expertise in developing artificial intelligence (AI)-based cognitive computing applications, but it also will help organizations looking to hire developers to identify those who are qualified to build enterprise- and consumer-ready solutions, IBM said.
"We want to make it even easier for developers to learn how to build and deploy cognitive applications—and even more importantly, to distinguish themselves for having developed these critical skills," said Steve Abrams, IBM's vice president of Watson Developer Advocacy, in a blog post.
The program tests developers' knowledge and understanding across four core areas: fundamentals of cognitive computing, use cases of cognitive services, fundamentals of the IBM Watson Developer Cloud and developing cognitive applications using the IBM Watson Developer Cloud.
IBM said the Watson developer certification test can be taken at any of Pearson VUE's test centers in 175 countries. It will also be offered at all IBM conferences, including the upcoming World of Watson forum this month in Las Vegas and in November at IBM's Watson Developer Conference in San Francisco.
In addition, IBM has provided a library of resources for applicants to learn more and to help prepare for the exam, including digital study guides, sample tests and learning labs, Abrams said.
"The test was developed by a panel of 20 subject matter experts, including IBM Distinguished Engineers and technology experts currently applying Watson in key industries such as health care, banking and commerce," IBM said.
A successful applicant will be named an "IBM Certified Application Developer – Watson" and will receive a digital badge that is uniquely coded to the individual and will serve as a digital verification of their accomplishment, he added.
IBM introduced Watson to developers in November of 2013, formally launching the Watson Developer Cloud a bit later. Abrams noted that the Watson Developer Cloud brings the power of cognitive computing to developers across the world through a set of APIs on IBM's Bluemix platform.
"We've seen volumes of applications built by companies covering everything from personal health and fitness to travel and entertainment to financial services," Abrams said. "It was amazing to see these early adopters jump onboard and showcase the power of cognitive computing."
Moreover, "We watch every day as individuals explore and apply Watson in new ways—from building natural language interfaces in a variety of languages so consumers can get answers faster to helping doctors uncover critical new insights from medical imagery," Abrams said in a blog post. "The developers driving this innovation are using AI and machine learning to bring amazing concepts to life, and they are pushing the boundaries of one of the most exciting new areas in tech history, cognitive computing."
IBM's CEO Ginni Rometty has dubbed this the era of cognitive computing, and IBM has taken a leadership position in developing and delivering the technology.
Watson is already in leadership position in cognitive computing, but the new developer certification should help cement it if Big Blue is able to get a significant number of developers to sign up, Rob Enderle, founder of the Enderle Group, told eWEEK. Indeed, it isn't the announcement of the program but the level of participation in it, he said.
Moreover, Enderle noted that Watson is still emerging in the market, which means there aren't yet a lot of homes for new applications for it.
"Developing for an AI platform has a lot of unique upfront costs in terms of training," Enderle said. "So while this certainly helps, it will be how many top developers sign up and actually develop compelling apps that will cement or expose IBM's accepted leadership in AI. Fortunately they don't need a lot to get to critical mass; this isn't a smartphone platform after all, but it can't be undersubscribed either. In the end, developers will likely make the difference between whether Watson has legs or eventually becomes obsolete, but this program certainly helps avoid the latter."