IBMs Watson: The Future of Computing
IBMs Watson: The Future of Computing
by Darryl K. Taft
Optimized for Tasks
IBM's Watson signals a new era in computing, where computers will increasingly be built and optimized for specific tasks and be able to learn.
Watson represents a major breakthrough in the ability of computers to understand natural language, which humans use to capture and communicate knowledge.
Watson can evaluate the equivalent of hundreds of millions of pages of material—books, reports, articles and so on—in 3 seconds or less.
Watson can understand and learn how to improve its performance as it plays. It learns from experience.
Named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, Watson will enable computers to be even more helpful to humans moving forward.
When combined with Watson's ability to understand natural language, IBM's analytics technology is able to analyze massive amounts of data and arrive at the correct answer to a staggering variety of difficult questions across multiple industries.
Wave of Change
Watson is a glimpse into the enormous amount of change that will come to all kinds of industries. The potential benefits are endless—a better informed and more engaged citizenry, and a dramatic increase in the ability of everyday people to access the information essential to modern life.??Ã
This technology is poised to vastly improve the experience that people have with medical professionals, finance industry, retail, government and transportation.
Watson's technology and IBM's analytics offerings hold the potential to create algorithms to automatically identify and flag anomalies on MRIs and images much smaller than a radiologist can see with the human eye.??Ã
Watson can be used to guide cardiologists to avoid the most common mistakes in the field by ingesting and analyzing treatment data and test results and automatically looking for causes for concern such as the overuse of diuretics.
Watson has the ability to combine diagnosis data and treatment recommendations with analytics and even locate specialists in a patient's health plan who have the highest cure rate and live within 15 miles of the patient's home. Such capabilities can provide patients with better care under their primary care team, reduce costly chronic illness and offer more effective treatment.
Financial Services—Risk Management
Watson can dramatically improve financial services firms' risk management and provide answers in real time about a company's strategic decisions and market changes.
The supercomputer also can help investors learn about their portfolios and decide what investments to make. The system will help investors answer specific questions, such as, "What should I do with that $10,000 bonus I just received?"
Watson's capabilities can help drive smarter government, particularly in areas such as social services. Social workers sometimes can't differentiate the claims for life-saving treatments from the hundreds of other requests in their queue. A system with Watson's abilities can help the caseworker not only identify those claims, but also find answers to questions like, "How many cases in the past looked like this?"
Obtaining a building permit for a new municipal structure often requires an employee to digest a number of data sources, often totaling thousands of pages and written in an unstructured (i.e., not machine-readable) form. Watson-like technology would be able to quickly read and understand those thousands of pages and provide the employee with a concise list of the processes and dependencies for obtaining the permit. Work that might take a week could be delivered in an hour to the employee's computer.