IBM sees the future through an artificial intelligence lens and continues to invest in cognitive technologies to drive new business opportunities such as the internet of things (IoT), Blockchain, big data analytics and others.
That vision is behind Big Blue’s new $200 million investment in the global headquarters for its Watson internet of things (IoT) business in Munich. With the investment, IBM will drive new IoT capabilities with Blockchain, security, cloud and other technologies to gain insights from the billions of sensors embedded in machines, cars, drones and even hospitals, IBM said.
IBM launched its Watson IoT headquarters at the end of last year with the commitment of a $3 billion global investment to bring Watson-based cognitive computing to IoT. So far, more than 6,000 customers globally are using IoT solutions and services—up from 4,000 just eight months ago, IBM said.
“IBM committed $3 billion to developing the Watson IoT platform and ecosystem, and $200M of that original sum is being allocated for the new IoT HQ in Munich,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
King noted that the decision to place the facility in Munich is an interesting one.
“But you could argue that is make good strategic sense since related technologies, including Blockchain and advanced security are catching on more quickly there, he said. “The announcement was also punctuated with three customer profiles, two of them located in northern Europe. Overall, this new announcement serves to underscore IBM’s commitment to IoT, and to highlight the company’s successful customer engagements around IoT solutions which show the wisdom of this new $200 million investment.”
Some of the new funding will be used to build out what IBM calls its cognitive IoT Collaboratories, which are hands-on labs where IBM researchers, engineers and developers can work with customers and business partners to build new IoT solutions and business models. The first IBM IoT Collaboratory at Watson IoT headquarters in Munich houses more than 1,000 IBM developers, engineers, researchers and business people.
“IBM is making tremendous strides to ensure that businesses around the world are able to take advantage of this incredible period of technological transformation and develop new products and services that really change people’s lives,” said Harriet Green, global head of IBM’s Watson IoT business, in a statement. “Germany is at the forefront of the Industry 4.0 initiative and by inviting our clients and partners to join us in Munich, we are opening up our talent and technologies to help deliver on the promise of IoT and establishing a global hotbed for collaborative innovation.”
In addition to the IoT Collaboratories, IBM also announced a batch of new cognitive IoT offerings, including a new capability that connects IoT data to Blockchain through the IBM Watson IoT Platform. In fact, Kouvola Innovation—also known as Kinno, is an economic development company based in Finland and an IBM customer that has used the IBM Watson IoT Platform to connect devices to a blockchain. The company developed a solution that tracks container status and location, and optimizes packing and transfer of shipments through shipping lanes, IBM said.
Big Blue also introduced new IoT security solutions and services. The security offerings include advanced security assessment, threat intelligence to identify anomalies, and data anonymization to ensure data privacy, IBM said. The solutions also tap into the Watson IoT Platform to provide users with visibility into exposures and deliver automated operational responses tailored to individual customers.
In addition, IBM is taking advantage of the natural language capabilities in Watson to provide new voice interfaces for customers using the Watson Natural Language Classifier service. IBM also announced its Cognitive IoT Cookbook, which includes new recipes for developers with code and best practices using Watson’s Natural Language APIs to address IoT challenges.
For its part, market research firm IDC named IBM a leader in the world of IoT. IDC surveyed more than 4,500 business decision makers in 25 countries around the world for their Global Decision Maker Survey on IoT.
“With 55 percent of respondents stating that IoT is strategic to their business, we can see that the market is pivoting away from proof of concept projects to scalable deployments that are incorporating cloud, analytics, and security capabilities,” said Vernon Turner, senior vice president of Enterprise Systems and IDC Fellow for the Internet of Things, in a statement. “In our research, IBM came across as a major player in nearly every aspect of the IoT market with clear leadership for its IoT platform, software and systems integration. IBM’s investment to bring its Watson cognitive computing technologies to the IoT is clearly gaining traction with companies around the world which are launching their own IoT solutions.”
IBM Invests $200M in Watson IoT Headquarters
Pund-IT’s King said he believes a notable point about many IoT stories is their emphasis on “things” or the sensors and devices at the endpoint of IoT webs.
“That’s an interesting subject, especially as it touches on other popular technologies, including mobility and wireless connectivity,” King said. “But larger IoT stories inevitably return to the data centers where sensor/endpoint data is collected, secured, stored, analyzed and acted upon. IBM’s vision wholly encompasses entire IoT networks but the company’s fundamental strength is in the underlying data center infrastructures and cognitive technologies, especially Watson. So IDC naming IBM as an IoT leader doesn’t really surprise me. In fact, it’s difficult to think of another major vendor that’s further along the IoT path than IBM.”
Meanwhile, IBM announced that Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals Inc. is working with IBM to launch Watson IoT-powered cognitive hospital rooms. Jefferson University Hospitals includes three facilities with more than 900 acute care beds and part of Jefferson Health in Center City, Philadelphia. The cognitive hospital rooms will feature in-room speakers that are connected to the Watson IoT platform. The speakers will give patients control over various aspects of their hospital stay including communicating with hospital staff as well as operating the lights and window blinds, among other things.
“Being in a hospital can often be a hectic, anxiety-ridden, or even intimidating experience for patients and their loved ones,” said Neil Gomes, vice president for Technology Innovation and Consumer Experience at Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, in a statement. “If we can minimize that discomfort, even a little, we are doing a lot to increase the well-being and care of our patients. “We are able to invest in new innovations like the Watson IoT-powered speakers to give our patients the ability to interact in natural language to get basic, but important, information about their hospital visit without having to buzz in for a nurse.”
Another customer, Aerialtronics, a Netherlands-based producer of unmanned aircraft systems, announced it is working with IBM to build commercial drones that tap the Watson IoT platform. Equipped with high definition cameras and using the Watson Visual Recognition APIs, the drones are targeted for use in inspection scenarios for various industries and services, such as monitoring traffic, crowd safety, damage assessment, crime solving, aviation inspection and other things.
“Pairing the unlimited perspective of drones with Watson IoT can bring these powerful cognitive capabilities to any location, where it can be used to analyze unexpected traffic patterns resulting from nearby construction or how a train is performing while it’s in transit,” IBM’s Green said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Big Blue also announced that Schaeffler, a German automotive and industrial supplier, has signed a multi-year partnership agreement with IBM to take advantage of IBM’s cognitive expertise as well as its IoT prowess. Schaeffler said it will use IBM’s platforms to analyze vast amounts of data from millions of sensors and devices across its operations to glean insights for better decision making and to maintain performance of their equipment in the field.
“Our goal is to be the world’s leading manufacturer of cognitive solutions which keep the world moving,” said Peter Gutzmer, deputy CEO and CTO of Schaeffler, in a statement. “We are entering an age where parts can monitor and evaluate their own performance and even order their own replacement when necessary. Schaeffler is a world leader in product development and manufacturing, IBM in hybrid cloud and cognitive computing; through this partnership we are ushering the new industrial era.”
Indeed, IBM’s Green noted that we are in an era of unprecedented industrial transformation that is “defined by factories, machines and parts capable of self-assessing, triggering actions and exchanging information with each other, and with the people who manufacture and maintain them,” she said in a statement. “Schaeffler is leading the way and literally redefining approaches for designing, producing and maintaining machines – making them safer and more reliable.”