IBM Opens Watson Headquarters in NYC Amid New Cognitive Milestones

IBM announced it is opening its new headquarters for its Watson Business Group to advance the company's Watson cognitive computing technology as the Watson ecosystem begins to flourish.

IBM Watson HQ

As IBM moves its Watson cognitive computing technology into its new home in New York City's Silicon Alley, the company announced significant milestones fueling adoption of Watson and cognitive computing cloud capabilities on a global scale.

IBM describes Watson as a groundbreaking platform that represents a new era of computing based on its ability to interact in natural language, process vast amounts of big data to uncover patterns and insights, and learn from each interaction.

"Watson is bringing forward a new era of computing enabling organizations around the globe to launch new businesses, redefine markets and transform industries," said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of the IBM Watson Group, in a statement. "Watson is fueling a new market and ecosystem of clients, partners, developers, venture capitalists, universities and students. The next great innovations will come from people who are able to make connections that others don't see, and Watson is making that possible."

IBM is holding a ceremony Oct. 8 in NYC to announce the opening of the Watson Group's global headquarters, at 51 Astor Place in New York City's Silicon Alley. The Watson headquarters will serve as a home base for more than 600 IBM Watson employees, just part of the more than 2,000 IBMers dedicated to Watson worldwide. In addition to a sizable employee presence, IBM is opening its doors to area developers and entrepreneurs, hosting industry workshops, seminars and networking opportunities to build enthusiasm and awareness among the New York City startup community.

"We really feel like we've got a lot of momentum coming here as we move into the next phase and into the new headquarters," Rhodin told eWEEK in an interview. "This is a really vibrant area of New York City. Facebook's across the street. Google's a few blocks away. Twitter's a few blocks away. New York University is right down the street, and Cooper Union faces my office. So it's a pretty cool area. And we think because of our proximity to the startup communities in New York City, we are going to be able to nourish and foster more of these companies building their applications on the Watson platform."

For entrepreneurs and startups, the Watson Group's Silicon Alley headquarters will provide technology, tools and talent to create and launch new products and businesses based on Watson's cloud-delivered cognitive intelligence. IBM will lead its cognitive computing innovation from the new global headquarters, collaborating with its five new Watson client experience centers around the world.

An interactive client experience lab will serve as a place for IBM clients to experience Watson and learn how it can help transform their businesses. In addition, the headquarters will host a design lab for continuously enhancing the user experience for cognitive applications and services used by IBM clients and partners. Workshops and seminars on topics such as development skills, as well as networking opportunities, will allow the community to experience firsthand how to bring new innovations to market. These events will also build upon IBM's academic partnerships to prepare university students for careers in cognitive computing, big data and analytics. This includes Watson-inspired business and technical challenges, new curricula, faculty grants and internships.

"Over the summer we announced that universities were going to start teaching kids how to program to Watson, and 10 major universities in North America are now into their first semester of a Watson class that will fuel more demand as those students graduate and want to do things and build their own companies around it," Rhodin said.

The New York tech industry continues to add jobs at a rapid pace, generating four times more jobs than any other industry from 2009-2013. IBM is committed to building on that momentum by partnering with local colleges and universities to equip students with the skills they'll need to blaze their own trails in the cognitive computing marketplace. This fall, students at New York University are among the first nationally to take advantage of a cognitive computing curriculum, while City University of New York (CUNY) students are participating in a semester-long Watson Case Competition, working to develop new applications based on Watson technology.

As clients adopt Watson globally, having skills focused on cognitive computing to meet local client and partner needs is critical, Big Blue officials said. IBM is announcing the opening of the first five Watson Client Experience Centers, co-located with IBM Research and Design teams, to provide the support and skills needed to fully adopt the Watson cognitive platform. The initial new centers will be located in Dublin, Ireland; London; Melbourne, Australia; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Singapore.