IBM Takes Watson to the Middle East, North Africa

IBM is teaming up with regional development company Mubadala to bring its Watson cognitive computing technology to the Middle East and North Africa.

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IBM has taken its Watson cognitive computing technology to various industry segments and now is taking it to the Middle East and North Africa with the help of Mubadala Development Company.

Mubadala is an Abu Dhabi-based investment and development company that is working with IBM to bring IBM Watson to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The companies will collaborate to deliver Watson cloud-based cognitive computing to health care, retail, education, banking and finance organizations. The new joint venture will also create a broad regional ecosystem of partners, entrepreneurs, startups and app developers.

"This new joint venture with IBM will put both the UAE and broader MENA region on the leading edge for adoption of this breakthrough technology," Homaid Al Shemmari, CEO of Aerospace & Engineering Services at Mubadala, said in a statement. "We are confident that together we can continue to accelerate the region's knowledge-based economy by empowering businesses to capitalize on new opportunities with this world-class technology."

The availability of Watson in MENA demonstrates Mubadala's commitment to spurring innovation and growing the technology ecosystem throughout the region. Mubadala capitalizes on investment opportunities in various industries, such as information and communications technology (ICT), to support the diversification of Abu Dhabi's economy. IBM will draw on Mubadala's regional market knowledge to drive the adoption of cognitive computing technology across MENA.

Industry analyst firm IDC projects that spending on ICT products and services in the region will cross the $270 billion mark in 2015, making this area of the world the second-fastest-growing IT market.

"This collaboration is another important demonstration of IBM's commitment to bringing Watson to all corners of the world and accelerating adoption of cognitive computing as the new technology standard for innovation," Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of IBM Watson, said in a statement. "Mubadala's strong relationships throughout the MENA region will enable local organizations and entrepreneurs access to Watson to transform their work."

One of the most promising areas of impact could be in the health care field, where Mubadala and IBM plan to leverage the technology to help enable individuals and health professionals to make personalized, data-driven health decisions.

Internationally, the health care community is already the earliest adopter of Watson where leading hospitals and research institutions, such as U.S.-based Cleveland Clinic, are working to advance Watson's capabilities in medical education and genomics. At the same time, Mubadala and the Cleveland Clinic have established a hospital in Abu Dhabi.

"Our collaborations with IBM to apply Watson in health care are helping Cleveland Clinic deliver on our mission of providing state-of-the-art education to our medical students," Dr. Delos Cosgrove, CEO and president of the Cleveland Clinic, said in a statement. "As a partner to both IBM and Mubadala, I am pleased to see these two market leaders join together in this important region and believe that their work together will help make it possible for a broader group of medical professionals to unearth the information they need to provide patient-centered care."

Mubadala and IBM will establish the joint venture, through Mubadala's wholly owned IT services subsidiary Injazat, which will be the preferred provider of Watson technology in the region.

"Bringing IBM Watson to the region represents the latest major milestone in the global adoption of cognitive computing," Mounir Barakat, executive director of ICT at Aerospace & Engineering Services, Mubadala, said in a statement. "It also signals Mubadala's commitment to bringing new technologies and spurring economic growth in the Middle East, another step toward developing the UAE as a hub for the region's ICT sector."

According to Ibrahim Mohamed Lari, CEO of Injazat, "There is an increasing need by businesses across sectors to strengthen their analytics and cloud technology. This joint venture signifies a strategic shift that will allow the delivery of a new class of Watson-specific capabilities that will help professionals in this region discover insights from massive amounts of big data."

IBM has two Watson-related dedicated business units: Watson, established for the development of cognitive computing technologies that commercialize artificial intelligence across a variety of industries, and Watson Health, which is dedicated to improving the ability of doctors, researchers and insurers to surface new insights from the massive amount of personal health data being created to deliver personalized health care.

IBM is continuing to enter Watson into new geographies and industries. According to IDC, the worldwide content analytics, discovery and cognitive systems software market will grow from $4.5 billion in 2014 to $9.2 billion in 2019. IBM is currently working on hundreds of projects to expand Watson's industry domain knowledge, as well as teaching the system new languages such as Arabic, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese and Japanese.