IBM Launches Two New Watson Services for Twilio

IBM announced two new Watson Services on the Twilio Marketplace to give more than 1 million registered developers access to cognitive capabilities.

IBM Watson

IBM announced a collaboration with cloud communications platform provider Twilio around the company’s Watson cognitive computing technology.

At Twilio's Signal 2016 conference, IBM announced two new offerings, IBM Watson Message Sentiment and IBM Watson Message Insights, which will be available as Add-ons in Twilio's recently announced marketplace.

Patrick Malatack, vice president of product marketing at Twilio, said as part of Twilio's newly announced Add-ons program, the new IBM offerings are pre-integrated with Twilio's APIs and are accessible to the more than 1 million registered developers in Twilio's community. In addition, developers who currently access Watson technology via IBM's Bluemix platform as a service (PaaS) will have access to the service.

Malatack told eWEEK that Twilio noticed a pattern across multiple customers, who wanted to take Twilio's communication building blocks and merge them with other pieces of information, often from third parties.

"So with Add-ons you're able to include third-party functionality into your Twilio application," he said. "And that lets you do things that are pretty neat, like when an inbound phone call comes into your call center, you can use some third-party software to take a look at that phone number and tell if it is a robo-dialer or a telemarketer and you can cut it off or you can forward it to an appropriate agent."

The new Watson Add-ons offer additional message enhancement capabilities through natural language processing to help understand sentiment, keywords, entities and high-level concepts from text messages, said Elliot Turner, director of Alchemy in IBM's Watson division. The insights gleaned from this unstructured data will give businesses actionable insights, he added.

The new IBM Watson Message Sentiment service uses sentiment analysis to enable users to assess the emotion from SMS messages at scale.

"The Watson Message Sentiment solution gives you sentiment so you know if someone who contacts your business is upset or has an issue and you can pop that to the top of your contact center workflow so it is at the top of your queue," Malatack said.

"We're taking our IBM Message Sentiment offering, which takes the power of Watson's natural language processing—specifically the ability to understand positive, negative, neutral and mixed emotions in text—and we're exposing this to Twilio developers," said Turner.

IBM Watson Message Insights uses a combination of Watson technologies including sentiment analysis, keyword extraction, entity extraction and concept tagging. This capability allows developers to distill key meanings from SMS, he said.

"It has the ability to understand sentiment, the ability to extract meaning through natural language-processing capabilities such as the ability to understand keywords and named entities in text," Turner told eWEEK. "A named entity you can think of as the proper nouns of the world—the people, places, companies, organizations, etc. That is a capability that allows Twilio developers to really get at the nuance that's occurring in their SMS stream."

In addition, Malatack said IBM has delivered the capability for users to find other information from messages to enable users to parse out the language the message is written in and route that to an agent with the appropriate message skills for that communication.

The new offerings complement the more than 30 Watson services currently available from IBM. Future plans include extending these offerings on third-party platforms, such as the Twilio Marketplace, bringing cognitive technology to where developers work, Turner said.

The Watson Speech to Text Add-on, as part of the Recording Add-on category, is up next for Twilio developers, he said.

"We are committed to equipping all developers everywhere with self-service AI (artificial intelligence) and IBM's cognitive capabilities, backed by the best science, ease-of-use and scalability," said David Kenny, general manager of IBM Watson, in a statement. "We are motivated by what developers are creating with Watson technology, and are constantly seeking new ways to help them build and innovate. By joining the Twilio Marketplace, we have opened another avenue for many more developers to harness the power of Watson."

Indeed, Turner noted that for IBM, deals such as this one with Twilio are really tied into Watson's broader mission of bringing cognitive technology to the world.

"We think that developers are the ones that will take this technology and transform business, and this ability to have over 1 million developers that are leveraging the Watson platform to take advantage of Watson technology seemed like a natural marriage," he said.

Meanwhile, Twilio's Add-ons make it possible for developers to do more with their Twilio applications using less code, Malatack said.

"The IBM Watson Add-ons apply Watson's sentiment analysis capabilities to customers' text messages at scale, better equipping businesses with insights into how their customers feel," he noted. "Customers can now add the functionality of IBM Watson in a single click."