IBM Watson Data Analytics Has a Future in Health Care, Education: Report

Developers expect the advanced data analytics of the Watson supercomputer to predict outcomes in health care and education, according to IBM's 2011 Tech Trends report.

IBM's DeveloperWorks subsidiary has released a 2011 Tech Trends report predicting that Watson supercomputer's advanced data analytics capabilities could play a large role in health care, education and government.

DeveloperWorks is Big Blue's online community where IT professionals can develop tech skills in areas such as open source, business analytics, cloud computing and mobility.

Business analytics software will dominate the workflows of many industries, including health care, education, government and financial services, according to the report's results, which IBM announced Nov. 15.

The goal of the report was to provide a guide to the skills needed in IT for the future, according to IBM.

IBM interviewed 4,000 IT professionals from 93 countries and 25 industries about IT trends. The most responses came from Brazil, China, India, Russia and the United States.

Regarding opportunities for Watson, respondents believed education and health care were industries that Watson's advanced data-analytics capabilities could serve best.

"Data analytics will have a profound impact on health care moving forward as it represents an important way to finally make sense of the volume of health care data," Mike Riegel, IBM's vice president of startups, independent software vendors (ISVs) and academic programs, wrote in an email to eWEEK.

Large amounts of data in medical images and electronic health records will drive a need for advanced data analytics, he noted.

"The best way to help doctors is to provide powerful analytics tools that are part of their decision-making processes," Riegel said.

The changing business model toward doctors being paid for health outcomes rather than individual visits could make data-analytic tools important for measuring performance, he added.

"When you look at the overall ranking of industries, those that ranked in the top are all dealing with massive volumes of data that could provide strategic insights," Riegel said.

Business analytics, like that found in Watson, will have a role in predicting outcomes, including successful treatment of patients, Riegel noted.

On Oct. 25, IBM introduced Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare, an application that provides content analytics to spot patient health patterns and improve care. Business analytics will also be able to connect medical data to mobile EHRs using natural-language processing and technology similar to Watson.

In education, analytics will help teachers and administrators understand learning trends and lead to better collaboration between students and teachers, according to Riegel.

Meanwhile, in government, analytics can help predict criminal activity and spot crime trends in populations, Riegel said.

Open source will play a huge role in software development, according to 75 percent of respondents. In particular, flexibility in designing cloud-computing infrastructure is important to developers interviewed.

"Now, CIOs can develop, deploy, manage and integrate both traditional and new Web-based cloud applications in minutes rather than weeks with the flexibility and scalability they need," Riegel said.

Mobility and social business software were other top tech trends respondents highlighted.

"The results are clear: Mobile computing, cloud computing, social business and business analytics have gone beyond niche status and are now part of any modern organization's core IT focus," Jim Corgel, IBM's general manager for ISV and developer relations, said in a statement. "IT professionals who can develop the skills needed to work across these technologies will be ready to meet growing business demand in the coming years."