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'Jeopardy!' Champion Watson Is Back To Answer Your Big Data Questions in the Cloud

Watson is back. The "Jeopardy!" champion has graduated from winning T.V. game show competitions to fighting cancer and other important pursuits, and IBM says it will soon be able to answer your Big Data queries in the cloud.

IBM yesterday announced Watson Analytics will provide cognitive artificial intelligence to the company's cloud service users, who can perform Big Data analytics with natural language queries.

Initially, it will be a "freemium" service running on desktops and mobile devices, bringing Big Data analytics to the masses without the hassle of messing around with the complicated Apache Hadoop ecosystem or needing arcane data science skills.

IBM's Alistair Rennie said in a video that companies want to use analytics and better-informed decisions to change and improve every part of their businesses. However, he said, "the current generation of tools that they have get locked up in IT or in the domain of data scientists. And we just want to break that wide open and change the game by allowing every user in every business to have incredibly powerful analytics at their fingertips."

What do you want to know?
[Click on image for larger view.]What do you want to know?(source: IBM)

IBM said it obviated the need for specialized skills with three main innovations: a single business analytics experience; guided predictive analytics; and natural language dialogue.

The single experience is in contrast to other solutions that involve different analytics tools for different kinds of jobs. Watson will provide a seamless, unified way to use enterprise-grade, self-service data analytics in the cloud.

The guided predictive analytics finds hidden key facts relevant to your queries and discover patterns and relationships that would otherwise wouldn't be found. These in turn lead to new queries and fine-tuning to get to specific insights.

The natural language dialogue enables Siri- or Cortana-like questions, though you won't be able to speak to Watson (yet). You will, however, be able to ask questions such as: "What are the key drivers of my product sales?" and "Which benefits drive employee retention the most?"^ and "Which deals are most likely to close?"

After some beta testing (sign up here) of capabilities that will be made available in the next month, the service will be offered in a variety of free and paid packages in November.

"Watson Analytics offers a full range of self-service analytics, including access to easy-to-use data refinement and data warehousing services that make it easier for business users to acquire and prepare data -- beyond simple spreadsheets -- for analysis and visualization that can be acted upon and interacted with," IBM said in a statement.

The service will be hosted on IBM's SoftLayer cloud computing infrastructure provider and made available through the company's cloud marketplace, with future plans to make it available through Bluemix -- an implementation of the companies Open Cloud Architecture -- letting developers and independent software vendors use its functionality in applications they build.

Though IBM characterized yesterday's news as "its biggest announcement in a decade as the leader in analytics," it's not the company's first foray into cloud-based Big Data analytics. In June it announced IBM Concert software -- also available in the cloud marketplace -- targeting four of today's hottest transformative technologies: cloud, Big Data, social and mobility.

Now, Rennie said, the company is "blending the cognitive experience with the predictive experience" for enhanced analytical capabilities.

Watson, following on the heels of IBM's Deep Blue chess-playing supercomputer, gained national recognition in 2011 by beating top human champions on the T.V. quiz show, "Jeopardy!," winning a $1 million prize that was donated to charity. The company first announced Watson Analytics in January as one of three new applications available in the Watson Group, into which the company said it was sinking a $1 billion investment.

Posted by David Ramel on 09/17/2014 at 9:32 AM


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