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In search of IBM Watson technology: Cognitive computing goes to market

What happens to IBM's Watson computer after "Jeopardy!"? In this edition of the Talking Data podcast, our reporters consider the brainy matter.

IBM's efforts to commercialize its Watson cognitive computing technology take center stage in this edition of the Talking Data podcast with Jack Vaughan and Ed Burns. Watson technology bested Jeopardy! champions a few years ago, but the road to wider adoption could be difficult, Vaughan says.

As data arrives in ever larger quantities, machine helpers like Watson could be required to make sense of the new mass of information. In areas like finance and healthcare, this could enable new advances. 

But Watson's shiny prospects also can open up the gates to hyperbole. The reporters note that Virginia Rometty, IBM chairman, president and CEO, has stressed that Watson's vast potential will need careful nurturing. Watson's rollout calls for special balance.

Cognitive computing has a prehistory in the form of past expert and artificial intelligence systems that sometimes over promised and under delivered. While such tools may be necessary to sort through new mountains of big data, they may be hard pressed to succeed in multiple knowledge domains. 

During the course of the podcast, the two reporters discuss cognitive computing and its ins and outs. One wonders aloud if IBM Watson could ever possibly go the route of Apple's Siri knowledge navigation software, parodied after a fashion by the off-screen voice of actress Scarlett Johansson in the Academy Award-nominated film Her.

Listen to this four-minute podcast and read more on the topic in "For IBM Watson, no easy answers on commercial cognitive computing."During the podcast, you will:

  • Find out what has happened to Watson since its Jeopardy triumph
  • Learn that IBM is opening up cloud APIs to Watson
  • Hear a discussion of the roots of expert systems, and
  • Discover that SQL is reappearing in NoSQL settings

Jack Vaughan is SearchDataManagement's news and site editor. Email him at, and follow us on Twitter: @sDataManagement.

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As has been pointed out elsewhere on ITKE, Watson may be overkill for consumer applications and I think it is a long way off from being Siri or the voice from Her. I was not surprised to see that one of the first places Watson headed was healthcare. It's a honey pot with a lot of inefficiencies and an industry where expertise is valued. I would like to see what Watson could offer local government or public transportation, whether through a formal project or just a civic hack day.