PORTLAND, Ore. — On Wednesday, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty cut the ribbon that officially opened the Watson Global Headquarters in New York City's "Silicon Alley." From there the decisions on how to spend IBM's promised billion-dollar investment in advancing cognitive computing will be made -- with Watson leading the way.
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Senior Vice President Mike Rhodin open IBM's new Watson Global Headquarters in New York City, which IBM claims is now the center-of-gravity for next-generation computing systems that learn.
(Source: Jon Simon/Feature Photo Service for IBM)
The Watson Client Experience Center will allow innovators and entrepreneurs to get expert advice from Watson-savvy research and design teams on how to harness lightning-fast data scanning with learning algorithms in their applications. While waiting for its global headquarters to be built, IBM has amassed a global network of innovators, partners, clients, developers, academics, and venture capitalists to lead the charge into what IBM's Rometty calls the coming "era of cognitive computing" -- the third era in the history of information technology.
The first era was the tabulating era circa 1890, marked by the manual calculator, and the second era started in the 1940s and continues today using the traditional von Neumann architecture based on manual programming. But the third era of cognitive computing will be based on self-learning machines that can ingest unstructured big data, then narrow it down to what people need in particular situations, thereby transforming our professions, our industries, and our day-to-day lives, according to IBM.
Milestones cognitive computing passed in just the nine months since IBM broke ground for its Watson Global Headquarters include lining up new partners and clients on six continents and more than 25 countries. For instance, it negotiated a deal with CaixaBank S.A. in Barcelona to teach Watson Spanish as its second language (with more languages to come).
Watson's successes have also convinced already successful entrepreneurs that cognitive computing can expand their businesses in new directions. For instance, Terry Jones, founder of online travel service Travelocity and founding chairman of Kayak, is preparing to open a Watson-powered travel site called WayBlazer in 2015. The beta version is already being proven out at the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau where Watson engages, learns, and advises through a natural language interface augmented with visuals. The Bureau claims increased hotel bookings and additional revenue streams from partner and affiliate programs.
As IBM takes Watson global it plans to open five worldwide Watson Client Experience Centers, co-located with IBM Research and Design teams, in Dublin, London, Melbourne, São Paulo, and Singapore, to provide the support and skills necessary for locals to create successful Watson-based cognitive computing apps.