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Watson


International Business Machines Corp.’s (NYSE:IBMC) Watson has been busy. The supercomputer’s joint venture H&R Block Inc. (NYSE:HRBF) to churn out tax returns was a popular Superbowl ad.

In addition, Watson is making a name for itself by partnering with public and private companies in a whole host of areas including health care, financials, automotive and pharmaceuticals. Good thing. IBM has shown declining revenue for the past 5 years. The company needs something to start a fire.

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Enter Watson

Watson came on the scene in 2011 as a contestant on the TV show Jeopardy. Watson was impressive, using its artificial intelligence to defeat 2 of Jeopardy’s all-time champions. Like most of its AI competition, Watson is a product of machine learning, natural language processing and statistical analysis.

For Watson the input (data) have been in the form of research papers, industrial data reports and other scholarly works. IBM CEO Virginia Rometty told investors in 2015 that Watson was expected to generate about $10 billion in revenue by 2024. To date the platform operates in commerce, education, financial services, health, Internet of Things (IOT), marketing, supply chain management and more.

So Far Not So Good

Despite Rometty’s projections, not much has been shared about Watson’s role on the bottom line at IBM. The CEO was asked about that during the 2016 code conference and said that the platform was "still growing" in both business and capabilities. She then stated that "there would be no value in making that disclosure."

Over the past 5 years IBM’s total revenue has declined at an average rate of 6.42%. Much of this due to the fact the company’s dominance in mainframes and other areas of the equipment segment has declined. Though IBM has attempted to transition to a strategic cloud business, growth has been unimpressive.

All The Marbles

For better or worse, IBM has signaled that it expects Watson to be a savior – if not the savior – for a company seeking relevance in an age of startups and venture capital. Some of the moves have been impressive – though offbeat.

There’s the cybersecurity angle via which Watson basically rides shot gun with security analysts and helps them defend against attacks. To prepare the super computer has ingested more than 1 million security documents. The idea is to know Watson’s skill and speed to go through all these documents to help make up for a shortage of security analysts. In short, IBM hopes Watson will help current companies reduce the time spent on cybersecurity investigations.

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311 And More

Now Watson may help New York City replace its aging Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ:ORCLC) 311 systems with something much more responsive and light-hearted. While there are naysayers who would rather upgrade the existing Oracle system, others say Watson can do more, do it faster and do it better.

Finally, Visa Inc. (NYSE:VC) wants to use Watson to allow your car to pay for gas when you stop to fill up, not to mention adding features to washing machines and other products as part of the whole Internet of Things (IOT) movement. The idea is that with so much inter-connection customers will choose Watson-powered Visa over other options.



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