Watson Is Back from Medical Leave to Your Enterprise?

September 13, 2011

You know Watson. The software system that wraps Lucene so it can answer questions on a scripted reality TV game show. “Lights. Camera. Action. Retake. Can it.” That’s reality TV when it meets super searching technology from IBM.

EWeek thinks that “IBM’s Watson Could Shake Up The Enterprise.” Craig Rhinehart, head of IBM’s enterprise content management (ECM) division, says using the technology behind the Jeopardy!- winning machine for ECM is a no-brainer. The wealth of unstructured data that companies have been collecting is the perfect target for Watson’s decision engine. Writer David Jamieson comments,

This unstructured data – in human language, not computer language – represents about 80 percent of the data hoarded by the enterprise, according to Rhinehart. And there is valuable information contained within that NLP [Natural Language Processing] can unlock, revealing trends and insights to be acted upon.

Rhinehart emphasizes that Watson’s technology is not a search tool, but a “decision support tool.” This means users have to refine their queries, but in exchange they get the advanced natural language algorithms Watson is famous for. With them, companies can make important correlations that lead to increased revenue and/or decreased losses. Areas that could particularly benefit are ones brimming with data, like healthcare and law.

Does “decision support’ sound like Microsoft’s “decision engine” angle? It does to us.

IBM has much invested in content management and analytics, and the technology behind Watson is the prize. One may be tempted to dismiss the whole Jeopardy! appearance as a publicity gimmick. What’s the promotional hook for the enterprise? A free mainframe with Lotus Notes with every Watson licensed? If so, we want one. We can decide without asking Watson too.

Cynthia Murrell, September 13, 2011

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