Watson 2.0, Platform Thinking and Data Marketplaces

January 2, 2014
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Few computing and technological achievements rival IBM’s Watson. Its impressive accomplishments to this point include high-profile victories in chess and Jeopardy! 

Few computing and technological achievements rival IBM’s Watson. Its impressive accomplishments to this point include high-profile victories in chess and Jeopardy! 

Turns out that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Its next incarnation will be much more developer-friendly. From a recent GigaOM piece:

Developers who want to incorporate Watson’s ability to understand natural language and provide answers need only have their applications make a REST API call to IBM’s new Watson Developers Cloud. “It doesn’t require that you understand anything about machine learning other than the need to provide training data,” Rob High, IBM’s CTO for Watson, said in a recent interview about the new platform.

The rationale to embrace platform thinking is as follows: As impressive as Watson is, even an organization as large as IBM (with over 400,000 employees) does not hold a monopoly on smart people. Platforms and ecosystems can take Watson in myriad directions, many of which you and I can’t even anticipate. Innovation is externalized to some extent. (If you’re a developer curious to get started, knock yourself out.)

Data Marketplaces

Continue reading the article and you’ll see that Watson 2.0 “ships” not only with an API, but an SDK, an app store, and a data marketplace. That is, the more data Watson has, the more it can learn. Can someone say network effect?

Think about it for a minute. A data marketplace? Really? Doesn’t information really want to be free?

Well, yes and no. There’s no dearth of open data on the Internet, a trend that shows no signs of abating. But let’s not overdo it. The success of Kaggle has shown that thousands of organizations are willing to pay handsomely for data that solves important business problems, especially if that data is timely, accurate, and aggregated well. As a result, data marketplaces are becoming increasingly important and profitable.

Simon Says: Embrace Data and Platform Thinking

The market for data is nothing short of vibrant. Big Data has arrived, but not all data is open, public, free, and usable.

Combine the explosion of data with platform thinking. It’s not just about the smart cookies who work for you. There’s no shortage of ways to embrace platforms and ecosystems, even if you’re a mature company. Don’t just look inside your organization’s walls for answers to vexing questions. Look outside. You just might be amazed at what you’ll find.

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