Watson making Information Management (even more) cool

Editor's note: This is a guest post by IBM's Director of Strategy and Marketing for Database Software and Systems Bernie Spang.

Like many of my colleagues in the IT business, I am often disappointed by the lack of interest I am able to generate among my family and friends when discussing my work. But thanks to Watson, the computing system that can play quiz show Jeopardy! at a champion level, I have experienced a few precious moments where both my kids and parents showed interest in my work

My 15 year old son and 76 year old father both had the same reaction after watching the Watson-Jeopardy! Challenge commercial during the NFL playoffs: “that's cool, but why did IBM build a computer to play games?”

Surprisingly, they both gave me five minutes of their attention – just long enough to sneak in an explanation of how Watson is connected to the IBM Information Management software portfolio.

What is Information Management?

Watson incorporates open technology such as UIMA (Unstructured Information Management Architecture), Eclipse, and Apache Hadoop. The first two of which IBM contributed to the open source community. To build on the medical reference IBM Research Senior Vice President Dr. John Kelly made at the Watson-Jeopardy! press conference in January, a healthcare provider can use this software to analyze patient and treatment information – including doctors’ notes and clinical reports – to pinpoint illness trends and successful treatments.

More about what’s inside Watson

Craig Rhinehart connects Watson and Content Analytics in his blog: 10 Things You Need to Know About the Technology Behind Watson.

These capabilities Watson uses Apache Hadoop to analyze massive amounts of information is also used in IBM’s InfoSphere BigInsights software. And IBM InfoSphere Warehouse uses the UIMA technology for text analytics – just as Watson does.

A new addition to the InfoSphere portfolio, called Streams, analyzes information flowing through systems that may never be stored. Streams can analyze thousands of pieces of vital sign telemetry per second to help save the lives of premature babies (another compelling example that kept my son and father intrigued). While Watson does not use a form of Streams, the two have shared heritage as IBM Research projects.

If you are anything like my dad and son, you are about at your limit of examples to absorb. But hopefully you, too, already get the point. While Watson is an amazing feat of Question Answer technology, my son and dad think the future possibilities for Watson are pretty cool, too.

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