IBM Launches a Watson API That Puts Cognitive Supercomputing In the Hands of Developers

10-17-2013 8-01-10 PM

There is a war currently being waged between IBM and Amazon over market share of cloud-based application hosting. Amazon owns a significant portion mindshare with its highly-regarded Amazon Web Services platform. AWS is a full service cloud computing platform that provides a stable, secure place for software companies to park their cloud-based applications.

IBM’s platform, IBM Cloud, might not have the mindshare, but thanks to the recent acquisition of cloud services vendor SoftLayer, it does now have the market share. With SoftLayer’s existing customers, IBM now claims to host 270,000 more websites on its platform that AWS. IBM wants the world to know this, more specifically, it wants current AWS customers to know this. Last week, during Amazon’s AWS user conference in Las Vegas, IBM plastered advertisements on the side of the Las Vegas city busses that read “Whose cloud powers 270,000 more websites than Amazon? IBM.”

That’s not all IBM did to steal the limelight during Amazon’s conference. Far more importantly, the company announced that developers using IBM Cloud will now have access to the processing power of the Watson supercomputer. Developers will be able to connect their applications with Watson at which point they can use cognitive supercomputing in any way they can imagine. Watson provides natural language processing technology as well.

The sudden availability of supercomputing to any entrepreneur or software developer is huge news in and of itself, but it’s especially significant for the healthcare industry because IBM has been grooming Watson for work in healthcare for years.

In February, IBM announced that it had partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering to add 600,000 pieces of medical evidence, 1.5 million patient records, two million pages of text from medical journals, 25,000 medical training cases, 1,500 lung cancer cases, and nearly 15,000 hours of clinician-led fine tuning of its medical decision accuracy. IBM has implemented Watson at Cleveland Clinic where clinicians are fine tuning algorithms written to build Watson into a probability-based diagnostician and EMR assistant, and at MD Anderson where clinicians are using the computer to support their moon shot effort to completely eradicate cancer.

There is no shortage of healthcare companies looking to take advantage of the new API. Many of IBM’s early testers for the API were companies building healthcare related applications that are already coded.

11-17-2013 10-13-13 PM

Population health vendor Welltok has already built a Watson-powered personal health assistant called CafeWell Concierge. The app. which has been around in its non-Watson form for a while, is marketed to ACOs, payers, and employers, and focuses on encouraging and rewarding healthy decisions. With the introduction of Watson, the app is now also capable of processing health questions from consumers and responding with personalized information based on all of the data known about the patient.

MD Buyline has created an application called Hippocrates that processes and contextualizes clinical and financial performance data from a hospital and then acts as a “decision adviser” by and providing confidence-weighted, evidence-based answers to questions it is asked.

IBM is committed to seeing the new platform embraced and the company has gone so far as to partner with venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates to support and fund startups that are using the Watson API. Access to the API is still on an invitation basis. Developers can apply for access on the IBM website, here.


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