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IBM creates business unit for Watson to tap supercomputer’s technology

IBM on Thursday announced plans to create a new unit dedicated to Watson, the supercomputer that beat human contestants on Jeopardy! in 2011.

Called the IBM Watson Group, the new division will promote commercial use of Watson’s software, which mines large volumes of data to answer questions and improves by learning. It will be based in New York City.

IBM, which reported revenue last quarter of $23.7 billion, plans to invest more than $1 billion into the new division, primarily for research and development.

The investment also includes about $100 million for venture investments into start-ups and businesses building apps powered by Watson’s technology. IBM has been encouraging outside developers to use Watson in their own apps; in November, the company launched the Watson Developers Cloud, which gives developers access to Watson’s application programming interface, software kits and educational materials.

IBM senior vice president Mike Rhodin, who previously led the company’s software solutions division, will lead the IBM Watson Group.

“IBM has transformed Watson from a quiz-show winner, into a commercial cognitive computing breakthrough that is helping businesses engage customers, healthcare organizations personalize patient care, and entrepreneurs build businesses,” Rhodin said in a statement.

The New York headquarters will serve as an incubator for businesses using Watson’s technology and a client center, according to IBM. The group will eventually employ about 2,000 people.

The company is also launching three new Watson-powered services: Watson Discovery Advisor, an aid for industry researchers that sorts through search results and suggests connections in content, Watson Analytics, an analytics service helping those without analytics training process, and visually represent, data trends, and Watson Explorer, a service helping data scientists uncover data patterns.



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