Shifts in AI for IBM

IBM has initiated a movement towards AI with winning in the Jeopardy show in 2011. Watson may have been advertised a bit too intensive in the early days, and too many expectations have grown unsupported. There was a proliferation of areas Watson should be able to address instantly. IBM has also chosen healthcare as the first vertical industry to be addressed in order to reflect potential society fears regarding AI and its potential to replace humans. However, after IBM prepared the ground, other industry players (e.g., Google, AWS, Microsoft, SAS) also developed offerings in the AI space (Apple recently merged its Siri and core machine learning groups). A lot of articles have been written about 'man versus machine', and certainly some jobs will be replaced by quasi-intelligent machines. However, the majority of initiatives is going more into the direction of 'man and machine', i.e., the capabilities of humans will be increased by narrow AI, because a general AI capable of what humans can do will be science fiction for a long time.

Now IBM offers, as part of many of its products, including but not limited to systems management solutions, big data analysis and a large plurality of customer-specific solutions, e.g., in the banking industry. However, IBM is also addressing a very large market in which, up to now, no really integrated solutions have been available: retail. For the retail industry a lot is at stake. Internet shops from all around the world threaten established brick-and-mortar-like shops. Even the largest retailer is fighting Amazon to defend its turf. Retailers of any kind quickly need solutions to better know their customer, reduce cost of sales and, integrate sales and marketing, integrate physical shops and internet shows, develop a new customer experience and optimize their logistics operations. All of this can only be done by analyzing large amounts of structured and unstructured data and automate the communication process with the customers. After the resentment against AI has largely broken down because it is used on a daily basis in form of Alexa, Siri and other dialog systems, big times seem to be ahead for IBM and its Watson offering.

IBM also gets good press currently, after it was announced that the CIMON astronaut assistance system will accompany astronauts in the ISS. Other speech assistant systems have been tested and did not make it. One of the reasons was that Watson required a smaller corpus of knowledge data in order to function properly.

Bottom line: Here, too, IBM finally finds its way into a more promising future than the initial focus on the healthcare industry, although many successful projects have been executed there, too.

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