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What’s the Deal with Watson and Cloud Computing?

As GigaOm’s own Derrick Harris states in his article last week, “After about a year of training its Watson system on more than 600,000 pieces of medical evidence and 2 million pages of medical research, IBM is now offering a cloud-based Watson service to help oncologists develop the best-possible treatments for cancer patients.”

Watson is designed as a question-answering system that emerged victorious on Jeopardy! in 2011. It’s just an artificial intelligence (AI) technology at its core, using natural-language processing, machine learning and other data-analysis techniques.  It’s able to understand written questions, and then analyze them against the source material to find the best possible response.  In this case, Watson will be assisting those in the healthcare sector in the fight against cancer.

My first job out of college was as an expert systems (a form of AI) analyst, so this technology is nothing new.  However, the commoditization and power of processing and storage has scaled these systems to super intellectual levels.  The use of machine learning approaches and mechanisms is also a nice improvement.  Moreover, the massive amounts of data that can be analyzed using new divide and conquer distributed databases are able to quickly pump AI technology with the right information.

The use of cloud-based platforms is a natural location for this technology.  Consider the massive amount of processing and storage requirements, and the ability to provide these services at a reasonable price.  The objective is to provide systems such as Watson as-a-service out of the cloud, assisting business in complex analysis using natural-language interfaces.

The application of this technology in the healthcare space should prove productive.  The marriage of AI and the cloud will make this technology affordable.  Thus, we should be able to put it to good use.