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January 7, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 10:50am

CES 2016: IBM inks Watson cognitive computing deals in IoT consumer comeback

News: Supercomputer will become the brain for robots, fitness devices, smart homes and medical gadgets.

By Joao Lima

IBM is taking its Watson cognitive computing platform to new highs, tapping into the consumer space for the first time in ten years.

The company’s CEO Virginia Rometty took to the CES 2016 stage to unveil a series of partnerships spanning smart fitness devices, to smart homes and intelligent robots.

The first partnership announced by Ms Rometty was a collaboration with Japanese firm Softbank Holdings (SB). The company will be gearing its Pepper robots with IBM’s Watson.

The Watson powered Pepper hopes to make sense of the hidden meaning in data that traditional computers cannot comprehend, including social media, video, images and text – some of the APIs announced by IBM during the launch of its Watson IoT headquarters last month in Munich.

SB is going to equip Pepper with core functionalities as well as a Watson software development kit (SDK) that allows developers and clients to tailor the interaction experience.

IBM will give clients access to Watson APIs and various pre-packaged applications designed to address a variety of personal and professional needs.

Ms Rometty said: "This is an era of systems you do not program. They understand, they reason and they learn. And therefore they have hypotheses and confidence levels."

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Mike Rhodin, SVP for IBM Watson also said: "In terms of hands-on interaction, when cognitive
capabilities are embedded in robotics, you see people engage and benefit from this technology in new and exciting ways."

IBM’s move towards this consumer robotics space comes at a time where the consumer-robot market is predicted to growth at a CAGR of 17% between 2014 and 2019. By then, the market is expected to be worth $1.5 billion according to BI Intelligence.

Harriet Green, GM for IoT and education at IBM, told CBR that Watson’s main goal is to help companies understand the data their devices produce. She said: "Unstructured data cannot be easily processed in the old bits, bites coded process method. There has to be a new way of assimilating, reasoning and making recommendations. 90% of the data that has been produced is unstructured."

Ms Green also said that cognitive computing is about bringing man/woman and the machine together to create a whole new era.

Speaking to CBR on IBM’s CES announcements, Ian Marsden, Eseye CTO, said: "Consumer IoT and in particular AI is driven by a need for more intuitive and adaptive man-machine interfaces (MMI). This is where the interface is simple enough to ensure the full intelligence of the device is brought to bear to bring value to the user.

"IBM has made a really good step forward and we’ll be observing closely. Perhaps, one day when the two come together, we can manage M2M through AI."

Under its Watson belt, IBM has also announced a collaboration with Under Armour (UA) to develop a next version of the UA Record fitness app for Apple’s iPhone. Ms Rometty said that Watson will become a coach, nutrition consultant and sleep analyst for those using the app.

Home appliances maker Whirlpool has also secured a partnership with IBM to use Watson’s cognitive capabilities to improve the way it supplies the smart home market.

The fourth announced partnership by Ms Rometty included health maker Medtronic who will be using Watson IoT to help manage data harvested from its diabetes devices and management app. The company wants to use the technology to interpret the available data and act as a personal assistant.

As real-time data analysis becomes more functional in the IoT space, security questions have also been raised. Matt Davies, Head of Marketing EMEA at Splunk said that real-time security intelligence will be very important as a historical view on IoT security will inevitably be too late and the class of asset that could be breached is potentially life threatening or a matter of national security.

He told CBR: "For real-time IoT security intelligence – there will be a need to monitor many kinds of data (often machine data) such as the network, device, applications, infrastructure and user behaviour.

"Industry bodies need to provide real-time security threat assessments and possibly external threat feeds to ensure that any organisation delivering any kind of IoT-related service can be up to date with the most recent security threat patterns."


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