IBM Acquires Cognea as Watson’s Mouthpiece




IBM has acquired Cognea, an Australian startup that develops virtual assistant software that interacts with users via artificial intelligence (AI)–based personalities. IBM plans to integrate Cognea's technology with its Watson cognitive computing platform, with the idea of allowing Watson to deliver "conversational services." Potential user scenarios include virtual personal assistants, health coaches, companions for elderly people, investment advisors, tutors, travel agents, customer care agents, and shopping advisors.
 
Google Now, Apple Siri, Nuance Dragon Mobile, and Microsoft Cortana are some of the vendors that have already made big investments in virtual assistant platforms. IBM, needing to counteract the ongoing significant declines in revenue from its traditional servers, recently promised to invest more than $1 billion in Watson, including $100 million in startups working on software and services for Watson systems.
 
The IBM Watson Group recently unveiled three new business partners who are building "Made with Watson" apps. These three companies have a vision to help transform their respective industries in which decisions must be made quickly and accurately, without much room for error. Leveraging IBM Watson via the cloud, the following partners have developed early versions of Watson-powered apps, targeted to enter the market later this year:
  1. Modernizing Medicine is developing an app that is designed to help dermatologists get ahead of skin cancer diagnosis and offer up timely treatment options. The company is enhancing the European Medicines Agency (EMA) diagnostics by developing schEMA, a Watson-powered app designed to help doctors by answering medical questions at the point of care.
  2. Reflexis Systems’ StorePulse takes insights from IBM Watson and provides prioritized alerts and tasks with best practice actions to corporate, regional, and store managers based on trends and events that impact demand. The aim is to help retailers more accurately plan each store every day and account for the nuances of local markets.
  3. Modulus is developing a cognitive app to deliver on-demand information about financial assets, saving investors’ time spent on finding and validating data. SharpeMind leverages Watson technology to the unstructured data from news feeds, government reports, and social media data to extract a consensus of buy/sell recommendations and provide trading signals to retail traders and fund managers.
While IBM is hoping Watson produces $10 billion in annual revenue in ten years, the platform had only produced $100 million in revenue as of last October. Cognea may speed up the platform’s adoption and appeal.
 
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