IBM has made its biggest investment in Europe in more than two decades with the opening of its new global headquarters for Watson Internet of Things (Iot) in the HighLight Towers in Munich. To accompany the opening, Big Blue also launched a series of new offerings, capabilities and ecosystem partners all geared to combining the power of cognitive computing with the connected devices, sensors and systems that make up the IoT.
The new facility in Munich will serve as the global headquarters for IBM's new Watson IoT unit, as well as its first European Watson innovation super center. The campus-like environment will bring together 1,000 IBM developers, consultants, researchers and designers to drive deeper engagement with clients and partners. IBM intends the Watson IoT headquarters to serve as an innovation lab for data scientists, engineers and programmers building connected solutions that combine cognitive computing and IoT.
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"Germany — and Bavaria in particular — is widely recognized globally for being on the front edge of adoption and development of Internet of Things technologies," says Neil Postlethwaite, director, IBM IoT Foundation platform and Device Ecosystem. "This is in part due to the German government's Industry 4.0 initiative. As a result, Germany is home to some of the most innovative automotive, manufacturing and industrial companies — all who need strategies to deal with the massive amounts of data their products are creating."
From Beijing to Littleton, Mass.
To support Watson IoT's global mandate, IBM has also opened eight new Watson IoT Client Experience Centers across Asia, Europe and the Americas. Locations include Beijing, China; Boeblingen, Germany; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, Korea; Tokyo, Japan; Austin, Texas; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Littleton, Massachusetts.
"These cross-industry centers are established to engage with key clients to innovate on their IoT projects to bring cognition to the billions of connected devices in our world today," Postlethwaite says. "The centers bring together IBM Development, Lab Services, IBM Research, Global Business Services and IBM Business Partners."
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Postlethwaite says the Client Experience Centers will leverage IBM Watson, IoT and Analytics products and technologies to build client solutions that are transformative in creating new business models that deliver new ways to engage customers and product revenues. The centers will engage with local universities to educate and grow technical talent on IBM IoT and Watson solutions.
As part of the announcement, IBM it will make Watson APIs available as part of its new IBM Watson IoT Foundation Analytics offering. The APIs include the following:
- The Natural Language Processing (NLP) API lets you interact with systems and devices using simple, human language. The NLP API puts language into context of a specific situation and delivers unexpected but relevant correlations in data. For example, if you're working on a machine and notice slight vibrations, you can use the NLP API to query the system. The system automatically links words to meaning and translates intent, providing recommendations specifying the cause of the vibration, which could be lose bolts, for example.
- The Machine Learning Watson API automates data processing, continuously learns from each interaction with data and ranks the data based on priority. This API can be applied to any data coming from devices and sensors to automatically understand the current scenario, what's normal, what is the expected trend, and possible changes with suggested actions. For example, if it is common for a driver to take a specific route to work, the system monitors traffic, weather conditions, possible accidents and construction in the normal route and proactively suggests alternate actions for a more efficient commute.
- The Video and Image Analytics Watson API uses unstructured data, including data from video feeds and image snapshots, to identify scenes and patterns in video data. This can also be combined with machine data to gain a greater understanding of past events and emerging situation. For example, production environments leverage multiple data streams, including people walking through the studios, machine data, as well as data from video and still cameras. If a machine fails, sophisticated analytics is run against machine data and still images to pinpoint potential implications for the machine failure with a holistic view of the area.
- The Text Analytics Watson API mines unstructured textual data (such as Twitter feeds, customer feedback on blogs and transcripts from call centers) to find correlations and patterns in these vast amounts of data. For example, phrases such as "brakes make a noise," "car seems to slow to stop," and "pedal is soft," are all related to braking issues in a vehicle — which has correlated text that is immediately identified through this API.
"Rather than being explicitly programmed, cognitive systems learn and reason from their interactions with us and from their experiences with their environment, enabling them to keep pace with the volume, complexity, and unpredictability of information generated by the IoT," Postlethwaite says. "Cognitive systems can make sense of the 80 percent of the world's data that computer scientists call "unstructured," which means they can illuminate aspects of our world that were previously invisible, allowing us to make more informed decisions."
The power of data you can't see
Within two years, Postlethwaite says, the IoT will be the single greatest source of data on the planet — but nearly 90 percent of it will be "unseeable" for traditional computing systems. That, he says, is where Watson and cognitive computing comes in.
"Watson can ingest massive amounts of data from a full spectrum of sources to help businesses makes sense of all types of data to act on," he says. "Cognitive computing is enabling businesses to fully take advantage of this burgeoning resource — data — as it allows systems learn at scale, reason with purpose and interact with humans naturally."
IBM has made no bones about its intentions to be a player in the IoT market. In March 2015, Big Blue announced that it would invest more than $3 billion to address the needs of clients that are looking to capitalize on the increasing instrumentation and interconnectedness of the world driven by the IoT. In October, it announced that it would acquire the B2B, mobile and cloud-based web properties of The Weather Channel. When that deal is completed, IBM says the combination of advanced cloud, analytics and security technologies, along with industry expertise, is expected to form the foundation for the Watson IoT growth and expansion strategies.