The goal is to provide businesses ready access to an incredible engine with a world knowledge base at a reasonable price.
Watson is an artificial intelligence computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language. IBM describes it as "an application of advanced Natural Language Processing, Information Retrieval, Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, and Machine Learning technologies to the field of open domain question answering" which is "built on IBM's DeepQA technology for hypothesis generation, massive evidence gathering, analysis, and scoring."
Each IBM Watson installation is a 10-rack supercomputer with a total of 2880 processor threads (90 Power7 CPUs clocked at 3.5GHz, each with eight cores, and each core with four threads). There is 16TB of RAM, and the entire thing is massively parallel — it can process 500 gigabytes of data per second. Watson runs IBM’s DeepQA software, which basically pores through millions of books and documents — dictionaries, encyclopedias, research papers, enws documents — and then uses that data to answer questions with remarkable speed and accuracy.
Watson High-level Architecture
In September 2011, IBM and Wellpoint, a major healthcare provider, announced a partnership to utilize Watson's data crunching capability to help suggest treatment options and diagnoses to doctors. Just as Watson analyzed massive data in Jeopardy! to reach a set of hypotheses and list several of the most likely outcomes, it could help doctors in diagnosing patients. Watson could analyze the patient's specific symptoms, medical history, and hereditary history, and synthesize that data with available unstructured and structured medical information, including published medical books and articles. IBM has made it clear that Watson does not intend to replace doctors, but assist them to avoid medical errors and sharpen medical diagnosis with the help of its advanced analytics technology.
IBM intends to use Watson in other information intensive fields as well, such as telecommunications, financial services, and government.