How IBM Commercializes Watson Post-'Jeopardy'

Remember Watson, the artificial intelligence software IBM created to compete on the "Jeopardy" game show? IBM on Tuesday released Watson Engagement Advisor, which will support consumer call centers. 

Watson, embedded on a brand's Web site, can greet consumers by name, and offer to help via a chat window on the company site or via a mobile push alert. When integrated into a company's CRM suite, Watson will have access to customer records, and will give product recommendations or help.

The Engagement Advisor takes in and processes questions based on natural language. It gives answers based on a higher understanding, connectivity and engagement through cognitive computing. IBM hopes it will become the assistant to CMOs and customer service and sales reps to deliver "smarter commerce" -- intelligent automation that keeps pace with online buying habits, according to Craig Hayman, general manager of IBM Industry Solutions. The tool also will become available to consumers who are increasingly demanding more insightful and self-service support via mobile devices.



Consumers believe they share more information about themselves, but get less support. About 270 billion customer service calls are handled annually, but 50% go unresolved. So Big Blue set out to improve these stats, according to Hayman. He pegs the "strategic growth" market opportunity at $132 billion for the company.

IBM reduced Watson's footprint from a "master bedroom" to one powerful server about 9 inches high and 20 inches deep, running 240% faster than the one that played on "Jeopardy." It looks more like a technology appliance.  

Since appearing on "Jeopardy," Watson has been helping medical clinicians diagnose ailments; now it can help brands provide better customer service. IBM says it can get it up and running for client companies in six weeks, with a return on investment within six months.

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