IBM Launches Watson Mobile Developer Contest

Michael Vizard
Feb. 28 2014, 11:00AM EST

Recognizing that the ultimate success of the IBM Watson cognitive computing platform is directly tied to the amount of developer support it attracts, IBM has launched a contest in which it will work with the winner to bring to market mobile consumer and business apps powered by Watson.

Announced this week at the Mobile World Congress, the IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge is intended to provide incentives in the form of a route to market facilitated by IBM for developers who create applications that enhance the expert systems capabilities of the IBM Watson platform.

Steve Gold, vice president of marketing and sales operations for the recently formed IBM Watson group, says IBM is especially interested in mobile computing applications that leverage a body of knowledge that can be interactively queried by end users. Built on top of IBM Power Series processors, the IBM Watson platform at its core combines a natural language interface with an advanced text analytics engine to identify relationships between different sets of data stored in the system.

IBM has begun to extend that functionality in a number of directions. For example, the company has created APIs for accessing the Watson Discovery Advisor and Watson Engagement Advisor on the Watson Development Cloud. This platform as a service contains the technology, tools, SDKs, and APIs that enable third parties to design, develop, and deploy cognitive applications. The Watson Development Cloud is now available on the SoftLayer cloud that IBM acquired late last year.

Gold says that when it comes to developing cognitive computing applications, the biggest challenge often facing developers is the need to think beyond classic programming models. The IBM Watson platform, according to Gold, is designed to continuously learn relationships between datasets, which means there is no such thing as creating multiple versions of an application over time. The IBM Watson platform also exposes much more context around any given query. Developers will take some time to get used to this process when building applications, says Gold, because there might be many more possible answers to any particular query than most developers might initially appreciate.

IBM says that thus far, 1,500 organizations have been in contact about using the IBM Watson platform to address some cognitive computing requirements. No doubt, platforms such as IBM Watson represent entirely new classes of functionality that can be embedded inside just about any type of application. The good news: All that Watson functionality is increasingly becoming just a RESTful API call away.

Michael Vizard

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