Machine learning reviews

Review: IBM Watson strikes again

Built on Watson and SPSS predictive analytics, IBM's cloud machine learning services address the needs of developers, data scientists, and businesses

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At a Glance
  • IBM Watson and Predictive Analytics

Editor's Choice

The IBM Watson AI system drew the world’s attention by winning at "Jeopardy" in February 2011 against two of the game’s all-time champions, and IBM has strived to apply the Watson system to more interesting problems than a trivia quiz ever since. IBM has also extended Watson’s capabilities to developers, data scientists, and even ordinary business users. Along with IBM’s SPSS predictive analytics software, Watson forms the foundation of IBM’s cloud offerings in machine learning and advanced analytics.

IBM breaks the Watson system into five parts: machine learning, question analysis, natural language processing, feature engineering, and ontology analysis. From these parts, IBM has built out a suite of composable cloud services from which you can make your own mini-Watson for a solution to your problem. (Note that compiling the knowledge base for the answers is easy: 95 percent of "Jeopardy" questions can be answered by the titles of Wikipedia articles.)

Meanwhile, IBM is collaborating on applying Watson techniques to health care, seismology, education, and genomics, at Enterprise levels. While these efforts are very interesting, especially in the long term, for the purposes of this review I’ll concentrate on Watson and other machine learning (ML) technology that is available for use in the IBM Cloud, which includes the Bluemix PaaS.

What other ML tech? In a distant corner of IBM’s far-flung empire, IBM SPSS offers both Windows and cloud implementations of the SPSS Modeler package, plus a Predictive Analytics service that can run its model predictions in real time in the Bluemix PaaS and periodic batch jobs to update the models. IBM SPSS Modeler is comparable to Azure Machine Learning and Databricks, while the IBM Watson services are comparable to Microsoft’s Project Oxford and Cortana Analytics, as well as to HPE’s Haven OnDemand.

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