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A year into the release of its cloud-based Watson Analytics cognitive computing service, IBM has announced a set of incremental upgrades. The most important – adding the collaboration of human experts – recognizes the fact that cognitive computing does not replace human intelligence.

Extending cognitive computing with a little help from your friends

Roughly a year into its release, IBM reports that nearly a half-million people have taken advantage of the cloud-based Watson Analytics service. IBM has announced several incremental but important upgrades that add people and third-party data sources to the mix.

Until now, Watson Analytics was about having the system help find patterns in your data, questions to ask, and stories to tell about data that originates inside the four walls of the enterprise. The next releases (or enhancements, as this is a cloud service upgraded on a rolling basis) will add external sources and experts to the mix.

"Expert Storytellers Storybook" is a new addition planned for early 2016 that will allow Watson Analytics users to augment analytics with third-party sources of syndicated data and analytic templates. For instance, if you are a consumer products company, you could bring in an analytic template providing a specific approach to consumer sentiment analysis developed by a third-party domain-expert source and feed your own data to it. Or you could draw on external sources of curated data sets such as The Weather Company and Twitter (both of them IBM partners) to gain more insight into how such factors are impacting sales and brand equity. IBM is certainly not the first to go down this path – for instance, ClearStory Data already offers such options as part of its streaming analytics service. But it is a natural step for Watson Analytics. In the same vein, IBM is also adding a collaborative feature for cultivating a Watson end-user community, where customers can share their own analytic patterns as well. Given that Watson Analytics has drawn a large body of users, it is intuitive for IBM to make the service stickier by facilitating the building of a user community around it. And finally, IBM will also be introducing forecasting to the mix, which builds on its existing predictive analytics capabilities. The common thread for each of IBM's enhancements to Watson Analytics is that, on their own, they are not bleeding edge (others offer many of these features). But together, they are logical additions to the cognitive computing experience that prove the point that machines won't replace human intuition, and that pairing human intuition with cognitive computing should provide a sum that is greater than the parts.


Further reading

"With Watson Analytics, finance revives its entrepreneurial spirit," IT0014-003026 (June 2015)

"IBM Watson Analytics adds a guided query twist to self-service BI," IT0014-002943 (September 2014)


Tony Baer, Principal Analyst, Information Management

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