Making a better world with cognitive systems: Wrapping up World of Watson

Big Data Evangelist, IBM

If you’ve pegged IBM as a purely technological company, you’d be surprised by how thoroughly it has transformed into an organization that puts human betterment at the forefront of engagement with customers. At IBM Insight at World of Watson 2016, the primary focus was on how IBM has worked with other organizations to help deliver cognitive applications that make the human experience rich and more fulfilling. partnerships

IBM of course announced plenty of important new platforms, tools and other innovative information technology offerings at the conference; be sure to take a look at my blog posts summing up those day one and day two announcements. 

But partnerships were at the forefront of many sessions at IBM Insight at World of Watson 2016, and many of these partnerships are industry specific and focused on making the world a better place. Nowhere was this emphasis more evident than in the keynote on 26 October 2016 by CEO Virginia Rometty at T-Mobile Arena. What I took away from her talk was that IBM places the highest priority on strategic partnerships that can leverage IBM Watson-based cognitive computing for the benefit of everybody. Here are some of those humanitarian efforts. 


“Healthcare will be our moonshot,” Rometty said. Backing up that proclamation, she and Yitzhak Peterburg, chairman of existing partner Teva Pharmaceuticals, announced that the companies intend to use IBM Watson to address chronic diseases. Specifically, IBM and Teva are expected to use Watson’s cognitive analytics tools to speed development of drugs, accelerate evaluation of new treatment options and help improve management of disease. The initial focus is on disease of the respiratory and central nervous systems.

The organizations are using IBM Watson Health Cloud, and incorporating data from The Weather Company, to pursue cognitive approaches to drug repurposing for these diseases and developing scalable, new cognitive technologies for drug repurposing. This joint effort grows out of Teva’s existing work with IBM as a foundational life sciences partner for the IBM Watson Health Cloud. Going forward, the partners plan to apply massively scalable IBM Watson Health Cloud technology to reveal previously hidden correlations between a drug molecule and health conditions. They intend to combine cloud-connected drug delivery and app technology with more than six billion data points processed by Watson to provide actionable insights, including the first-ever integration of data from The Weather Company.

The combined effort can also develop new algorithms with this and other data to calculate the prospective risk of health events, such as asthma attacks, with Teva delivering that information directly to caregivers and their patients through an app or other software interface. The partners also announced a new mobile app that is expected to connect asthma and inhaler dosage events and sync them with a smart inhaler.


Rometty also introduced Mary Barra, chairman and CEO of General Motors, to the stage to announce that the companies have worked together to add Watson’s cognitive capabilities to the GM OnStar service widely used in connected vehicles. The service, to be called OnStar Go and expected to be introduced into some GM models in 2017, represents the auto industry’s first cognitive mobility platform.

Combining OnStar’s industry-leading vehicle connectivity and data capabilities with IBM Watson application programming interfaces (APIs) can create experiences that enable drivers and passengers to achieve greater levels of efficiency and safety. It is also expected to give millions of GM drivers the ability to connect and interact with participating brands—such as ExxonMobil, iHeartRadio and Mastercard—through hands-off cognitive interfaces. It can deliver personalized content through the dashboard and other digital channels supported by the OnStar Go ecosystem to make the most of time spent in the car. 

With the customer’s consent, Watson can learn the drivers’ preferences, apply machine learning and sift through data to recognize patterns in their decisions and habits. This capability could potentially reduce the distracted driving that results when drivers have to manually activate various in-car features. Another planned safety feature is integration of rich weather and location data from The Weather Company into OnStar Go to support personalized targeting and warnings about driving conditions. In addition, the cognitive mobility platform is being designed and developed by IBM iX in conjunction with OnStar. The effort capitalizes on iX expertise and experience in mobile design and creating intuitive, touch screen interfaces that minimize distractions and keep driver attentions on the road.

Rometty brought US secretary of education John King on stage to discuss the potential of IBM Watson to help teachers deliver high-quality education to millions of students of all ages, in all regions and of all socioeconomic backgrounds. King discussed how Watson can help teachers better manage the resources they’re using in working with students. He also hailed the key role IBM has played in creating a new education model—Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools—that is building the technical skills for the new economy.

As further evidence of the IBM commitment to support colleges, this keynote came a day after IBM and Pearson announced a new global education alliance that is expected to make Watson’s cognitive capabilities available to millions of college students and professors.

Join the innovation journey

Begin your journey to make the world a better place through cognitive computing by checking out IBM Watson Data Platform.