How Watson Can Spark a Data-Driven R&D Revolution

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) –– IBM continues to show off its $1 billion investment in Watson, Wednesday announcing the IBM Watson Discovery Advisor, which will help innovators and entrepreneurs get answers to questions that are currently without answers.

Watson is "a computer that inspires people and points them toward the next great idea," said IBM Watson Group Vice President John Gordon in a phone interview with TheStreet. "It puts Watson towards the question of, 'Where should I go with my time?' "

Global research and development spending at the top 1,000 companies topped $638 billion in 2013, according to Booz & Company . Available now, and delivered as a cloud service, Watson can help research and development teams around the world utilize their resources best.

One of the larger areas of focus is the life sciences field, where a research paper is published every 30 seconds. The Watson Discovery Advisor can help read the papers to start analyzing and creating hypotheses from the papers that are already available, as well as new ones.

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"We're entering an extraordinary age of data-driven discovery," said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president, IBM Watson Group in the press release. "The proliferation of data is exasperating an organization's ability to discover connections between disparate data. Today's announcement is a natural extension of Watson's cognitive computing intelligence, empowering research, developers and industry experts, with powerful insights and connections in data, giving scientists the ability to make connections with data that others don't see, which can lead to significant breakthrough discoveries."

In January, IBM announced it would invest $1 billion in the Watson Group, helping to bring cloud-based applications and services to market. Nearly 2,000 people will work within the Watson Group, which is being led by Rhodin. In unveiling the Watson Group, IBM announced three Watson-based services, including the Watson Discovery Advisor, as well as Watson Analytics (for visual representations of big data) and Watson Explorer (for uncovering and quickly sharing information).

At its investor briefing in 2013, IBM said it expects to generate $20 billion in revenue from analytics and big data, up from a prior outlook of $16 billion.

Johnson & Johnson is working with Watson Discovery Advisor to help read and understand scientific papers to develop and evaluate medications, while Sanofi Aventis is working to help find new use cases for existing drugs. However, the implications go far beyond life sciences, Gordon said. "We've talked with clients in financial services about identifying risk in portfolios, in education about students and issues they're facing. There are lots of different industries that this can span across, and life science is just the beginning."

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