IBM adds an ‘x’ to Watson, remaking it to match an AI-cloud-quantum vision

Elementary, my dear Watson! IBM is further staking its investment in its artificial intelligence (AI) technology services via an updated version of watson, called watsonx, which it announced this week at the company’s Think Conference.

The company’s CEO Arvind Krishna said during his keynote that leaps in quantum cryptography over the next few years, blended with hybrid cloud and generative AI will be the game-changing development of the decade for enterprises. Indeed, the company's investments show a clear support for each prong to this predicted new-age trident.

Watsonx’s features include, an open-interface enterprise studio sandbox for AI builders to tinker with traditional machine learning and newer generative AI capabilities;, an open lakehouse-architecture data store for enterprise-governed data and AI workloads; and watsonx.governance, an AI toolkit for secure governance of AI workflows.

The first two tools are expected to be made generally available by July of this year while its governance toolkit is set to be available “later this year,” according to the release.  

Bill Lobig, VP of IBM automation product management, told Silverlinings that the platform “helps facilitate the entire data and AI lifecycle, from data preparation to model development, deployment and monitoring. We believe that it has the potential to scale and accelerate the impact of the most advanced AI on every enterprise,” he explained. 

Synthesizing old and new with generative AI 

While the unveiling brings officiality to IBM’s backing of AI development, Lobig still noted a frontier of challenges to smartly and safely building out the nascent technology.

“AI tools while powerful, can be expensive, time-consuming and difficult to use. Data must be laboriously collected, curated and labeled with task-specific annotations to train AI models," Lobig said.

Furthermore, building models require “specialized, hard-to-find skills — and each new task requires repeating the process,” he continued. “As a result, businesses have focused mainly on automating tasks with abundant data and high business value, leaving everything else on the table. But this is starting to change.”

Lobig listed a line of early use cases from digital labor, IT automation, application modernization and security to sustainability to help drive watsonx’s “high-quality, trustworthy data” as a self-service for enterprises. 

One of the additional touted benefits of the platform is its integration with all of IBM’s major software solutions and services. These services vary from core digital labor products like Watson Assistant and Watson Orchestrate, to its environmental intelligence suite.

“IBM EIS Builder Edition, which will be available as-a-service through the IBM Environmental Intelligence Suite (EIS) this year, is powered by the geospatial foundation model, allowing organizations to create tailored-solutions that address and mitigate environmental risks based on their unique goals and needs,” he explained.  

According to Lobig, and IBM’s larger watsonx offerings “will continue to evolve, but our overarching promise is the same: to provide safe, enterprise-ready automation products.” 

Additionally, IBM research is developing “techniques to infuse trust” throughout the model lifecycle in aims to mitigate bias and improve model safety. Lobig cited tools like FairIJ and fairness reprogramming as current programmed methods to identify and address biased data points.

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