Browse Definitions:
Definition

IBM Watson supercomputer

Watson is an IBM supercomputer that combines artificial intelligence (AI) and sophisticated analytical software for optimal performance as a “question answering” machine. The supercomputer is named for IBM’s founder, Thomas J. Watson.

The Watson supercomputer processes at a rate of 80 teraflops (trillion floating-point operations per second). To replicate (or surpass) a high-functioning human’s ability to answer questions, Watson accesses 90 servers with a combined data store of over 200 million pages of information, which it processes against six million logic rules. The device and its data are self-contained in a space that could accommodate 10 refrigerators.

Watson's key components include:

Applications for the Watson's underlying cognitive computing technology are almost endless. Because the device can perform text mining and complex analytics on huge volumes of unstructured data, it can support a search engine or an expert system with capabilities far superior to any previously existing. In May 2016, BakerHostetler, a century-old Ohio-based law firm, signed a contract for a legal expert system based on Watson to work with its 50-human bankruptcy team. ROSS can mine data from about a billion text documents, analyze the information and provide precise responses to complicated questions in less than three seconds. Natural language processing allows the system to translate legalese to respond to the lawyers’ questions. ROSS' creators are adding more legal modules; similar expert systems are transforming medical research.

To showcase its abilities, Watson challenged two top-ranked players on Jeopardy! and beat champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in 2011. The Watson avatar sat between the two other contestants, as a human competitor would, while its considerable bulk sat on a different floor of the building. Like the other contestants, Watson had no Internet access.

In the practice round, Watson demonstrated a human-like ability for complex wordplay, correctly responding, for example, to “Classic candy bar that’s a female Supreme Court justice” with “What is Baby Ruth Ginsburg?” Rutter noted that although the retrieval of information is “trivial” for Watson and difficult for a human, the human is still better at the complex task of comprehension. Nevertheless, machine learning allows Watson to examine its mistakes against the correct answers to see where it erred and so inform future responses. 

In an interview during the Jeopardy! practice round, an IBM representative evaded the question of whether Watson might be made broadly available through a Web interface. The representative said that the company was currently more interested in vertical applications such as healthcare and decision support.

See also: Turing test, real-time analytics, health IT, Blue Gene, business analytics

See an introductory video on how Watson works:

This was last updated in June 2016

Continue Reading About IBM Watson supercomputer

Join the conversation

1 comment

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

How could Watson help me make market investment decisions for my retirement portfolio
Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

Powered by:

SearchCompliance

SearchSecurity

  • black hat

    Black hat refers to a hacker who breaks into a computer system or network with malicious intent.

  • copyright

    Copyright is a legal term describing ownership of control of the rights to the use and distribution of certain works of creative ...

  • keylogger (keystroke logger or system monitor)

    A keylogger, sometimes called a keystroke logger or system monitor, is a type of surveillance technology used to monitor and ...

SearchHealthIT

  • population health management (PHM)

    Population health management (PHM) is a discipline within the healthcare industry that studies and facilitates care delivery ...

  • ICD-10-PCS

    The International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision, Procedure Coding System (ICD-10-PCS) is a U.S. cataloging system for...

  • U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM)

    The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) is the largest biomedical library in the world.

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • business continuity plan (BCP)

    A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that consists of the critical information an organization needs to continue ...

  • call tree

    A call tree -- sometimes referred to as a phone tree -- is a telecommunications chain for notifying specific individuals of an ...

  • mass notification system (MNS)

    A mass notification system is a platform that sends one-way messages to inform employees and the public of an emergency.

SearchStorage

  • hybrid hard drive (HHD)

    A hybrid hard drive (HHD), sometimes known as a solid-state hybrid drive (SSHD), is a mass storage device that combines a ...

  • USB flash drive

    A USB flash drive -- also known as a stick, thumb or pen drive -- is a plug-and-play portable storage device that uses flash ...

  • open source storage

    Open source storage is data storage software developed in a public, collaborative manner that permits the free use, distribution ...

SearchSolidStateStorage

  • RRAM or ReRAM (resistive RAM)

    RRAM or ReRAM (resistive random access memory) is a form of nonvolatile storage that operates by changing the resistance of a ...

  • JEDEC

    JEDEC is a global industry group that develops open standards for microelectronics.

  • M.2 SSD

    An M.2 SSD is a solid-state drive (SSD) that conforms to a computer industry specification written for internally mounted storage...

SearchCloudStorage

  • RESTful API

    A RESTful application program interface breaks down a transaction to create a series of small modules, each of which addresses an...

  • cloud storage infrastructure

    Cloud storage infrastructure is the hardware and software framework that supports the computing requirements of a private or ...

  • Zadara VPSA and ZIOS

    Zadara Storage provides block, file or object storage with varying levels of compute and capacity through its ZIOS and VPSA ...

Close