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IBM Watson Assistant

IBM Watson Assistant is a white label cloud service that allows enterprise-level software developers to embed an artificial intelligence (AI) virtual assistant (VA) in the software they are developing and brand the assistant as their own. The service, which gives consumers access to Watson AI is delivered through the IBM Cloud.  

Watson Assistant, which uses Watson AI machine learning (ML) and natural language understanding (NLU), is marketed to businesses that want to have the option of keeping the data that flows through their virtual assistant private. Unlike other vendors that aggregate the information their virtual assistants gather, IBM offers developers the choice of isolating the information their assistant gathers in a private cloud to protect proprietary insights gained through user interaction. Users can interact with the developer’s application through a variety of interfaces, including voice and touch. 

IBM has released a virtual assistant developer toolkit to make it easier for enterprises to integrate intelligent bots with business and collaboration applications.  The vendor’s application sends user input to the Watson Assistant service, which can interact with the vendor’s back-end systems. Watson can create cognitive profiles for each end user’s behaviors and preferences and initiate conversations to make recommendations. IBM also provides developers with a catalog of already configured customer service and industry content packs for automotive and hospitality vertical industries. Developers can also modify Watson Assistant's responses to create an artificial personality that reflects the brand's demographics.

Use cases for Watson Assistant

IBM Watson Assistant is marketed as a solution for companies of any size looking to build their own voice or touch-activated virtual assistant.  IBM has partnered with BMW and Harman Kardon to incorporate Watson Assistant into the auto manufacturers’ models. Watson Assistant allows drivers to ask their cars questions like:  “Do I have enough gas to make it to work without stopping?” and get an answer based on real-time user data. 

Watson Assistant can also act like an in-suite hotel concierge, providing suggestions and information about the local area as well as responding to individual questions. Upon request, Watson Assistant can connect to a hotel thermostat and change the room’s temperature or be programmed to ask guests if they would like to turn lights off or close the drapes at a pre-identified time.

IBM Watson Assistant versus its competitors

IBM claims it gives businesses more control over the information that flows through a virtual assistant than Alexa for Business or Google Assistant. On the consumer side, Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana are among the most prominent competitors to IBM Watson Assistant.

The most significant difference between IBM Watson Assistant and its competitors is that Watson Assistant is not an electronic device that consumers can purchase directly like the Amazon Echo. Instead, the software is embedded within the IBM customer’s software and users are communicating directly with the company that created the product.

This was last updated in July 2018

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