IBM has announced significant advances in its artificially intelligent computer system, Watson's, cognitive computing capabilities that are enabling researchers to accelerate the pace of scientific breakthroughs by discovering previously unknown connections in Big Data.
Available now as a cloud service, IBM's Watson Discovery Advisor is designed to scale and accelerate discoveries by research teams. It reduces the time needed to test hypotheses and formulate conclusions that can advance their work -- from months to days and days to just hours -- bringing new levels of speed and precision to research and development.
Building on Watson's ability to understand nuances in natural language, Watson Discovery Advisor can understand the language of science, such as how chemical compounds interact, making it a powerful tool for researchers in life sciences and other industries.
For example, Johnson & Johnson is collaborating with the IBM Watson Discovery Advisor team to teach Watson to read and understand scientific papers that detail clinical trial outcomes used to develop and evaluate medications and other treatments. The team hopes to teach Watson to quickly synthesize the information directly from the medical literature, allowing researchers to start asking questions about the data immediately to determine the effectiveness of a treatment compared to other medications, as well as its side effects.
Researchers and scientists from leading academic, pharmaceutical and other commercial research centers have begun deploying IBM's new Watson Discovery Advisor to rapidly analyze and test hypotheses using data in millions of scientific papers available in public databases. A new scientific research paper is published nearly every 30 seconds, which equals more than a million annually. According to the National Institutes of Health, a typical researcher reads about 23 scientific papers per month, which translates to nearly 300 per year, making it humanly impossible to keep up with the ever-growing body of scientific material available.
In 2013, the top 1,000 research and development companies spent more than $600 billion annually on research alone. Progress can be slow, taking an average of 10 to 15 years for a promising pharmaceutical treatment to progress from the initial research stage into practice. Using Watson Discovery Advisor, researchers can uncover new relationships and recognize unexpected patterns among data that have the potential to significantly improve and accelerate the discovery process in research and science.
There are endless possible applications for Watson-like technologies. For example, IBM says that within five years these technologies, along with augmented reality, could shoppers with better in-store browsing and buying experiences.
The ability to rapidly process big data could be a boon to corporate sustainability programs. Using technologies such as Watson could allow sustainability leaders to such things as better inform corporate strategy, comply with regulations, evaluate investments, improve transparency, develop products and processes, manage risk, benchmark themselves against competitors, change organizational culture, and engage with supply chains.