Jan 10, 2014

    Supercomputer to be DBS' new wealth expert

    THE supercomputer that took on human competitors in the American game show Jeopardy has found a new job: As DBS Bank's wealth-management expert.

    Watson, which won the US$1-million (S$1.3-million) first prize on the game show in 2011, will be able to suggest various financial options for the bank's high-net-worth customers.

    Customers will not actually get to speak with Watson, but the bank's wealth-management advisers can access Watson's proposed options and make their recommendations.

    Watson will throw up its suggestions after "ingesting" thousands of research reports, product information and customer profiles, more than what a wealth-management expert can handle, DBS said.

    The supercomputer will go to work at DBS sometime after July. This is the first time that it is being used in Singapore.

    The agreement gives IBM a proving ground as it tries to show clients the value of its Watson technology. The New York-based company announced yesterday it is creating a separate division for Watson to spur growth after six consecutive quarters of falling revenue.

    IBM will invest more than US$1 billion in the IBM Watson Group, including US$100 million in venture funding for businesses that develop applications based on the technology.

    The company says a new division, the Watson Business Group, will have 2,500 employees, including programmers, researchers and experts in various industries.

    It will be located in New York City, and about US$100 million of the group's funding will be for venture investments related to Watson's so-called data analysis and recommendation technology.

    "We believe a major shift is under way" in the computing business, Ms Virginia Rometty, IBM's chief executive, said in remarks prepared for a formal announcement yesterday.

    "Watson does more than find the needle in the haystack. It understands the haystack. It understands context."

    The supercomputer, she added, "learns from its own experiences and from our interactions with it - and as it does, it keeps getting smarter. Its judgments keep getting better".

    IBM has collaborated with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the insurer WellPoint and the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University on ways to teach and practise medicine. Commercially, companies like Nielsen and DBS Bank have worked with Watson.

    So far, however, revenue from all these efforts has been relatively slight.

    As sluggish demand for computer hardware has dragged down sales, IBM has been selling off businesses to focus on more profitable, faster-growing areas, such as data analytics and cloud computing. Watson is one of its highest-profile bets.