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IBM’s Watson supercomputer will have a second home in San Francisco

September 24, 2015, 4:01 AM UTC
Watson computer at IBM in New York City
NEW YORK CITY, NY- MAY 27: IBM Watson's computer housing case. IBM's Watson computer is best known for winning Jeopardy, unaware of time constraints, while playing against humans. Some of Watson's other features are based in problem solving across many different careers. A demonstration showed how quickly Watson is able to diagnose illnesses, and provided a real life case that took doctors and nurses six days to diagnose, and only ended with the correct diagnosis because a nurse had seen the disease before. Based on symptoms input, Watson was able to correctly diagnose in minutes. The demonstration took place at IBM Watson's New York City, New York office on May 27, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Spear for The Washington Post via Getty Images.)
Photograph by Andrew Spear — The Washington Post/Getty Images

IBM is bringing its Watson supercomputing technology out west by opening a new San Francisco office to help grow its data analytics business, the company said Thursday.

The new office is an example of how IBM is trying to make a bigger push behind its Watson data crunching technology, which gained prominence by winning the game show, Jeopardy.

The San Francisco Watson outpost, to open next year, is designed to give IBM (IBM) direct access to startups in the Bay Area looking to incorporate Watson technology into their software projects, explained Lauri Saft, a vice president at IBM’s Watson operations.

IBM’s recently announced that an office focused on a hot data processing technology called Spark will also be part of the new facility. The hope is that startups building products with the Spark big data technology will also be interested in Watson, said Saft.

Ultimately, the goal is to encourage more startups to build products with Watson and perhaps introduce the technology to different industries. IBM claims that over 100 companies have released software services into the market that are based on Watson.

IBM currently has a $100 million venture capital fund that it uses to invest in startups looking to build products on Watson, Saft said. It also acts as a business consultant of sorts to these startups, helps them come up with business plans, and introduces them to potential customers.

Among some of the startups using Watson is a company focusing on education technology, a credit-card payment company, and an athletic technology company.

Following 13 consecutive quarters of declining revenue, IBM is banking on its data business to help eventually offset the eroding sales. However, IBM does not disclose the revenue that Watson generates, so it’s impossible to know how the effort is going.

Earlier this month, IBM opened a new Watson Health business center in Cambridge, Mass to target hospitals and medical researchers. It’s an area in which the company has invested heavily and is hoping to use as a springboard to other industries.

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