Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Jimoh, right, and the original ROSS Intelligence team

Jimoh, right, and colleagues at ROSS Intelligence

By Steve Hamm

Just a few months ago, Jimoh Ovbiagele was a junior computer science major at the University of Toronto. Today, he’s the chief technology officer of ROSS Intelligence, a Toronto-based startup that’s harnessing IBM Watson in an attempt to transform the legal profession by streamlining case law research. This is no pipe dream: the software is being piloted by Dentons, the world’s largest law firm–giving it an industry stamp of approval.

“From the moment we had the opportunity to touch Watson, we saw that we could change a whole industry. So that’s what we set out to do,” Jimoh says.

Thanks to the IBM Watson Ecosystem, tiny startups like ROSS Intelligence can begin to disrupt the status quo in one industry after another–and in a matter of months.

Ecosystem partners gain access to a powerful platform upon which they can build mobile apps and Web applications. They can tap into more than two dozen pre-made cognitive software components, so they don’t have to write all the code themselves. Plus, they get technical and marketing help from IBM experts. The result: speed to market.

When IBM Watson Group launched 16 months ago, there were only nine ecosystem partners; today, there are more than 300. They range from five-person startups like ROSS Intelligence to Deloitte, an IT consulting powerhouse. In addition, tens of thousands of developers, entrepreneurs, students and others have already built thousands of apps on the Watson platform. This is the long tail of cognitive computing.

IBM Watson Group is providing mission-critical Watson applications and services for a number of industries, ranging from healthcare to financial services. But IBM can’t make all the apps. “The ecosystem is critical,” says Lauri Saft, director, IBM Watson Ecosystem. “This is how cognitive computing will become pervasive in our lives.”

Here’s a video about how the IBM Watson Ecosystem team interacts with partners:

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Here’s a sampling of the ecosystem partners:

GoMoment, of Santa Monica, Calif., provides an a mobile app, Ivy, that enables hotel guests to interact with a Watson-powered virtual agent to get instant responses to requests for everything from wi-fi passwords to airport shuttle schedules. Three million hotel guests are already using the service.

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Decibel, of London, England, is changing the way people discover music through MusicGEEK, which will use Watson analytics to identify musical connections from publications, blogs and social media. The recommendation engine will be embedded in a number of online music services.

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Modernizing Medicine, of Boca Raton, Fla., provides a Watson-based clinical support system that incorporates electronic medical records for specific medical specialties–beginning with dermatology. One-third of US dermatologists will gain access to Watson in the coming months.

BrightMinded, of Brighton, England, built a Watson-powered app for fitness trainers, TRAiN.ME, which helps them create personalized exercise and health regimens for their clients. They can also manage their businesses–complete with scheduling and alerts.

Cerebri, of Austin, Texas, created a mobile app, CallScout, that people can use to learn about social services that are available in their area–just like they would from human operator on the phone. They’re piloting the app with the City of Austin and expanding soon to the 10-county central Texas region.

Cerebri, like ROSS Intelligence, emerged out of the IBM Watson University Challenge last winter. Teams from 10 universities in the United States and Canada studied cognitive technologies in a class, created the prototype of a Watson-based app, and then competed against one another at a juried event. The University of Texas – Austin team won, pocketed a check for $100,000, and promptly launched Cerebri.

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Bri Connelly, Cerebri’s CEO, was inspired to create CallScout after watching the documentary movie, American Winter, which profiles American families who are struggling to pay for food and energy bills. She wanted to make something that would have a meaningful impact on people’s lives.

Now, in a snap, she’s running a company that’s helping people in need, but which has even greater ambitions. The company plans on transforming the way organizations of all types interact with their customers and clients.

“Transitioning from a student to a CEO was a big challenge,” she says. “As a student, it’s all about yourself. But when you’re a CEO it becomes about the 12 people you’re working with and your products and your vision. It’s something much bigger.”

For young people like Bri all around the world, the Watson Ecosystem provides a foundation upon which they can build applications and businesses. So this could be the beginning of something truly transformational–for them, for business, and for society.

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