Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a central driver of business initiatives and continued to shape the future of businesses worldwide. However, there is still a lack of an innovative platform that can help businesses scale and deliver the next generation of AI technology beyond machine learning, chatbot, and robotic process automation.
Tech giant IBM has announced the launch of a new AI and data platform called Watsonx, which IBM executives promise to help its customers harness the power of AI for unprecedented growth and innovation.
“AI is at a momentum point. The advent of generative AI and the potential it has on interacting with information is huge,” said Kieran Hagan, IBM’s data, AI & automation technical sales leader for ASEANZK.
ASEANZK stands for Australia, South East Asia, New Zealand and Korea.
Next generation of AI
Hagan said IBM recognizes that delivering this to businesses requires a different technology platform. “That’s why we put together the Watsonx offering,” he said.
“This is now our future direction and the way we see AI for the next 10 years. We are providing a platform that can help you scale and deliver this next generation of AI technology.”
Watson, named after IBM co-founder and first CEO Thomas Watson, has been a flagship brand for IBM for many years. The original Watson is a question-answering computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language. The computer system was initially developed to answer questions on the American quiz show “Jeopardy!”
The Watsonx platform marks the advent of a new era of AI in business, one that is set to revolutionize how businesses operate, Hagan noted.
“AI used to be the domain of data scientists and people who design and build models. The interesting thing about the recent AI advances is coding is no longer a barrier to realising some of these outcomes,” he said.
“I really think that the future will be AI knowledge capital workers. It will be people interacting far more natively with their software and their systems of applications to build new and innovative outcomes.”
Three key elements
According to Hagan, the Watsonx platform comprises three key elements – Watsonx.ai, Watsonx.data, and Watsonx.governance.
Together, these solutions provide businesses with a platform to advance their machine-learning and generative AI initiatives at scale. The goal is to help businesses profit from AI and ethically integrate emerging technologies into their operations.
Watsonx.ai is a next-generation enterprise studio for AI builders to train, validate, tune, and deploy both traditional machine learning and new generative AI capabilities powered by foundation models.
“It enables you to build AI applications in a fraction of the time with a fraction of the data,” he said.
Watsonx.data is a fit-for-purpose data store optimized for governed data and AI workloads, supported by querying, governance and open data formats to access and share data.
Watsonx.governance is an end-to-end toolkit encompassing both data and AI governance to enable responsible, transparent, and explainable AI workflows.
Watsonx.ai and Watsonx.data services are expected to be generally available in July 2023, and Watsonx.governance later this year, according to IBM.
Opportunities offered by Watsonx
Hagan also pointed to opportunities for businesses to put Watsonx into action.
Involving digital labour, they can empower individuals to make better decisions and deliver faster outcomes with AI and automation.
Regarding IT automation, they can achieve new levels of efficiency and resiliency by automating their most essential systems.
In terms of security, Watsonx helps to bring intelligence to security to expand visibility and accelerate response times.
As for sustainability, Watsonx helps to capture new efficiencies by embedding sustainability into daily operations.
And regarding application modernization, Watsonx helps to build and modernize applications that are composable, API-based, and event-driven.
Accuracy and trustworthiness
Kitman Cheung, director of technical sales (Asia-Pacific) at IBM Technology Software, said that with Watsonx, IBM creates a single platform where customers can deploy the traditional machine learning models with maximum potential.
Watsonx helps businesses leverage proprietary foundation models so they can extend those models into their own use cases using their own data within their own environment and with trusted datasets, he said.
“There are many companies out there that are still thinking and maybe still working on rolling out traditional AI technology like machine learning and chatbot into the environment is still at a stage where they haven’t gone to a point where AI has become pervasive in their organization. How can we actually start driving foundation models and help them innovate?” Cheung said.
According to him, Watsonx could be an answer for those companies.
“When it comes to AI for business, you cannot replace accuracy and trustworthiness. They are paramount when it comes to running a business,” Cheung said.
“We’re not just writing a paragraph or a chat. We are actually trying to solve business problems, so it’s important that this platform helps our customers roll out models in an accurate, scalable and adaptable manner. And that is why we feel it’s the right time to roll out Watsonx,” the IBM executive explained.
ASEAN ‘more ready’ for AI adoption
IBM’s new offering comes at a time when the Southeast Asian region has digitally accelerated its infrastructure faster than the rest of the world following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After COVID, we [ASEAN countries] have digitally accelerated a lot of our infrastructure faster than the rest of the world. If anything, we are more ready for AI adoption for the convenience and returns it can deliver,” Hagan said.
ASEAN, which stands for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is a regional grouping of 10 Southeast Asian countries – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
However, Hagan also pointed to obstacles to the corporate adoption of AI. “The thing that has held us back in the past was some of the data regulations and requirements around data privacy and sovereignty of the information, and the technical ease by which it could be delivered. A lot of this has been done as point solutions or research and development. But making it enterprise-class was in part the missing link,” he said.
With the launch of the Watsonx platform, Hagan said, “There’s now an easier technology path to resolve a lot of those issues and to deliver on the potential that’s been forecast across our market and make that a reality.”