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IBM Supercomputer Watson Will Now Mine Millions of Tweets

Image: IBM's Watson

Watson, powered by IBM POWER7, is a work-load optimized system that can answer questions posed in natural language over a nearly unlimited range of knowledge. IBM via AP file

Watson, the artificially intelligent IBM supercomputer, can already beat you at Jeopardy. And soon, it will know more than you do about what’s happening on Twitter, too. It’s part of a deal the two companies announced on Wednesday that’s designed to let IBM’s business clients mine the 500 million daily Twitter messages for competitive intel.

That means IBM customers will now be able to ask Watson questions about what’s going on in the Twitterverse. The idea is to make money from corporations looking for a deeper analysis of Twitter trends—analysis that, with the brain power of Watson, IBM, and Twitter see as going far beyond understanding, say, whether or not a new running shoe is popular. According to Twitter vice president Chris Moody, a deep fryer maker, for example, could analyze tweets about soggy French fries to learn about problems with its new line of products.

Beyond that, the companies will work on “applications that can help improve business decisions by combining Twitter data with our analytics and industry expertise in areas like marketing, customer service, HR, supply chain and more,” said Alistair Rennie, the general manager of IBM’s business analytics division, speaking at an IBM customer event on Wednesday morning.

Queen Elizabeth II of England Joins Twitter 0:30

IBM will also roll Twitter data into ExperienceOne, its portfolio of sales and marketing software products, and Bluemix, IBM’s cloud development platform. In true Big Blue form, there is even now a way for IBM staffers to get Twitter certified, although we’re not exactly sure what that means. “Ten thousand IBM global services consultants will be trained and certified in becoming the very best in helping you apply Twitter data,” Rennie said.

Under pressure from Wall Street to improve its financial results, IBM seems to be banking on transforming itself into a gateway between stodgy corporate buyers and cool Silicon Valley technology. The Twitter deal echoes one that IBM and Apple inked three months ago. In that case, the pitch was that both companies would benefit—IBM by offering services to help big companies integrate Apple products, Apple by selling the products.

Twitter too is facing skepticism from shareholders these days, in its case about its ability to grow and hold its audience; to be valuable to IBM’s business customers, that’s exactly what Twitter will have to continue to do.

--- Robert McMillan, Wired

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