IBM Announces $1 Billion Investment, 2 New Bank Clients for Watson

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DBS Bank in Singapore has committed to using IBM's Watson technology for three years and plans to spend about $11.8 million on it; Nedbank in Southern Africa has also agreed to begin using the high-end business intelligence system, IBM announced Thursday. The Armonk, N.Y. technology company also announced it will be investing $1 billion in Watson over the next several years and has organized a new IBM Watson group of 2,000 employees who will be based in Manhattan's Silicon Alley.

Watson, which made a very public debut on the show Jeopardy in February 2011, uses natural language understanding and artificial intelligence to "read" large volumes of documents to absorb knowledge that can then be queried. It's been used in healthcare to help come up with diagnoses. A few banks have begun using it. Last year, IBM began offering the technology in a cloud-based, on-demand fashion, making it more affordable and easier to use.

Citi was the first bank to start experimenting with the technology last year early in 2012. The bank has said it's using the system to analyze customer needs and process financial, economic, product and client data.

ANZ Bank in Australia has been using Watson since last summer to help determine the right investment products for wealth management clients.

Like ANZ, DBS Bank plans to deploy Watson in its wealth management business, to help advisors serve affluent customers. The bank will use IBM's cloud-based Watson Engagement Advisor as part of its mission to become a leading regional wealth player.

Nedbank is using IBM's predictive analytics solutions to provide more responsive real-time services to its customers. The bank says this technology has helped it reduce social media monitoring costs by more than $105,000 a year while boosting customer service productivity levels by 20 percent.

IBM also announced three new Watson-related products this week, all cloud-based: IBM Watson Discovery Advisor is designed to assist researchers draw conclusions from vast bodies of data. IBM Watson Analytics helps create visualizations of data. And IBM Watson Explorer helps provide a unified view of a user's information.

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