|IBM Watson Logo|
IBM Watson is a technology platform that uses natural language processing an machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data
Watson is a question answering computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language, developed in IBM‘s DeepQA project by a research team led by principal investigator David Ferrucci. Watson was named after IBM’s first CEO and industrialist Thomas J. Watson. The computer system was specifically developed to answer questions on the quiz show Jeopardy (Jeopardy is an American television game show).
Watson had access to 200 million pages of structured and unstructured content consuming four terabytes of disk storage including the full text of Wikipedia, but was not connected to the Internet during the game. For each clue, Watson’s three most probable responses were displayed on the television screen. Watson consistently outperformed its human opponents on the game’s signaling device, but had trouble in a few categories, notably those having short clues containing only a few words.
In February 2013, IBM announced that Watson software system’s first commercial application would be for utilization management decisions in lung cancer treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in conjunction with health insurance company WellPoint. IBM Watson’s former business chief Manoj Saxena says that 90% of nurses in the field who use Watson now follow its guidance.
Watson uses IBM’s DeepQA software and the Apache UIMA (Unstructured Information Management Architecture) framework. The system was written in various languages, including Java, C++, and Prolog, and runs on the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 operating system using Apache Hadoop framework to provide distributed computing.
|The high-level architecture of IBM’s DeepQA used in Watson|
The system is workload optimized, integrating massively parallel POWER7 processors and built on IBM’s DeepQA technology, which it uses to generate hypotheses, gather massive evidence, and analyze data. Watson employs a cluster of ninety IBM Power 750 servers, each of which uses a 3.5 GHz POWER7 eight core processor, with four threads per core. In total, the system has 2,880 POWER7 processor threads and 16 terabytes of RAM.
According to John Rennie, Watson can process 500 gigabytes, the equivalent of a million books, per second. IBM’s master inventor and senior consultant Tony Pearson estimated Watson’s hardware cost at about three million dollars. Its Linpack performance stands at 80 TeraFLOPs, which is about half as fast as the cut-off line for the Top 500 Supercomputers list. According to Rennie, all content was stored in Watson’s RAM for the Jeopardy game because data stored on hard drives would be too slow to be competitive with human Jeopardy champions.
The sources of information for Watson include encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauri, newswire articles, and literary works. Watson also used databases, taxonomies, and ontologies. Specifically, DBPedia, WordNet, and Yago were used. The IBM team provided Watson with millions of documents, including dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference material that it could use to build its knowledge.