Note: Authors of this report about IBM’s new Watson Health and related cognitive health development s are: Geoff Wollacott, Principal Analyst and Practice Manager, Software and Business Intelligence; John Caucis, Senior Analyst; Jen Hamel, Analyst; and Dakin Smoyer, Research Analyst.

HAMPTON, N.H. – IBM’s recent actions illustrate the power of its cognitive computing technologies and the workload traction accelerating in mission-critical industries  With a flurry of announcements aimed directly at the healthcare market, IBM announced expanded Watson-dependent software and services designed to improve patient outcomes.

The recent moves illustrate how IBM uses acquisitions to stitch together complementary assets around cognitive computing investments and partnerships to address critical business and social issues.  

These interconnected go-to-market developments showcase IBM at its best: making smart investments to leverage core technologies, partnering with broader industry players and building out community-based, cognitive-enabled solutions spanning the entire technology spectrum. To deliver faster, better and cheaper healthcare outcomes, IBM can walk partners and clients from specialty end-point devices to high-performance cognitive computing engines as a cloud-enabled service.

If IBM’s first post-Jeopardy application of Watson in December 2011 was “the big blue elephant” starting to crawl into cognitive commercialization, these announcements three and a half years later illustrate IBM has quickened the pace to a full-on stampede.

Implications for IBM:

  • IBM positions itself increasingly as the global cloud IT data center challenging end-user IT departments to keep pace or be downsized as more workloads move to IBM-delivered business outcomes. For healthcare IT departments, specifically, IBM addresses regulatory compliance, including keeping personal information anonymous to comply with data sovereignty laws.
  • Buying community clouds targeting specific industry verticals enables IBM to leverage its cognitive computing capability and functionality, scaling out through data centers the company has been building rapidly since jump-starting its infrastructure with the SoftLayer acquisition. IBM is betting that other verticals, similar to healthcare, have workloads ripe for movement to cognitive computing.

What it means for IBM’s customers:

  • As IBM proves the investment returns associated with bringing Watson to bear, quickening time to intelligence for business customers and business customers’ target consumers, customers will see IBM follow a go-to-market strategy similar to the company’s new approach to healthcare. IBM will tap emerging systems of interaction with consumer devices and Internet-enabled machine devices to improve the overall customer experience in each targeted industry.
  • Historically, healthcare has been a test bed for technological innovation given, quite literally, the life and death nature of the service. IBM customers in other industry verticals will have a longer consideration cycle prior to adoption that will be accelerated through the use of strategy consulting services to fully inform the IBM customers of the transformative value of cognitive computing best served when breaking down the organizational silo mindset to IT consumption.

Partners — climb aboard:

  • If you develop the next big idea for your business vertical, IBM can scale your IP over its enterprise-grade cloud computing network and sales coverage model for mutual benefit.
  • Partners building solutions with the outcome buyer in mind — rather than traditional silo IT customers wanting to control their IT environments — will attract IBM’s attention (and investment) given IBM’s desire to transform into a service provider relying on a globally integrated set of data centers optimized around core IBM IP such as base-layer Watson

More on IBM’s cognitive computing/Watson Health announcements:

  • Launching the Watson Health Business Unit puts a new wrapper around existing and acquired assets Consistent with IBM’s go-to-market strategy, it has amassed a suite of vertical-specific IP assets through organic and inorganic means to layer on top of its core technological foundation built on Watson-branded cognitive computing capabilities.
  • Watson Health rolls together human and capital IP assets, which IBM will headquarter in Boston; other critical assets will remain in New York, where IBM located the Watson nerve center. Per its release, IBM will have at least 2,000 dedicated consultants, medical practitioners, clinicians and researchers.
  • IBM builds on its Watson-enabled healthcare IP by acquiring community cloud assets IBM describes Watson Health Cloud as the first-ever global information platform allowing doctors, researchers and insurers to access and gain insights from healthcare data that will fundamentally transform the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery worldwide. IBM built HIPAA-enabled Watson Health Cloud by acquiring Explorys and Phytel. Explorys, a spinoff of the Cleveland Clinic established in 2009, consists of a secure cloud-computing platform used by 26 major integrated healthcare systems to identify patterns in diseases, treatments and outcomes. It integrates more than 315 billion clinical, financial and operational data elements, spanning 50 million unique patients, 360 hospitals and more than 317,000 providers. Phytel provides cloud-based population health management software. Phytel’s software works with healthcare providers’ electronic medical record technologies to reduce patient hospital readmissions and automate and improve patient outreach and engagement.
  • New partnerships with Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic extend IBM deeper into impactful, specialty healthcare segments IBM and Apple will apply cloud services and analytics to HealthKit, ResearchKit and iOS devices. IBM will provide a secure research capability on the Watson Health Cloud platform, anonymizing personal data to allow researchers to easily store, aggregate and model information collected from iOS users who optin to contribute personal data. Given rising data sovereignty issues, anonymizing technologies and opt-in processes are critical features necessary for compliance.
  • Johnson & Johnson will collaborate with IBM to create intelligent coaching systems centered on preoperative and postoperative patient care, including joint replacement and spinal surgery. The mobile-based solutions will tie into Watson Health Cloud and leverage Watson’s cognitive capabilities.
  • Medtronic will team with IBM using the Watson Health Cloud insights platform to address the subvertical diabetes space, creating highly personalized care management solutions for people with diabetes. Bolting on Internet of Things capabilities, the system will receive and analyze patient information and data from various devices including insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors to provide dynamic, personalized diabetes management strategies to patients and their providers.