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You may know IBM Watson from its appearance on Jeopardy!® five years ago. But since then, the supercomputer has evolved from game show champion to industry-transforming powerhouse, explains Patrick Horgan, IBM Canada's VP of Manufacturing, Development & Operations in an interview with Invest in Ontario. Watson powers new consumer and enterprise services in the healthcare, financial services, security and education markets, effectively changing the way many understand data.
To continue Watson's advancement, IBM has created two business units – "Watson," established for the development and commercialization of cloud-delivered cognitive computing technologies, and "Watson Health" dedicated to improving the ability of doctors, researchers, and insurers to surface new insights from the massive amount of personal health data being created daily. Fortunately, researchers in Ontario actively leverage both of these units, explains Horgan.
"With Watson, researchers can analyze and interpret high volumes of structured and unstructured data (including text, images, audio, and video) in a manner that was previously unfeasible," says Horgan. "It can understand complex questions posed in natural language and propose evidence-based answers to researchers studying a problem. And with an ability to see, Watson can extract information from images such as x-ray scans and then quickly analyze them to provide information that could be vital to the diagnosis and treatment of patients."
"Consider this," says Horgan. "Each person generates one million gigabytes of health-related data across his or her lifetime – the equivalent of more than 300 million books. Further, it is estimated that 80% of the world's data is unstructured, including news articles, research reports, social media posts, and enterprise system data."
IBM consistently ranks as one of the top R&D investors in Ontario and Canada. Over the past 10 years in particular, nearly half a billion dollars of in-kind expertise and related analytics, cloud, mobile, security and social technologies has been invested to establish a series of collaborative innovation hubs across the country.
With the help of Watson, IBM is enabling Ontario companies to perform ground-breaking research and development. Here are some examples:
IBM Watson Health is collaborating with more than 20 leading cancer institutes to accelerate the ability of clinicians to identify and personalize treatment options for their patients. "Watson's advanced cognitive abilities will reduce the amount of time it takes to translate DNA insights from weeks to minutes," says Horgan, "helping researchers to understand a person's genetic profile, gather relevant information from medical literature and personalize treatment options."
The Ontario Brain Institute (OBI) and the Movement Disorders Clinic (MDC) at the University Health Network (UHN) are embarking on Canada's first ever Parkinson's disease focused research project using the newly launched IBM Watson for Drug Discovery. "Watson's cognitive abilities will be applied as a building tool to speed up the drug discovery process and transform how clinicians identify drugs that could be repurposed to fight the disease," says Horgan.
IBM and the Cardiac Arrhythmia Network of Canada (CANet) are joining forces to launch Heart-SIGN (System for Information Gathering and Networking), a cloud-based analytics platform designed to manage, monitor, store, correlate, and analyze data generated from all CANet research projects. CANet's office is based in London, Ontario.
SOSCIP is a collaborative research consortium aimed at bringing together academic researchers and SMEs to drive "made-in-Canada disruptive technology" through the use of state-of-the-art advanced computing and big data analytics technologies. To date, this collaboration initiative has launched 50 projects that have created 38 small businesses and 88 research jobs, significantly enhanced the skills of more than 300 academics, and established a pipeline of close to $2 billion in revenue for these new or growing enterprises.
The IBM Incubator Innovation Initiative is a multi-tiered initiative that will help 500 small and medium-sized Ontario companies ‘scale up' and become more globally competitive. In partnership with the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), industry, academia, and government departments, IBM's Incubator Innovation Initiative is designed to provide disruptive technology, software/solutions, and expertise to:
As a part of IBM's Innovation Incubator project, IBM opened the IBM Innovation Space in downtown Toronto. The space supports the development of entrepreneurs, start-ups, and smaller businesses from healthcare, natural resources, cybersecurity, and financial services by providing leading cognitive and cloud technologies. IBM experts also help them to move great ideas from stages in research to commercialization through rapid prototype, product, and service development.
IBM's Bluemix Garage, in partnership with Ryerson University's DMZ, combines IBM's cloud platform, Bluemix, with DMZ's strong network of international partners and in-house expertise.
Located in Hamilton, HHS is an innovation space that provides healthcare providers, researchers, innovators, and entrepreneurs with advanced technology tools and expertise to improve healthcare outcomes. With access to an array of Watson cognitive and analytics software, expertise in cloud computing and high-performance computing infrastructure, and a network of global collaborators, the centre will offer programs and projects aimed at specialty care for people throughout the entire lifecycle – from prenatal to old age.
IBM's commitment to R&D in Canada can be traced back to the 1930's, but more recently IBM technology can be found everywhere from mobile banking apps and the system powering Apple Pay transactions to speeding up drug discovery for Parkinson's disease at the Ontario Brain Institute. In fact, IBM can be linked to some of the most recent innovations of Toronto's beloved NBA basketball team, the Raptors. "IBM Watson, cloud and services expertise are behind the use of cognitive and advanced analytics designed to transform the Raptors' talent evaluation processes," says Horgan.
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All figures are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise noted. Information is accurate at the time of publication.