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Meet Watson, Your Doctor in a Pizza-Size Box

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Published : February 13th, 2013
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Category : Editorials

In 2011, IBM's super-computer "Watson" trounced human components at Jeopardy.

The original Watson system  consisted of 90 IBM Power 750 servers taking up 10 full racks. That works out to 2,880 CPU cores and 15TB of RAM. Watson now fits in a pizza box.

Extreme Tech reports IBM makes Watson the size of a pizza box, starts offering cloud access to doctors.

When the robot uprising is finally underway, you might look back on the year 2011 as the beginning of the end. That was the year IBM’s Watson supercomputer trounced its squishy human opponents on the quiz show Jeopardy. Watson is finally being utilized in the real world, and this might be just the beginning.

IBM has entered into an arrangement with Memorial Sloan-Kettering and WellPoint to bring Watson’s expertise to the medical field. Doctors will be able to run the variables through Watson to get suggestions on possible treatments based on giant blocks of medical data.

The Watson-capable servers being deployed to hospitals and data centers will only take up one slot in a standard server rack. Does that mean that it’s slower? Certainly not — Watson’s theoretical processing speed has been bumped up 240% since its television debut.

The key to the slimmed down Watson rig is improved processing algorithms, but also domain specialization. On Jeopardy, Watson had to be able to scan huge amounts of data and spit out an answer in under a second. Health care decisions don’t have to be made instantly — Watson can churn through the medical data for a few seconds before anyone starts getting impatient. The field of study is also much more narrow.

WellPoint points out that doctors miss early stage lung cancer diagnoses about half the time. Watson, on the other hand, is able to get the right diagnosis on these same cases 90% of the time. Although, Watson will still hedge its bets: When a medical professional consults the system, they will receive results on an iPad or computer in about 30 seconds with possible courses of action sorted by confidence level.

If Watson proves to be a success, more consumer-facing applications could be coming down the road. IBM is working with Nuance Communications to develop the system, and Nuance has plenty of consumer products (such as the voice-recognition part of Siri).

So in the not too distant future, you might have a computer to thank for your health. It’s certainly a lot more useful than winning game shows.
Elementary My Dear Watson

Price-deflationary? You bet!

"Watson" is no longer the blundering sidekick but rather more like Holmes with a reported 90% cancer diagnosis success rate, certainly a price-deflationary phenomenon.

This man has been dead for at least two hours says Sherlock Holmes. How would anyone know? "Elementary My Dear Watson ....".

Was the computer misnamed?

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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Mish 13 abonnés
Mike Shedlock / Mish is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. He writes a global economics blog which has commentary 5-7 times a week. He also writes for the Daily Reckoning, Whiskey & Gunpowder, and has over 80 magazine and book cover credits. Visit
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