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Bye bye Watson? IBM is struggling with AI and its healthcare division may pay the price

Enterprise computing giant IBM is looking to get rid of Watson’s healthcare division – its artificial intelligence platform, according to a Wall Street Journal report over the weekend. According to a source close to the matter, the company is trying to reduce its business in order to be profitable. Watson’s health division has made less than $ 1 billion in the past year and is considered unprofitable.

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Read more in Calcalist:

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The Health Division is designed to provide data analysis services to hospitals, insurance companies and pharma companies. However, this is a division that has not been able to break through successfully, despite the fact that Watson has gained extensive exposure in the last 10 years. Watson is a nickname for the artificial intelligence technology that IBM has developed over the past 20 years. She was exposed to the public after participating in an episode of a TV trivia show in which she won against human competitors in 2011.

IBM CEO Erwind Krishna Photo: Getty Images

IBM’s preoccupation with AI is an old story. Article link

The company had already started developing artificial intelligence computers as early as the 1990s, and even managed to gain fame when Big Blue, one of Watson’s ancestors, managed to beat the then world chess champion – Gary Kasparov. But after the launch of Watson, the company promised he would be able to do much more creative things than calculate millions of moves on a chessboard. Thus he was adapted for writing recipes, predicting weather and as an assistant for medical diagnosis for doctors.

But that was just for the sake of public relations. In practice, IBM wanted it to help companies and healthcare organizations manage their information and assist with research. In real life, however, doctors were not really enthusiastic about using Watson for diagnoses after it turned out that he was also making mistakes. In addition technology companies tend not to understand the behavior of the various health systems and regulations that oversee their behavior. Watson Health was one of IBM’s major moves in the field of artificial intelligence and was designed to provide it with an important growth engine.

But it did not work as expected. From a company with revenues of $ 100 billion a year at the beginning of the decade, in the last year it has generated “only” about $ 73 billion. Its new CEO, Erwind Krishna, is now trying to stop the bleeding and focus its business on its traditional areas, enterprise computing. Its focus is on the cloud and anything that does not connect to it may probably be sold or closed. Article link

The first example of this is the move to issue the IT Services Division managed as a separate company. Now the report on Watson is probably reinforcing these moves.

But Watson’s relative failure in healthcare is not unique to IBM. Even today, Google has not been able to turn its AI division technology into a lucrative business in the field of healthcare, despite all sorts of statements about it. Article link

The problem according to a number of experts and academics is the tendency of these companies to exaggerate the ability of their systems. For example, IBM has in the past proudly explained that Watson could helpRepoCancer with the help of the vast database it is equipped with.

Data, as demonstrated by the course of vaccines against corona in Israel, are the basis for all quality medical research. But if the systems designed to analyze the data are not adapted to the requirements of the health systems then the chances of their adoption are very small no matter how sophisticated or impressive. This and the problematic nature of collecting and analyzing health data under the various rules of use of medical information has probably led to Watson probably not being the electrician everyone expected. IBM now has only a choice between selling to investors, a spin-off and an IPO or simply closing it.

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