Tech

Watson: Once 'Jeopardy' Computer Champ, Now A Smartphone App

By Michael Mayday , May 21, 2013 03:36 PM EDT
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After wooing Jeopardy! fans and helping in the fight on cancer, it seems IBM's supercomputer, Watson, has found a new calling: customer service. It's called IBM Watson Engagement Advisor, and it could supplement nearly any industry.

It may help to think of Watson's new career as Siri on steroids. It may not give you directions to work, yet, but it can provide direction on your financial investments.

Yes, Watson appears to be intent on taking over the customer service role by providing customers with information relevant to their needs, ranging from airline mileage information and troubleshooting products to the latest on your mobile data limits.

Customers will be able to use the supercomputer through an "Ask Watson" feature, which is set to roll out at select companies over the next few months. Those companies include Australia's ANZ Bank, Nielsen, IHS and the Royal Bank of Canada.

Each company will need to create their own applications and interface for customers to use. Customers can then interact with Watson through SMS, mobile phone messaging and voice recognition and can seamlessly change from one type of input to another.

According to The New York Times, Watson has improved since his Jeopardy! debut two years ago. The computer is faster, smaller and capable of engaging in dialogue so it can ask customers follow-up questions in order to better serve.

It has a lot of interested parties excited.

"Imagine if you could sit down with an adviser and, in the time it takes to make a cappuccino, Watson will pull up all of your accounts, read all the fine print, and tell you what kinds of insurance protection you're missing or where you're overcovered," Joyce Phillips, CEO of ANZ's global wealth and private banking group said to Forbes.

Customer service call centers cost companies roughly $112 billion in software and labor. But that investment, at best, can only solve about half of problems posed by the 270 billion customer-service calls made each year. According to Forbes, most of that inefficiency is due to the lack of access to information.

Watson, Forbes reports, citing IBM's internal use of the supercomputer's new customer query feature, can reduce search time for information by 40 percent.

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