IBM has bolstered its cloud-powered Watson Analytics service with new features that improve the system's data discovery and question-and-answer capabilities.
Watson Analytics uses cognitive computing and natural language understanding to analyse big data, and now has the ability for businesses to query more external data.
This means that Watson Analytics can connect to third-party data sources, as well as to IBM's DB2, Informix, Netezza, SQL Database and dashDB databases.
Watson Analytics has also been made more secure with enhancements taken from Dataworks, IBM's cloud-based data refinement and access service.
This uses IBM's Secure Gateway technology to create a connection between data stored on-premise and Watson Analytics, and automatically encrypt the data. It also creates Docker containers to transport data through a dedicated connection to facilitate secure data analysis in the cloud.
The third and final new addition to Watson Analytics is called Expert Storyboards. These are effectively guides that help customers learn about different types of data sources and find more relevant facts, patterns and relationships to aid predictive decision making.
IBM has a suite of Expert Storyboards, including one that helps in the analysis of social media data from Twitter, and another that helps to integrate weather data into revenue analysis to establish how weather affects business.
Big Blue also boasted widespread adoption of Watson Analytics, noting that it is used in universities, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing and transport.
One example of IBM's analytics service is in Honest Café, which uses Watson to grind big data in unmanned coffee shops in London.
IBM is confident that analytics based on cognitive computing and natural language will be the future of big data analysis.
"By 2018 'smart data discovery', which includes natural language query and search, automated advanced analytics and interactive data discovery capabilities, will be the most in-demand business intelligence platform, enabling mainstream business consumers to get insights such as clusters, segments, predictions, outliers and anomalies from data," IBM said.
IBM is pushing forward with its supercomputer technology, having recently created Watson Health, which provides analytics and cognitive computing capabilities to the healthcare industry.
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