Over the past decade, IBM has been moving away from its old business of making and selling computer hardware and transforming itself into something a little more modern: a company that offers services like cloud computing and data analytics. With its purchase of the Weather Company's digital assets for a reported $2 billion in 2015, IBM took another big step in that direction, acquiring an enormous arsenal of local data about weather conditions. The information, which was already being used by companies in the airplane, insurance, and agricultural industries, could be put through IBM's Watson system to produce new understandings of weather patterns and more accurate forecasts. Using Watson for such real-world, consumer-centric applications could help IBM gain a reputation as a data company, not a computer company, and might be good for business, too: It says that $500 billion worth of annual commerce is dependent on weather.
IBM’s Watson Business Group is a New York City-based division of the company that was spun off as a separate business unit in January 2014. The division specializes in cloud-based artificial intelligence technologies that are available to developers and organizations seeking to incorporate those tools, which include natural language processing and cognitive computing, into their own products. Since Watson became commercially available, the technology has been applied to everything from cancer research, where Watson is used to sort through and decipher millions of medical journals, to retail, where Watson is being used to help shoppers locate exactly what they’re shopping for or similar items. As of 2017, Watson is already available to more than 400 million people and patients. Currently, IBM is exploring future uses cases that include enabling Watson to interact with multiple technologies at once and applying its artificial intelligence in other applications, including self-driving cars and hospitality.