AI and blockchain boost: IBM sets up world’s first Watson Centre in Singapore
By Benjamin Cher June 10, 2016
- First time IBM Watson, Studios and Garage together in the same location
- Aims to get APAC businesses and partners to work on cognitive computing solutions
IBM Corp is bringing its most advanced technologies and solutions closer to the Asia Pacific region with the launch of the world’s first Watson Centre in Singapore’s Marina Bay.
The centre will house IBM Watson (cognitive computing), IBM Studios Singapore (design and digital expertise) and IBM Garage (blockchain) facilities under one roof for the first time. The company also opened its new Asia Pacific headquarters at the same location.
Watson Centre aims to bring together businesses and partners across industries in the region to collaborate on new solutions utilising cognitive computing and design thinking, IBM said.
Currently, the US tech giant is working with Singapore’s DBS Bank, healthcare provider Parkway Pantai, and travel startup Zumata Technologies to develop cognitive computing solutions for their respective industries.
“Over the next five years, we expect cognitive computing to be part of every decision being made,” said Antony Menezes, vice president of IBM Cognitive Solutions, IBM Asia Pacific.
“We believe we are at the dawn of an era – we do believe that cognitive solutions are the start of technologies that will be transformative over time,” he told a media briefing on June 9.
IBM said it currently has almost 5,000 IBM cognitive solutions professionals in Asia Pacific.
The company is also setting up a new design centre called IBM Studios Singapore “to help businesses design new customer experiences in the digital age,” it said.
This facility joins a network of 30 other such studios around the world, and is the first in South-East Asia.
“The amount of digital data that is being generated, and the expectations we as consumers are bringing to work, is changing the interaction between devices,” said IBM Design general manager Phil Gilbert.
“A new relationship of systems and technology between people and how we do our jobs [is needed].
“Over the last couple of years, we have assembled the largest set of formally trained designers in the world, and these 1,300 designers are working with our teams and clients for their solutions,” he added.
IBM Studios Singapore will be the regional hub, hosting over 100 designers and digital experts from IBM iX (Interactive Experience), where clients work side-by-side with IBM teams to solve challenges and create new solutions.
“Digital reinvention has a new home in IBM Studios Singapore – this is a place that is unique in its capabilities, with a combination of designers, digital strategists, cognitive scientists, data scientists, and developers all in one place,” said IBM Asean iX leader Stefan Hirsch.
“All this capability will come together in one physical space to apply IBM design thinking to rapidly move from an idea, to the reality of a startup or enterprise reinventing itself.
“On the back of this, IBM iX is announcing a partnership with Singapore Airlines to reinvent the day-to-day life of its pilots, giving them mobile tools to plan their days and flights, and to engage with the airline and other pilots,” he added.
IBM iX has already started working with Singapore Airlines to develop two mobile apps for its pilots: FlyNow supports flight preparation with relevant operational information; and Roster for their assigned duties and qualification compliance.
Disruptive but ‘profoundly enabling’
The move to set up Watson Centre in Singapore was a welcome one, given that the city-state is positioning itself as a Smart Nation.
“A lot of what we are talking about is positioned as disruptive, and indeed, many incumbent players will become redundant,” said its Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
“But there is something profoundly enabling about these technologies – in a new way, it is profoundly enabling for a much broader range of enterprises as well as human beings.
“And our job in Singapore, the reason why we are embracing disruption in a whole range of industries, is because we want to maximise that enabling potential,” he said in his speech at the launch.
Such disruptive technologies allow for small players to participate in a level playing field, and Singapore wants to make it happen as soon as possible according to Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies.
“We see this as a huge opportunity … it is about enabling and developing human potential for a whole range of jobs,” he said.
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