Watson Discovery Service: understand your data at scale with less effort

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On the Watson team, when we talk to customers and developers, the thing that always gets them excited about the power of AI and cognitive computing is the promise of making better decisions. Seldom is there a single right answer. A doctor evaluates numerous choices regarding treatment alternatives…. or a financial planner might weigh multiple investment options. Yet traditional programmed systems are designed to derive a single response, a deterministic response, to a question or query.

Cognitive systems are unique in their ability to take massive quantities of data, even the messy stuff never intended for machine consumption, and put it into context.

We’re obsessed with making it easy for developers to find that proverbial needle in a haystack, identifying useful patterns and insights in large datasets. While the algorithms to extract these insights are continuing to improve by leaps and bounds, the headache of so many steps associated with acquiring, normalizing, and enriching unstructured data remains. Many data scientists spend as much as 80 percent of their time on this so-called “data janitor” work – collecting, cleaning and organizing data sets.

We took this problem head on by developing the new Watson Discovery Service, which packages core Watson cognitive capabilities with simple tooling and APIs that enable you to quickly upload, enrich, and index large collections of your private data or public data. With Watson Discovery Service, even customers lacking systems engineering or machine learning skills can rapidly analyze and gain insights from enormous collections of unstructured data. We’ve embedded best-of-breed Watson algorithms which enrich your documents with the power of natural language understanding, and advanced ingestion capabilities allowing easy analysis of HTML, PDF, and MS Word documents. Through the power of Watson Discovery Service, you’ll have core Watson APIs such as AlchemyLanguage and Document Conversion right at your fingertips.

Across industries, we’ve seen the power of applying cognitive technologies to the intersection of structured and unstructured data. Watson Discovery accelerates this capability, enabling developers to easily align and connect different data sets, exposing critical correlations and causal factors. Through Watson’s ability to organize documents, utterances, or even specific facts across time, developers can identify time-based correlations in their data, or use our ability to identify locations and geo-spatial coordinates to uncover spatial correlations.

These capabilities in Watson Discovery Service combine to enable some really powerful forms of data analysis. For example, you could identify all the companies acquired by a competitor over a specific period of time, or the diseases impacted by a target chemical compound, or key events impacting supply chain or shipping routes. These and other insights are embedded in news reports, social media, and other public/private data as relationships in text. Waton’s ability to read and make sense of these, at massive scale, opens new doors for today’s developers. We’re making it easy to quickly ingest documents, sift through millions of relationships, accumulate evidence and rank results.

Using Watson Discovery Service is easy –no PhD required. If you can call a REST API, you can get started today. By massively simplifying the ETL (extract, transform, and load) process and directly integrating Watson’s document import capabilities, we’ve vastly simplified the process of importing large data collections. From there, the developer applies our simple, structured query capabilities to perform search, exploration, time-series analysis, correlation identification tasks, and more.

While exposing natural language understanding is the first capability we’ve exposed to the developer community through Watson Discovery Service, we’ve built this service with an eye towards open embrace of the full buffet of Watson’s cognitive capabilities. Soon, we’ll be bringing support for additional content types, more advanced data science capabilities, and support for even larger scale document collections.

We’re thrilled about the launch of Watson Discovery Service, but ultimately even more excited about what you, the world’s developer community, will do with this new capability to super-charge your apps and services.

See what Watson Discovery Service can do


Director of Alchemy & Discovery, IBM Watson

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Claude Roy

Thanks for this Eliot. I worked on the Shuttle Program at one point and I keep up with the latest news in Science and Technology, so you got my attention.


Mayco Anderson

An amazing tool to create innovation faster! Thanks!


Patti East

Can we leverage Watson Discovery Service to also more easily pull business metadata from structured files?

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