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IBM said today that it will invest $200 million in a new global headquarters for its Watson Internet of Things business in Munich Germany. The move is part of the strategy of combining Watson — the supercomputer that beat the world’s best human Jeopardy player — with the Internet of Things (IoT), or using sensors to make everyday objects smart and connected.

It’s also part of a global plan to invest $3 billion to bring Watson’s cognitive computing to IoT. The investment in Munich is one of the company’s largest ever in Europe and is in response to growing demand from customers who want to transform their operations with A.I. and IoT.

IBM said it has 6,000 global clients using its Watson IoT solutions and services, up from 4,000 eight months ago. Over time, IBM plans to use Watson to draw insights from billions of sensors embedded in machines, cars, drones, ball bearings, and even hospitals.

The Watson IoT headquarters will be home to the first-ever cognitive IoT Collaboratories – hands-on industry labs where clients and partners can work together with IBM’s 1,000 Munich-based researchers, engineers, developers, and business experts to drive collaborative innovation in the automotive, electronics, manufacturing, healthcare, and insurance industries.


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“IBM is making tremendous strides to ensure that businesses around the world are able to take advantage of this incredible period of technological transformation and develop new products and services that really change people’s lives,” said Harriet Green, global head of IBM’s Watson IoT business, in a statement. “Germany is at the forefront of the Industry 4.0 initiative, and by inviting our clients and partners to join us in Munich, we are opening up our talent and technologies to help deliver on the promise of IoT and establishing a global hotbed for collaborative innovation.”

Among those using Watson IoT are Schaeffler, a German industrial heavyweight and one of the world’s leading automotive and industrial suppliers. The company has signed a multi-year strategic partnership agreement with IBM to accelerate the digital transformation of its entire operations and customer solutions using Watson’s cognitive intelligence and insight from billions of sensors. Schaeffler will analyze huge amounts of data from millions of sensors and devices across its operations and provide insight to help it to become more flexible, make faster decisions, and optimize the performance of equipment in the field.

Aerialtronics, a Netherlands-based designer and producer of unmanned aircraft systems, has also announced the first commercial drones featuring cognitive computing capabilities from the IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) Platform on IBM Cloud. Aerialtronics vehicles can provide high-quality inspection services for global organizations across multiple industries, from monitoring city traffic patterns to inspecting wind turbines, oil rigs, and cell tower optimization. Now, rather than climbing towers, inspecting key areas, and reporting back findings, teams can deploy Aerialtronics drones from the ground. And through high-definition cameras and Watson Visual Recognition analytics, they can immediately gain a complete 360-degree, high-resolution overview, while understanding what the drone is seeing.

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, a facility with 957 acute care beds that is part of Jefferson Health located in Pennsylvania, is also partnering with IBM. Together, they’re working to launch cognitive hospital rooms powered by IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) that enhance the patient experience and help provide deeper levels of personalized, agile, and responsive care.

With 55 percent of respondents stating that IoT is strategic to their business, we can see that the market is pivoting away from proof of concept projects to scalable deployments that are incorporating cloud, analytics, and security capabilities,” said Vernon Turner, IDC fellow for the Internet of Things, in a statement. “In our research, IBM came across as a major player in nearly every aspect of the IoT market with clear leadership for its IoT platform, software and systems integration. IBM’s investment to bring its Watson cognitive computing technologies to the IoT is clearly gaining traction with companies around the world which are launching their own IoT solutions.

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