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IBM Unleashes Watson Analytics Tool To Help Businesses Make Sense Of Big Data

IBM's free Watson Anaytics tool can help enterprises query and explore results to spot trends and patterns, but also is suited to midtier companies without a big data budget.

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IBM wants to unlock big data secrets for businesses with a new free Watson Analytics tool that allows them to leverage the "Jeopardy"-winning supercomputer to explore and unearth valuable data from structured data sets.

The offering, unveiled Tuesday, leverages IBM's Watson technology and allows businesses to upload data to IBM's Watson Analytics cloud service and then query and explore results to spot trends, patterns, and conduct predictive analysis. The Watson Analytics tool is free; however, IBM executives said the goal is to demonstrate the power of the technology so users will become paying customers with access to advanced features such as slicing and dicing larger data sets, correlation with live data feeds, and advanced analysis.

"We are helping companies make better fact-based decisions through visual analysis," said Eric Sall, IBM vice president, business analytics. "It's still way too hard for most companies to make sense of the wealth of data they are sitting on."

Related: IBM Tries To Woo Mobile Developers With Watson Challenge

Watson Analytics is aimed at enterprises but also at ISVs and midtier companies that lack a big data budget, according to IBM, Armonk, N.Y. Watson Analytics also will later be available through its Bluemix developer's cloud services offering. The offering will be available in beta form within 30 days, IBM said. The official free version is set to launch in November.

Watson Analytics parses data, cleans it up, preps it for analysis, identifies important trends, and makes it easily searchable via natural language queries, according to Sall. The tool, for example, could help companies better understand customer behavior or connect the dots between sales, weather, time of day and customer demographic data, he said.

"For midtier companies that can't afford a dedicated business analyst, Watson Analytics delivers a powerful self-service tool for understanding complex pools of data," Sall said.

IBM partner Avnet said it will use the Watson Analytics tool in conjunction with its business analytics service, VenueEdge. John Lucas, director of solutions delivery for Avnet, said tools such as Watson Analytics are helping the Tempe, Ariz.-based distributor win business.

Avnet, which offers its VenueEdge services to the channel, said it's already leveraging Watson Analytics as an IBM launch partner. "We are using it to help Major League baseball teams stitch together connections between ticket sales, concessions, CRM data, and merchandise sales so our customers can get a 365-degree view of their business with deep insight into who their customers are and what services they buy and when," Lucas said. "We can help a baseball franchise figure out how much more merchandise they can expect to sell if one of their players hits eight more home runs."

VenueEdge, Lucas said, is a fast-growing part Avnet's business. "We are working very closely with our traditional channel partners to help them capitalize on tools such as Watson Analytics and help them transition to a service provider model as opposed just selling IT hardware," he said.

PUBLISHED SEPT. 16, 2014

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