Reality Check

Blog archive
cloud as a brain

Cloud as a Brain gets real ... so let the AI race begin!

On November 14th, IBM announced it was opening up its Jeopardy-winning Watson technologies as a cloud service and development platform.  

To enable these “Watson-powered” applications, IBM’s offering has three parts:

A Watson Development Cloud (which some are labeling the “Watson Cloud”) that includes tools and an API to attract application developers. 

A content store that serves as an information clearinghouse for data providers. 

A talent network of people with the skills for cognitive development.  

It is important to note that this is not the first “cloud brain” available to the masses. Wolfram Alpha was launched in May 15, 2009, and it also offers a developer program and APIs.  (Though, it is also significant to note that Wolfram Alpha did not whoop us puny humans in Jeopardy!)

I’m not surprised to see this development. My new book, The Great Cloud Migration, includes  a section on the future of cloud computing that predicted this occurrence.  Here is an excerpt: 

“The cloud will take on a more active role in connecting the Internet of Things by acting as the ever-present ‘brain’ that ties everything together.  While I am not going as far as to suggest a ‘singularity’ event where artificial intelligence becomes ‘aware’; I am suggesting that the cloud takes on functions that mimic or act like our brain in terms of rule execution, inference and deduction — similar to Apple computer’s Siri or IBM’s Watson — that is available to everyone, everywhere.  

More important, this feature could be built into a future cloud so that every application could leverage these functions. This would act as the glue that enables the Internet of Things to work in a coordinated fashion, sharing these ‘brain-like’ functions of the cloud.” 

Other capabilities enabled by the Cloud as a Brain, would include:

  • Cloud agents. Intelligent software programs that act autonomously on behalf of a user to carry out tasks like scheduling appointments with doctors or finding the best price on products.  The Cloud as a Brain will enable new levels of performance by these agents as they take advantage of unlimited compute capacity, reasoning and smart data. 
  • Sensors everywhere. As we instrument the world, monitoring centers need to be able to correlate sensor inputs and even have sensors collaborate with other sensors or trigger other sensors in an array.  Again,  Cloud as a Brain becomes the glue tying these sensors together and enabling the collaboration.
  • Robot assistants. As robotic assistants, driverless cars, drones, worker bots and humanoid servants will become commonplace, robots will require high-levels of precision, reliability and the ability to respond to new situations.  That is where the Cloud as a Brain will offer collaboration, smart data, interaction with sensors, contextual awareness and machine learning.
  • Augmented reality heads-up displays. In the near future our glasses, contact lenses and possibly even retinas will be instrumented with an augmented reality layer to enhance our situational awareness.  Expanding and continuously updating, searching, identifying and contextualizing the real-time experience encountered through our eyes will require the Cloud as a Brain to process such big data in real time. 

It will be interesting to see if and when other major cloud players open up their intelligent assistants, including Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana (not yet released) and Apple’s Siri.  My guess is that the Watson Cloud opens up a new front in both the cloud provider wars and the smart phone wars, where other vendors are compelled by the marketplace to release their Cloud as a Brain platforms.

Fortunately, such increased competition is a boon for application developers, data providers and ultimately every consumer.

Michael C. Daconta ([email protected]) is the Vice President of Advanced Technology at InCadence Strategic Solutions and the former Metadata Program Manager for the Homeland Security Department. His new book is entitled, The Great Cloud Migration: Your Roadmap to Cloud Computing, Big Data and Linked Data.

Posted by Michael C. Daconta on Nov 20, 2013 at 12:04 PM


  • Government Innovation Awards
    Government Innovation Awards -

    Congratulations to the 2021 Rising Stars

    These early-career leaders already are having an outsized impact on government IT.

  • Acquisition
    Shutterstock ID 169474442 By Maxx-Studio

    The growing importance of GWACs

    One of the government's most popular methods for buying emerging technologies and critical IT services faces significant challenges in an ever-changing marketplace

Stay Connected