IBM announced this week it has invested in two companies, WayBlazer and Sellpoints, which are using cognitive computing to enhance their travel planning and shopping applications. The move seems intended to show IBM’s commitment to Watson-as-a-service, the company’s cloud-based cognitive computing service which launched last year.
WayBlazer, a travel planning and shopping service, uses IBM’s Watson cloud service to help personalise holidays and create personalised travel recommendations for each customer from a slew of social and financial data.
Sellpoint uses Watson to do much the same thing, but for large retail and manufacturing firms looking to bolster their ecommerce sites without having to invest loads by way of internal development resource.
IBM said the investments in WayBlazer and Sellpoint were part of a $5m series A and $7.5m series C funding round, respectively, but the company declined to disclose the financial terms of its involvement.
“IBM is committed to helping our partners accelerate the development and delivery of Watson enabled apps into market where we see endless opportunities for cognitive computing to transform entire industries,” said Stephen Gold, vice president, IBM Watson. “WayBlazer and Sellpoints are terrific examples of how cognitive computing technology can be used to help organizations redefine customer engagement and drive much deeper, meaningful and relevant consumer experiences.”
Brian O’Keefe, chief executive officer of Sellpoints said: “With the natural language and cognitive computing capabilities of Watson, we’re able to deliver a more personalized, relevant and enjoyable experience, and drive a much deeper level of engagement with customers.”
IBM said the investments were part of the $100m it committed to Watson last year. But it hasn’t always made it clear that it was pursuing direct investments into companies willing to use its technology, which could be an expensive proposition in the long run. The company continues to be relatively quiet on the financial performance of the Watson unit.