IBM’s Jeopardy!-winning A.I. will revolutionize Apple health data


Steve Jobs and IBM
A lot has changed since Steve Jobs flipped off IBM 30 years ago. Photo: Andy Hertzfeld
Photo: Andy Hertzfield

IBM has announced a new alliance with Apple (among other companies) to utilize its acclaimed Watson artificial intelligence system to provide personalized insights regarding health data.

For those who don’t remember, Watson was the IBM A.I. which famously defeated two former winners on the gameshow Jeopardy! in 2011 to receive the first place prize of $1 million.

By linking up with Watson, Apple not only solidifies its existing relationship with IBM, but also gains a very powerful ally in its quest to revolutionize the way we think about mobile health with the Apple Watch and iOS 8 Health app.

New IBM cloud has the potential to take Health data to the next level. Photo: Apple
New IBM cloud has the potential to take Health data to the next level. Photo: Apple

Exactly how IBM’s new Watson Health Cloud will work remains to be seen, but the idea is to provide a secure and open platform for physicians, researchers, insurers and companies focused on health and wellness solutions.

By using Watson’s machine learning tech, they will be able to better make sense of the more than 1 million gigabytes of health-related data users are likely to generate in their lifetime — particularly with the rise of personal fitness trackers and connected health devices like the Apple Watch, along with implantables and other sensors.

“All this data can be overwhelming for providers and patients alike, but it also presents an unprecedented opportunity to transform the ways in which we manage our health,” said John E. Kelly III, IBM senior vice president of solutions portfolio and research, in a statement. “We need better ways to tap into and analyze all of this information in real-time to benefit patients and to improve wellness globally. Only IBM has the advanced cognitive capabilities of Watson and can pull together the vast ecosystem of partners, practitioners and researchers needed to drive change, as well as to provide the open, secure and scalable platform needed to make it all possible.”

Apple’s not the only company to sign up, although it’s an early adopter. According to IBM, the partnership will allow enhanced analytics for Apple’s HealthKit and ResearchKit, alongside health data entered by customers in iOS apps. Other companies involved include Johnson & Johnson, Welltok, Modernizing Medicine, Pathway Genomics and GenieMD.

Not revealed is how this will all fit with Apple’s privacy-oriented stance toward health data.

However, while it’s ultimately incorrect to cast this as an Apple initiative, the idea that data from your Apple Watch could one day help lead to doctors creating more personalized health plans for their patients definitely helps Apple’s aim of becoming a leader in the mobile health industry.

Not to mention strengthening the partnership with IBM, which we called the biggest tech story of last year.