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The Apple/IBM deal: iOS claims the IoT

Jonny Evans | July 24, 2014
The partnership announced last week isn't just about selling more iPhones. It's part of a big push into the Internet of Things.

The deal between Apple and IBM isn't just about selling iPhones to the enterprise -- it creates a foundation from which both can build their presence in the evolution of the Internet of Things.

The deal puts the world's leading consumer tech company together with one of the world's leading infrastructure tech firms. Apple and IBM will deliver enterprise-class apps developed to make IBM's data-crunching tools accessible on Apple's devices. Big data is at the center of the plan.

Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, said of the deal, "For the first time ever we're putting IBM's renowned big data analytics at iOS users' fingertips, which opens up a large market opportunity for Apple. This is a radical step for enterprise and something that only Apple and IBM can deliver."

Both companies have stressed the importance of big data to the deal, but to get a sense of the potential implications of the Apple/IBM combo, you should think about where this data will be coming from.

Over 800 million iOS devices are in use worldwide. Each one of these connected devices already gathers a vast trove of information about people, their habits, location and more.

iOS 8 makes it possible for the information gathered to also include data from a huge number of connected devices: your apps, your car, your home, your HealthKit-enabled equipment, your doctor's office, your workplace and the local mall.

To make sense of this data, you need industry-standard analytics engines. These must be capable of analyzing this forest of data in quantity as fast and as soon as it comes in, delivering near-real-time insights.

This is what IBM has been working on. In support of its existing big data tools, the company has invested $1 billion in Watson, an attempt at cognitive computing it is currently aiming at several industries, including healthcare.

Watson is already being used in interesting ways. For example, "Memorial Sloan Kettering trained Watson to synthesize vast amounts of data, such as physicians' notes and reports, lab results and clinical research, to help community physicians identify treatment options for cancer patients."

We know Apple and IBM will build apps together, but third-party developers will also get the chance -- the new IBM MobileFirst platform for iOS will support developers who build apps in Apple's new Swift programming language.

(It's also easy to imagine how Watson in combination with Siri could take steps to replacing Google services -- here's an explanation of how Siri and Watson could take out Google Now, for example.)

Big data and you
To get a better understanding of the potential of big data analysis, here are some examples of how big data is used today (not all are reliant on Watson or IBM):


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