IBM Watson may be coming soon to an enterprise iOS app near you, the company announced at the IBM World of Watson 2016 event on Tuesday. In a first-of-its-kind move, IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps can now integrate Watson technology to enhance decision-making, productivity, and the employee experience.

With Watson’s cognitive and conversational capabilities, these enterprise apps will be able to understand, reason, and learn using data analytics, according to a press release.

“Apple and IBM set out more than two years ago to define the enterprise mobility market, ensuring that professionals could finally enjoy at work the same experience they’d come to expect as consumers,” said Mahmoud Naghshineh, general manager, Apple partnership at IBM, in a press release. “We are taking that to a whole new level by combining the power of Watson with the new speech framework of iOS 10. The combinations and possibilities are virtually endless.”

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Watson is available for both IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps, as well as custom-built iOS apps from IBM, and will allow business users to integrate APIs based on their needs. Users will also have the ability to control apps with speech. This feature could be especially helpful for positions such as field technicians, who can verbally interact with an app like Find & Fix–inputting schedule changes, notifying dispatch, asking questions and tapping Watson’s knowledge reserves–while repairing equipment, according to the release.

“IBM Natural Language Processing, Watson Conversation and other Watson APIs have been optimized to work with the new iOS 10 speech framework,” the press release stated. “The combination of Watson, iOS and IBM services allows the apps to support conversational interaction, bringing deep insight to the end user so they can make more informed decisions.”

The new capabilities will be delivered through IBM Cloud for easy integration into apps, even those that are already in use in a business, the release stated.

IBM offered the following examples of how enterprises might use apps integrated with Watson:

  • Flight attendants using the Passenger+ app enhanced with Watson can gain a deeper view into a traveler’s personality to deliver more personal and relevant customer care while inflight. For example, if the app reveals a passenger is a strong brand advocate with a strong social footprint, the airline may choose to prioritize his or her requests.
  • Retail sales associates using Sales Assist can access data across different resources–social media, customer databases and product forums–for deeper insights into a customer’s unique preferences as well as the latest purchasing trends and popular products to assist customers in choosing the right item.
  • Financial advisors using Trusted Advice with deep learning technology from Watson gain highly targeted search and trend analysis into market history and happenings to optimize the investment recommendations made to individual clients.

“This is a digital assistant for the business–one that creates the next-generation professional experience tailored for enterprise processes,” Naghshineh said in the press release.

The partnership with Watson furthers Apple’s recent moves to increase business appeal. In recent years, Apple has inked deals with IBM, Cisco, SAP, and Deloitte to integrate iOS devices into the enterprise.

IBM is perhaps Apple’s highest-profile corporate partner, representing the world’s largest enterprise Mac deployment, with over 90,000 Macs currently used by workers. The company recently reported that it is rolling out Macs to employees at a rate of 1,300 per week–putting it on track to cross the 100,000 machine mark by the end of the year, as Jason Hiner reported for ZDNet.

The IBM Watson iOS integration also demonstrates how important cognitive computing and AI will be to the future of mobile, with the rise of specialized AI assistants in a variety of industries, and the release of the Google Pixel phone, enabled with Google Assistant.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. IBM Watson will now power enterprise iOS apps with its cognitive and speech capabilities, the company announced at the IBM World of Watson event on Tuesday.
  2. Tapping Watson’s information reserves and language capabilities could help professionals in a variety of fields increase productivity and decision-making, the company stated.
  3. Integrating Watson into enterprise iOS apps is another move by Apple to increase its business use, following previous app partnerships with IBM, Cisco, SAP, and Deloitte.