NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- IBM's (IBM - Get Report) new consulting unit, Cognitive Business Solutions, which is based on its Watson artificial intelligence computer system, is the latest move by big blue to take what it has learned in working with big data to chart the course for the company's future. IBM's Senior Vice President of Global Business Services Bridget van Kralingen said, "Cognitive is the future of IBM, very much powered by Watson."
The new business unit will have roughly 2,000 employees and will create "a global center of competence...where we develop the capability of our people and that consists of data scientists, mathematicians, people with advanced analytics and then people with knowledge of the various industries --and that is used to seed practices around the world."
Watson allows IBM's clients to analyze big quantities of data and provides answers based on evidence and discovering patterns that could be invisible to the human eye. Van Kralingen said, "what we're coming to understand is that this [Watson] is now getting that good where you can imagine a world where almost every process in an organization can be improved by the use of cognitive -- both from an external point of view and internal efficiency."
IBM's pivot to cognitive computing and away from hardware could pay off handsomely. According to its report, International Data Corporation found that by 2018 half of all consumers will interact with services based on cognitive computing on a regular basis.
The big question is whether cognitive computing will make humans obsolete.
No, it will not, said van Kralingen. She says smarter computers will help arm humans making decisions with more information beyond big data.
"One other thing we're working on with cognitive is the ability to recognize image, voice, emotion, so all the unstructured data sources which aren't just text. No computer in the world can make sense of those yet, we're working with Watson to be able to do that."
TheStreet's Rhonda Schaffler spoke with van Kralingen at Fortune's The Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington D.C.