AI Market is projected to grow from $8 billion today to $47 billion by 2020 and IBM is betting big on Watson AI

IBM has invested billions of dollars in its Watson business unit, created at the start of 2014, which now employs an estimated 10,000 workers. Its big-ticket marketing push includes clever television ads that feature Watson trading quips with famous people like Serena Williams and Bob Dylan. And Watson, after a slow start, has shown its mettle by assisting in daunting tasks like diagnosing cancer.

The market — defined as A.I.-related hardware, software and services — is predicted to surge from $8 billion this year to $47 billion by 2020, predicts IDC, a research firm.

Today, the A.I. business, experts say, resembles the internet in the mid-1990s: a thing on its own that eventually will be built into all kinds of products and services. “That’s where we’re headed — A.I. everywhere,” said Frank Gens, IDC’s chief analyst.

All the major technology companies are investing aggressively in A.I. software, including companies beyond IBM like Salesforce, SAP and Oracle that focus on business customers.

But consumer internet companies with large cloud computing businesses, analysts say, are most likely to build the equivalent of operating systems for A.I. — the so-called platforms on which most developers write applications. Amazon, Google and Microsoft are the front-runners.

The securities research arm of the Swiss bank UBS estimates that Watson may generate $500 million in revenue this year and could grow rapidly in the years ahead, possibly hitting nearly $6 billion by 2020 and almost $17 billion by 2022.

At the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Watson was tested on 1,000 cancer diagnoses made by human experts. In 99 percent of them, Watson recommended the same treatment as the oncologists.

In 30 percent of the cases, Watson also found a treatment option the human doctors missed. Some treatments were based on research papers that the doctors had not read — more than 160,000 cancer research papers are published a year. Other treatment options might have surfaced in a new clinical trial the oncologists had not yet seen announced on the web.