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After a sequence of "three good years", 2017 was a "great" year for IBM in Brazil and crowned the centenary of the company's operations in the country, IBM Brasil president Marcelo Porto said.
IBM arrived in Brazil, its first LatAm market, in 1917. Two weeks ago, CEO Ginny Rometty visited the country, where the company maintains five datacenters.
According to Porto, the company's business model relying heavily on recurring revenues works as a "cushion" to absorb external impacts, which helps explaining why IBM sailed relatively well through the recent recession in Brazil, the executive told reporters at a year-end press lunch in São Paulo, on Wednesday.
2017 was also marked by a hype around artificial intelligence, in Brazil and elsewhere. Currently, Brazil concentrates around 60% of all Latin American use cases of Watson, the cognitive computing, machine learning platform developed by IBM.
Some 30 Watson reference projects, won in the last 18 months, are under development in the country. Four of them are in more advanced roll-out, said Porto, highlighting local bank Bradesco as one the first and main global cases involving financial institutions. Bradesco is now taking Watson from the back-office to its end-customer with the digital service Next.
For 2018, the US company bets on the consolidation of AI and on new developments for the Watson platform. Also, looking beyond the stronghold verticals finance, retail and telecom, IBM plans to tackle more intensely agribusiness, health and education, verticals where it sees untapped potential and large room for growth.
The company, which invests some US$6bn annually in R&D, is also focusing on Internet of Things, blockchain and cloud. IBM said it started this year the first real projects of blockchain in Brazil, among them a partnership with food giants BRF and Carrefour for the tracking of foods along the supply chain.
"Our roadmap, looking for the next two years, involves increasingly more cognitive solutions and cloud, especially hybrid cloud, and always allowing that the data use brings benefit to the client."
Making reference to the news that Uber concealed the hacking of large amounts of users information, Porto said data are the "next natural resource" and looked to differentiate IBM's handling of them.
"Every time I see an incident like this, it emboldens us to keep building safe clouds. 80% of data are inside corporations and 20% are so-called searchable. These 80% that make the difference to the business need to be under control, under oversight of companies. We only believe in cognitive platforms that learn in a supervised way."