IBM has made its Watson supercomputer available for developers and retailers to use in analysing data streams.

The Watson Personality Insights service can help sectors such as retail, banking and entertainment to engage with customers.

Watson is based on years of IBM research in linguistic analytics and while it can recognise keywords, it can also understand context to social conversations. IBM believes that can allow retailers to unlock a more complete picture of customers in many different sectors.

One IBM partner which is exploiting the Watson technology is retail insights company eyeQ, which is using the computer’s intelligence to gain more insight from its kiosk technology. EyeQ started its business by using video analytics and touch-screen technology to gain an approximation of a customer’s age, gender and attentiveness. That allows retailers to personalise offers for the customer.

But by using Watson’s technology, the company has been able to add an extra layer of insight.

“The technology enables a deeper understanding of individual personality traits by analysing information they make available via public mediums such as blogs, Twitter and more, to draw inferences about their interests and tastes,” said Michael Garel, founder and chief executive of eyeQ.

Right now we’re testing it with cyclists who interact with the technology via a 42-inch screen. They type in their Twitter handles and, based on past tweets, the system suggests the best bike for them. People love it.”