IBM announced the creation of a new global headquarters for its Watson IoT business unit in Munich on Tuesday, in what the company says is its largest commitment to Europe in more than twenty years. The new facility, which will feature more than 1,000 employees on the research and customer-facing sides, will be the centerpiece of a group of eight global regional customer centers that suggest IBM plans to win major IoT business by deemphasizing its American roots.

IBM’s “client experience centers” will be based in several worldwide cities, including: Sao Paulo, in Brazil; and Beijing, Boeblingen (Germany), Seoul, Tokyo as well as Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas in the U.S. While the three American regional centers indicates a commitment to growing the business stateside, placing the headquarters in Germany is a deeply symbolic move, says analyst Frank Gillett of Forrester Research. With European companies, especially major ones in Germany, the continent’s largest economy, concerned about American tech companies exporting the value from the rise of Internet-connected sensors in their businesses, IBM’s base in Munich will be intended to demonstrate that the company can be trusted.

In addition to the new business centers, IBM also announced additional APIs for its IoT practice, connectors that can be plugged into a company’s own technology to bring it Watson IoT insights without ever transferring its data outside its walls. Putting it all under the Watson name could reinforce IBM’s message that the Internet of Things is about how it ties into real business analytics.

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Bruno Grange

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