We all know that John H. Watson, aka Dr. Watson, is a character in the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. As Holmes’ ever-present sidekick, Watson was invaluable as a sounding board and assistive narrator to his complex investigations.

William De Andrea, famed author of the Matt Cobb Mysteries book series once wrote of the fictional Watson…

Watson serves the important function of catalyst for Holmes’ mental processes… someone to whom the detective can make enigmatic remarks, a consciousness that’s privy to facts in the case without being in on the conclusions drawn from them until the proper time.

An interesting description, and one that aptly describes the function of technology that bore his name 25 years ago.

Yes. There was a Watson technology 25 years ago.

You see, long before IBM began using the name Watson for its artificially intelligent computer system – the system designed to play the TV game show Jeopardy – the name was used by Xanalys for its industry leading investigation management software. (Incidentally, IBM Watson was named after that company’s first CEO Thomas J. Watson and not Dr. Watson as many believe.)

Xanalys’ Watson™ software was born out of Cambridge, England technology company Harlequin in the late 1980s. The programs in the Watson suite include Elementary Watson, Watson Mapping, Watson Pro, Watson PowerCase and Watson CaseCall. The foundation of the suite, though, was always Watson.

Watson, a name still trademarked by Xanalys, is a powerful visual analysis tool for operational intelligence that enables investigators to rapidly import, track and then interpret data from a wide range of sources. Watson provides a powerful querying facility to support the effective analysis of that data that can actually identify links between contacts and reveal associations among activities that are not immediately apparent to an investigator or analyst. Much like Dr. Watson’s assistance to Sherlock Holmes, the product serves as a consciousness that’s privy to the facts fed by the investigator.

Sometime in the mid 1990s, a decision was made to brand Watson under the name “Link Explorer™”. True, the latter does more effectively describe the functionality, but let’s be honest… Watson is a great and memorable name. Even after a decade, many investigators still talk about Xanalys’ Watson and recognize it as the original investigation management software.

So, whatever happened to Watson? Well, he is alive and well today – albeit under the pseudonyms “Link Explorer”, “PowerCase™”, “XIM™”, and “Link Explorer Enterprise™”. As did Watson, the powerful software tools help investigators move from threat triage to intelligence-led investigations (using powerful fraud and crime analytics) to evidence-based conclusions and document disclosure. Sherlock Holmes would have been so envious.

Yes, Watson lives on as evidenced by Xanalys’ growing list of delighted customers. It seems that, no matter the product name, the decision to implement best-in-class investigation software is… well, elementary.