IBM Launches Mobile Web Initiative to Transform Consumer and Business Experiences

IBM’s India Research Lab to Lead Worldwide Research Effort for Mobile Web Services

DELHI, INDIA and BANGALORE, INDIA – 21 Apr 2008: At the 10th anniversary commemoration of IBM’s India Research Lab, the company today unveiled a new initiative to bring even more features and functions to mobile devices as they continue to rival the PC as the primary tool for Web-based business, education, communication, entertainment and more.

The new IBM Research (NYSE: IBM) program will entail a number of efforts to bring simple, easy-to-use services to the millions of people in the world who have bypassed using the personal computer as their primary method of accessing technology, and are instead using their mobile phone to access the web, conduct financial transactions, entertain themselves, shop and more.

“The world is entering the ‘Era of the Mobile Web.’ In many countries, the mobile phone has become an electronic wallet, the window to the World Wide Web, an education device and more, and globally, mobile devices outnumber PCs, credit cards, and TVs,” said Dr. Daniel Dias, Director, IBM India Research laboratory. “Today, we are launching projects that will make a mobile device an even easier to use than the PC, allowing you to do everything you can with a PC and much more.”

The projects, which will be led out of India, but also are being incubated in IBM’s eight global labs in six countries, include:

  • The Spoken Web – Voice-enabled mobile commerce
  • Instant Translation – Real-time communication between multiple languages through mobile devices
  • SoulPad – Enabling any portable device to carry computing applications in your pocket
  • Social networking on-the-go
  • Good Samaritan – Mobile healthcare information made available in any emergency

For the past 10 years, IBM’s India Research Lab has worked with local clients and partners to shape India’s innovation landscape, helping transform it into a significant contributor to the world economy. Now, the India Research team will serve as IBM’s catalyst for delivering new mobile web solutions to emerging markets around the world.

IBM Research examines in great depth the current trajectories of new technologies in the lab and marketplace, concentrating on trends that could be disruptive or the harbingers of change. In many regions, mobile devices are becoming an increasingly viable alternative to PCs. These devices are capable of delivering more types of data, applications and services through advanced wireless networks. This, coupled with the openness and convergence of Web applications, is making a major impact on the global mobile market.

“Today, staying competitive means looking ahead. The rise of globalization is shifting the way business works,” said John Kelly, Senior Vice President, IBM Research. “Business leaders need to anticipate how these changes will affect their ways of operating and look to new technological innovations to help them succeed in this new landscape.”

An innovative initiative currently being piloted by the India Research team is the “Spoken Web” project, which aims to transform how people create, build and interact with e-commerce sites on the World Wide Web using the spoken word instead of the written word. The Spoken Web is the World Wide Web in a telecom network, where people can host and browse “VoiceSites,” traverse “VoiceLinks,” even conduct business transactions, all just by talking over the existing telephone network.

For example, an average person on the street does not need a PC, but needs access to information such as:

  • Fishermen need weather info before heading out to sea
  • Farmers need to look up commodity prices
  • Plumbers can schedule appointments, set up transfers to partners, use advertisements
  • Grocery shops can display catalogues, offer order placement, display personalized targeted advertisements or reminders

Such locally relevant information is not available for a majority of world population. Computer access is not enough because there is a need to know what to look for, how to access it and how to use it.

IBM researchers across the globe are working on additional innovative mobile web solutions, including:

Universal Mobile Translator

IBM’s researchers are developing new technology to facilitate speech between individuals who speak no common language with the goal of free-form dialogue facilitated by a PDA. IBM technology is already allowing travelers using PDAs to translate menus in Japanese and doctors to communicate with patients in Spanish. IBM real-time translation technologies will be embedded into mobile phones, handheld devices and cars.

Portable Power in Your Pocket

IBM’s SoulPad software allows PC users to separate a computer’s “soul” — the programs, settings and data it holds — from its body, the disks, keyboard, screen, processor and other hardware from which it is comprised. Once a computer’s soul is stored on a storage device like a portable USB hard drive or iPod with SoulPad software, it can be carried around and reincarnated in any other computer simply by plugging in the storage device and starting the computer up.

Social Networks Go Mobile

Consumers can communicate with their social network friends regardless of where they are with voice and SMS from either a PC or a mobile phone. This is huge for generation Y consumers. For example, young shoppers looking at purchasing clothes in a store are increasingly looking for immediate feedback via their social networks, and the easiest way to make this happen is via mobile devices.

Healthcare Goes Mobile

IBM Research has brought together mobile phones and “presence” technology combined with health records to provide a potential “good samaritan” with information on how to aid people in critical medical situations. This combination of IBM Research capabilities and IBM WebSphere Presence Server exemplifies IBM’s ability to create enhanced mobile applications for everyday life.

Much of the world’s population is looking to mobile devices to tap into online resources to fulfill basic economic needs — in banking, e-commerce, education, transportation and government.

The World Wide Web (WWW) enabled quick and easy information dissemination and brought about fundamental changes to various aspects of our lives. However, a very large number of people, mostly in developing regions, are still untouched by this revolution.

Compared to PCs, the primary access mechanism to WWW, mobile phones have made a phenomenal penetration into this population segment. Low cost of ownership, the simple user interface consisting of a small keyboard, limited menu and voice-based access contribute to the success of mobile phones with the less literate. However, apart from basic voice communication, these people are not being able to exploit the benefits of information and services available to WWW users.

For the first time ever, more people will have a mobile phone than a regular telephone. Mobile devices outnumber PCs by three to one, credit cards by two to one and TVs by two to one. IBM’s Institute for Business Value predicts the number of mobile Web users will grow by 191 percent from 2006 to 2011 to reach one billion. This proliferation of mobile devices and mobile Web users signals an incredibly lucrative growth opportunity for businesses.

IBM is making major investments in mobile software and hardware platforms and has opened several worldwide telecom solutions labs focused on research and development.