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IBM to Invest $100 Million in Mobile Communication Research


ARMONK, N.Y. - IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced it plans to shift $100 million investment over the next five years into a major Research effort which aims to advance mobile services and capabilities for businesses and consumers worldwide.

IBM is investing to create technology in its labs that bring simple, easy-to-use services to the millions of people who have bypassed using the personal computer as their primary method of accessing the Internet, and instead use their mobile devices for managing large forces of enterprise field workers, conducting financial transactions, entertainment, shopping, and more.

Through this effort, IBM is aiming to drive new intelligence into the underpinnings of the mobile web to create new efficiencies in business operations and people’s daily lives. The three focus areas for IBM’s research investment are: mobile enterprise enablement, emerging market mobility and enterprise end-user mobile experiences. Analytics, security, privacy and user interface, and navigation will be concentrated on across the Research effort.

“Mobile devices are gradually becoming ubiquitous and helping us transcend many boundaries -- geographical, economic, and social, among others,” says Dr. Guruduth Banavar, global leader of the mobile communications focus for IBM Research and director of IBM Research - India. “With high penetration, simple user interface, and significant cost advantage for end users, mobile telephony holds the future of communication and exchange of information for the enterprise.”

Mobile Enterprise Enablement

Low cost, high bandwidth, wireless access, and PC-like information processing power are accelerating the promise of the mobile phone as a compelling platform for accessing information services.

Mobile phones now outnumber traditional telephones, and the opportunities for growth in mobility are enormous. According to IBM’s Institute for Business Value, the number of mobile users will grow by 191 percent from 2006 to 2011 to reach approximately one billion users.

A glimpse of the possibilities of mobility can be found in a recent pilot performed as part of IBM’s first-of-a-kind (FOAK) program, which used a technology named “BlueStar” to develop automated mobile devices and application management services for insurance claims processing. IBM’s FOAK program pairs IBM’s scientists with clients to explore how emerging technologies can solve real world business problems.

The pilot enabled an insurance enterprise to significantly reduce the amount of time required to process claims by leveraging mobile technology to locate and dispatch the most appropriate and available claims adjusters for each case. The right agents were identified through a combination of GPS location technology, presence awareness capabilities and an analysis of all candidate agents’ calendar availability. Once agents were selected, the state of their mobile phone’s configuration and security status was acquired by BlueStar, and updated, if necessary. BlueStar then assisted with preparing and formatting necessary claims case information for the specific mobile device configuration, and securely transmitted all data to the device.

This policy-driven approach to configuring information for on-the-go staff simplified the maintenance of mobile service products. Rather than having information dispersed on hundreds -- or even thousands -- of handheld devices, information briefly provisioned by a central server can be better monitored, upgraded and secured.

The BlueStar pilot demonstrated how to deploy and manage mobile devices and applications to a large force of enterprise field workers. The approach enabled not only smarter device management, but a smarter way for the mobile field force to work.

Emerging Market Mobility

For the 83 percent of the world that does not have easy access to the Web via PCs, IBM is helping mobile phone users become more productive. In these locations, there is a dearth of skills, such as technological and language literacy; a lack of infrastructure, such as reliable electrical power; as well as limited availability of smartphones.

IBM Research has established a pilot program in southern India that allows people, including farmers, repairmen, small business owners, and consumers, to post, retrieve or exchange timely information via voice on cellphones. Content -- such as weather and ocean conditions, grain prices, advertisements, bus schedules, news, class schedules, product catalogues, health information and available services appointments -- is created and updated by entrepreneurs and municipalities.

Inputting and accessing information, as well as processing transactions, such as reservations or payments, is as easy as speaking into a mobile device. In nine months of operation so far, the pilot has won rave reviews from users.

Enterprise to End-User Mobile Experience

“Mobility and the associated analytics will change virtually every enterprise business process,” said Paul Bloom, chief technologist, IBM Telecom Research. “It will change the relationship between enterprises and their customers, their employees and their partners, enabling them to do business in more intelligent, efficient ways.”

One example of how mobility will change the relationship between enterprises and the end user can be found in a project at IBM Research -- Haifa with Taiwan Mobile, the second largest telecommunication company in Taiwan. Here, IBM is analyzing customer information to get manageable business intelligence based on evolving user preferences, users context and transaction history.

This FOAK solution can be used by telecommunications companies and retailers alike to allow them to customize mobile portals and recommend the right products to the right customers at the most opportune time that will optimize the probability customers will complete the transaction.

The technology also enables product managers to analyze the habits and segments of existing and potential customer populations, and to then tailor effective online mobile marketing campaigns to those audiences.

Enterprise mobility will increasingly allow people to more closely monitor the energy consumption of their workplace and home; receive more personalized offers and discounts from stores; research more thoroughly and pay more conveniently for purchases; and stay in closer touch with social and professional networks. Portable, personal and precise information carried by the mobile Web will enable emergency responders to be more effective, and allow healthcare providers make more informed, effective and safer medical decisions.

IBM Research comprises approximately 3,000 scientists in eight major laboratories around the globe. IBM also has more than 20,000 software developers in 75 development labs in 18 countries. IBM has earned the most U.S. patents for 16 consecutive years, and five of its researchers have been the recipients of the Nobel Prize.

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