IBM to invest $100 million in mobile communications R&D

by Caroline Gabriel, ReThink Wireless

IBM has one of the largest R&D operations in the world, with 3,000 scientists and engineers and 20,000 software developers, who regularly allow it to top the league table for filing of new patents. So when this machine is turned towards mobile communications, we can expect some ground breaking projects. The company has identified mobile as the latest focus of its near term R&D and plans to invest $100 million over the next five years in wireless projects, mainly targeted to the wireless enterprise and to emerging markets.

IBM R&D recently identified six main research areas for the next five years, and mobile communications is the seventh, joining services quality, nanotechnology, business analytics, cloud computing, hybrid systems and stream computing. Within mobility, there are three main elements that IBM believes it can turn into real world products and services in the short to medium term, creating new revenue streams.

These are mobile enterprise enablement, emerging market mobility and enterprise to end user mobile experience. In the first category, IBM is looking at how the phone is taking on the role of the PC and its first concrete project, in collaboration with an insurance firm, combines GPS, presence technology and a calendar database to identify and dispatch claims adjusters in the field and update the files on their phones.

For emerging markets, the key focus is on new web interfaces and applications to make it easier for people to use the internet even when they have no technical experience or limited literacy. A pilot program in southern India has created a voice community database for farmers and others to retrieve messages and access data using voice.

For the last focus area, IBM’s aim is to “inject mobility into every transaction or relationship a business has with its customers, employees and partners” for applications such as mobile marketing and analytics.
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