Guest blogger: Wireless Communications is Way More Than Just Handsets

Guest blogger: Manish Gupta, Ph.D., Associate Director, IBM India Research Laboratory

With the banking crisis, we've become a little numb to just how much $100 million really is, but believe me when I tell you that it's a lot of "spare change." That's the amount of money IBM announced this week that we are allocating over the course of five years toward telecommunications R&D. These are for technologies that will help telcos better serve their business and consumer customers, especially when it comes to shopping, health care, travel and entertainment. We're calling it one of the seven big technological "bets" that our Research laboratories are "doubling down" on, but it's not a particularly risky bet. More of a sure thing, I'd say, and here's why:

The majority of the world uses a cellphone -- not a PC -- to stay in touch with one another, or to conduct business. And that's a trend that's going to accelerate. So the cell networks will have to change with the times. For the folks that just use cellphones to place calls, there's a lot of untapped potential. And for those that use it to tap into the Internet, there's a lot of wasted potential. That's got to change, we think. Telecommunications providers need a way to take their subscribers to the next level, right?

And many of these subscribers, especially in developing nations, are not privileged with easy access to technology, such as the Internet. For example, India currently has more than 415 million mobile users; whereas the broadband subscriber base stands at a relatively paltry 6.4 million. How do we bring the benefits of the Internet, the largest and most easily available source of information, to these people? Mobile phone is a great medium and a technology like Spoken Web, developed by IBM Research, can potentially change the game. By creating a network of VoiceSites, analogous to the World Wide Web, Spoken Web opens up a completely new avenue for content creation and sharing. And interestingly, it uses one of the fundamental instincts of human beings -– speech.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have folks in more industrialized corners of the world that use the Web on their smartphones, but haven't begun to scratch the surface when it comes to taking advantage of the potential of the cellphone network. I know people have been saying this for a few years now, but we're really not far from a day when your smartphone will sit at the heart of, say, an entire retail transaction. We already know about the growing number places where you can buy a soda from a vending machine or paying for parking space using a cellphone. But very soon, it will go way beyond that.

For instance, we're helping telecommunications providers and retailers become more useful to their customers. For example, we're helping them reach out to customers in a timely way, offering them special offers based on purchase histories, weather, schedule and proximity to stores. The customer, whose curiosity is (hopefully) piqued, will be able to try on the merchandise and take pictures for friends' input on social network sites. They might also scan the bar code and read ratings on consumer review sites. And then they might conduct a credit card transaction with the phone. This isn't science fiction. Our Researchers, particularly in our labs in India and Israel, are working with companies right now to help make this stuff happen.

Bet on it.


IBM Researcher Don Chamberlin 2009 CHM Fellow Award Recipient

The Computer History Museum (CHM) announced its 2009 selection of Fellow Award honorees: Robert R. Everett, Don Chamberlin, and the team of Federico Faggin, Marcian Edward “Ted” Hoff, Stanley Mazor and Masatoshi Shima. The 2009 Fellows will be inducted into the Museum’s Hall of Fellows on Oct. 20, 2009 at a formal Gala Ceremony where technology industry leaders and supporters will gather to celebrate the Fellows’ accomplishments and their impact on modern day life.

The Fellow Awards are an extension of the Computer History Museum’s overarching vision to explore the computing revolution and its worldwide impact on the human experience. The tradition began with CHM’s first Fellow, Grace Murray Hopper, inventor of the compiler, and has grown to a distinguished and select group of 47 members. This award represents the highest achievement in computing, honoring the people who have forever changed the world with their innovations.

“The goal of the Fellows program is to annually recognize select individuals of outstanding merit who have significantly contributed to the field of computing,” said John Hollar, CHM’s President and CEO. “The Museum’s Fellows are a distinguished and special group. It’s an honor to bring together industry executives, the people who are currently building the future, to honor and celebrate those who contributed so significantly in the past.”

The 2009 Fellows are:
Robert R. Everett: For his work on the MIT Whirlwind and SAGE computer systems and a lifetime of directing advanced research and development projects.

Don Chamberlin: For his fundamental work on Structured Query Language (SQL) and database architectures.

The Team of Federico Faggin, Marcian Edward “Ted” Hoff, Stanley Mazor, Masatoshi Shima: For their work on the Intel 4004, the world’s first commercial microprocessor.

The Museum will host the annual Gala Ceremony in honor of the achievements of the 2009 Fellows whose creativity, persistence, vision, and global influence in the field of computing have helped reshape our everyday lives. The Fellows candidates were nominated by the public and selected by an esteemed panel including CHM executives, technology historians, industry leaders and executives, led by Board of Trustees Member Ike Nassi, Executive Vice President, SAP.

For more information on the 2009 Fellow Awards, please visit: http://www.computerhistory.org/fellowawards/.

Don guest blogs for us today:

It was a very great privilege for me to be at the IBM San Jose Research Laboratory (precursor to Almaden Research Center) in the 1970's. Ted Codd had published his groundbreaking paper introducing the relational data model. Researchers had been brought together from several IBM locations to build System R, an industrial-strength implementation of Codd's ideas. Jim Gray was working on transactional semantics, for which he would win the ACM Turing Award. Pat Selinger and Raymond Lorie were building the world's first cost-based relational query optimizer. Ray Boyce and I were designing the SQL language. We were sending early prototypes to IBM customers and learning from their experiences. There was a sense of excitement and optimism that our work would have an impact on the world. Opportunities like this are rare and I am grateful to been a part of the System R team. Recognition for our accomplishments belongs to the whole team and especially to Ted Codd, whose ideas provided our inspiration.


Inventors' corner: Inventing in the Cloud

Over the past 16 consecutive years, IBM has received more U.S. patents than any organization in any industry. This includes the company’s record-breaking total in 2008, when IBM shattered the U.S. patent record, becoming the first to eclipse 4,000 patents in a single year.

Behind IBM's unprecedented patent tally are thousands of inventors around the globe that pioneer new innovations that enable the company expand into new areas, so IBM and our clients can capitalize on emerging business opportunities. More than 6,000 IBM inventors contributed to the company's record-breaking 2008 patent results. They reside in 44 different states and territories in the U.S. and 27 other countries globally.

The nature of ideas patented by IBMers span the gamut of industries and applications, such as the rapidly evolving cloud computing market. During the past few years, IBM inventors have expanded the company’s collection of cloud computing patents with variety of inventions that support its efforts to lead the way in furthering cloud architecture design and development.

A few sample patents that support the company’s cloud computing portfolio include:

Provisioning web services – U.S. Patent # 7,506,021

A benefit of cloud computing is the ability to offer “self-service processing”, where end-users submit requests that are satisfied by the Cloud. Such requests are implemented as business processes, which are used to perform a wide range of tasks ranging from fulfilling customer orders for books or stocks to upgrading computer systems. This invention simplifies the execution of business processes by automating provisioning—preparing computing hardware and software to operate on a network—of the web services needed to accomplish the task.


Michael G. Polan

Marika Joannidis

Stephen P. Roberts

John W. Stephenson

Gabi Rothenstein

Secure system and method for enforcement of privacy policy and protection of confidentiality – U.S. Patent # 7,401,352

As the amount of information transmitted over networks by businesses, individuals and other entities continues to grow, the ability to guarantee privacy of information has become an ongoing challenge, especially in large-scale, shared-resource environments such as Clouds. This invention allows businesses to exchange information securely, while respecting policies that protect the privacy of both parties.


Sastry S. Duri

Xuan Liu

Paul A. Moskowitz

Ronald Perez

Edith G. Schonberg

Moninder Singh

Jung-Mu Tang

Charles P. Tresser

Marco O. Gruteser

Method and system for third party resource provisioning management – U.S. Patent # 6,871232

Networks are commonly used to provide users access to network resources such as software, electronic data, or files in storage systems or databases. As the number of users on a given network increases, and as resources become increasingly distributed, it becomes especially important to ensure that users are able to access only resources to which they have proper authorization. In the Cloud, this challenge is paramount and this invention improves the management of resources, especially resources that are geographically dispersed.


Frank Yeh, Jr.

Jeffrey C. Curie,

Kai Mildenberger

The creativity and inventiveness IBM’s technical community is helping the company pursue a cloud computing business strategy designed to enable rapid delivery of computing resources, while providing a means for clients to turn complex business processes into simple services.

In addition to helping IBM seek new cloud computing client engagements, the patented inventions also will help the company generate IP income; protect its huge investment in R&D; establish cross-licenses, which provide IBM and many other companies with significant freedom of action in the marketplace.


Guest Blog: NPUC and "The Future of Design and Software Development"

The New Paradigms in Using Computers (or NPUC) workshop at IBM's Almaden Research Center is an annual exploration of new cutting edge user experiences for computing devices. It brings together speakers and attendees from academia and industry for a single day of presentations and informal discussions focused on a single topic. This year NPUC will take place on July 9 and focus on "The Future of Design and Software Development."

Software development and design has evolved from an arcane art practiced with exotic, obscure tools into a multi-billion dollar industry based on exotic, obscure tools. With all of the advances that we have made in user interface technology and design processes in general, we should be able to create a better user experience for design and development in particular. At NPUC 2009, innovators from both academia and industry who are working to make the design and software development process more natural, accessible, and social will present their work:

  • Brad Myers from Carnegie Mellon University will discuss "More Natural User Experiences for Design and Software Development" that empower end users, who are largely not trained programmers, to create and refine their own programs. He will give an overview of past and current research on "End User Programming" and "End User Software Engineering".

  • Ethan Eismann of Adobe Systems will describe Adobe's work on "Making Programming Playful". The goal of playful programming is to transform programming from a task that is complex and often frustrating to one that is playful, constructive, and productive for a wide range of users.

  • Gina Venolia of Microsoft Research will present "Five attempts at Spatializing Code". As programs have gotten more complex, tracking and understanding a large code base has become increasingly difficult. Gina will describe explorations into how to leverage people's innate spatial abilities to benefit software developers.

  • Caitlin Kelleher of Washington University in St. Louis will describe how we might take middle-school students through the "Looking Glass" by "Supporting Learning from Peer Programs". She will discuss her research into providing tools that both motivate and support middle-school students learning to program as an approach to address the widening gap between the demand for computer scientists and the enrollment in computer science college majors.

  • Kimberley Peter of IBM will present "Making Jazz: Collaboration, Community and Design in Open Commercial Software Development". Jazz is simultaneously a reflection of the fact that software development is now a collaborative process and a product of it; Kimberley will describe both the motivation and design for Jazz and how the open community shaped its development.

  • Rastislav Bodik of UC Berkeley will propose that we can improve the productivity of programmers by "Synthesizing Programs from Programmer Insight". He will describe research into how to allow programmers to focus on providing the high-level design and insights and allow their tools to figure out the necessary mechanics that implement those insights.

Part of the fun of NPUC is that it attracts world-renowned researchers, passionate people new to the field, and everyone in between. And NPUC doesn't just provide a forum to listen to great talks and engage other attendees in informal conversations; if you have an idea or a demonstration you're eager to share you can submit a proposal to present a poster or a demo of your own work at NPUC. To find out how to attend or how to submit a poster or demo proposal, visit the NPUC '09 home page: http://www.almaden.ibm.com/cs/user/npuc2009/.

Jeff Pierce & John Barton
NPUC '09 Co-Chairs