IBM Labs' top-five research projects

IBM Labs' top-five research projects

IBM's 'Next Five in Five' aimed to affect people's lives over the next five years

IBM opened the doors to its R&D lab in Silicon Valley last week to show off some of the research that is happening around its research facilities in the United States. These include 'IBM's Next Five in Five,' a list of innovations that Big Blue believes could affect the way people work, live and play over the next five years.

Dan Wardman, a vice president at IBM Silicon Valley Lab, says the biggest change in the last 20 years for IBM's R&D scientists is that they are now encouraged to work directly with customers to solve problems, compared with the early 1980s, when researchers were told to just concentrate on churning out new technologies.

IBM research projects cover SOA, Web. 2.0.

An example of IBM R&D's collaboration with customers is the company's Made in IBM Labs initiative, in which IBM researchers, scientists and engineers work closely with customers on real-world business problems. The company says that last year it conducted about 10,000 such engagements. Examples include eBay's reliance on engineers at IBM's High Performance On Demand Solutions (HiPODS) group to develop scalable systems to support the online auctioneer's expanding infrastructure, which includes 2 petabytes of data -- 200 times the size of the Library of Congress, says Jeremy King, eBay vice president of engineering and application architecture.

IBM's Next Five in Five are:


Aimed to make connecting with call centers less frustrating, FonePal presents callers with a visual guide to the different numbers they need to access the right department. Instead of listening to the recorded greeting that goes through the list of numbers to get to the intended department, FonePal sends a menu of numbers to the caller's instant messaging client.

The caller can enter the number using their phone or the IM client. To activate FonePal, users are required to associate their telephone number with their IM name. FonePal has been in development for a year, and IBM is looking for partners, such as financial institutions, to offer it to their customers.


Translingual Automatic Language Exploitation System (TALES) mines and translates to English foreign broadcast news and news Web sites. For broadcast video news, TALES captures the video and automatically performs speech-to-text conversion and translates foreign text to English using machine translation.

English speakers can monitor the translated news in near real time, or place English language queries over the foreign language content. For Web sites, TALES performs the machine translation and information extraction and support translingual search. Currently TALES supports English queries over Chinese and Arabic. Researchers say the technology could be used by financial investment houses.

Remote diagnostics:

Sensors placed in patients' homes, worn on the person or placed in devices, that monitor patients and alert healthcare professionals to unusual conditions and behaviors. The data collected are analyzed so that physicians would be able to detect early signs of illness, such as heart attacks.

3-D Internet:

IBM researchers are testing 3-D Internet in Second Life with partners Sears and Circuit City. Visitors to the partners' stores in Second Life can interact with each other to share views about the products on display, as well as see how HDTV screens or kitchen appliances would look in a room. Another example of 3-D Internet is 'walking through' a representation of a city for tourism applications.


Nanotechnology -- the ability to manipulate individual atoms and molecules to form tiny new structures -- has already affected the microprocessor industry, allowing for mobile phones, for example, to get smaller and cheaper. IBM scientists are using nanotechnology to reengineer water molecules for water filtration. The work is aimed at addressing the worldwide shortage of potable water supplies.

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