IBM churns from Indian research lab

IT vendor's software lab in Bangalore has conducted over 1,400 customer engagements, showcasing technologies that include collaboration tools.
Written by Swati Prasad, Contributor

BANGALORE, INDIA--Located just a stone's throw away from the domestic airport, IBM Software Laboratory has kept its engineers busy developing various technologies to enhance collaboration, and allow companies to make more accurate business decisions.

Early this month, the IT giant held its inaugural "Made-in-IBM Labs" day at its research facility in Bangalore, India, where it showcased several IBM-developed technologies and product offerings, including those that were still under development. They ranged from social networking and collaboration tools, to high-performance computing and software designed to enhance consumer experience.

Some of these technologies are already out in the market. A product dubbed "Many Eyes", for instance, combines information visualization and social software tools to enable users to collaborate online using visual aids. With the Many Eyes Web portal, users can present data into images that are more easily digested.

"The India Software Lab is IBM's largest lab outside the United States," said Harish Grama, vice president of India Software Lab, during a press briefing at the event. Between July 2006 and June 2007, the Indian facility conducted more than 1,400 customer engagements, marking a 90-percent increase over the previous year.

Set up in 1992, IBM's India Software Lab has developed itself into a mature product development organization with robust development processes.

A technology developed at the Indian facility is the Retail Optimized Site Solution, or ROSS. Currently under trial runs, the application not only helps retail companies identify an ideal store location, it also guides them in adopting a suitable retail model and the right mix of merchandise, company officials said.

The ROSS uses IBM's analytics and optimization engine to help diagnose and optimize the retail site at the "strategic level", compared to traditional retail applications which focus on the planning and operation processes within an existing store. It analyzes data such as customer demand forecasting, trade area and performance gap analysis, so retailers will be able determine where to locate their store, the layout of the store and what products to sell in the store.

IBM explained that by integrating internal and external statistics such as geographic and demographic data, of a particular store within a forecasting model, the ROSS can allow retailers to make more accurate decisions.

Another technology developed at the Indian lab could also have enabled U.K. law enforcers to more quickly identify potential criminals.

"In the case of the July 2005 London train bombings, it took the police several hours to go through the recordings of the surveillance cameras in order to investigate the case," said Priyansh Dixit, IBM India Software Lab's program manager of industry solutions. Dixit explained that if IBM's Smart Surveillance System (S3)--scheduled for launch soon--were installed in the trains during the bombings, the culprits could have been caught much sooner.

Currently undergoing pilot runs, the S3 allows law enforcement officers to carry out data analysis of video sequences either in real-time or from recordings. The platform enables the monitoring and analysis of real-world events via multiple sensors, including video cameras, radars, chemical sensors or audio inputs. The S3 can also be integrated with technologies from multiple vendors.

All that Jazz about software development
Engineers at IBM India Software Lab also built a software development platform, coined Rational Jazz, designed to allow collaborators in a team to work on a particular project seamlessly--regardless of where each member is located across the globe.

Currently under development, Rational Jazz allows files and data related to an ongoing project to be stored on a server and integrates tasks involved in the entire software lifecycle.

In fact, IBM's software professionals said the project development tool can be used for all kinds of projects where collaboration is required, such as fashion and jewelry designing, architectural designs and editorial projects and reports.

"Very soon, you may also have the option of attending a press conference on Second Life," Pankaj S Zanwar, lead architect at IBM Software Labs, told ZDNet Asia. Second Life is a virtual environment created to allow online users to inhabit and interact via avatars, and create content that can be bought, sold and traded with other residents.

According to Zanwar, virtual worlds offer various benefits such as allowing users to sell products, attend events and watch matches. In fact, IBM and U.S. consumer electronics retailer Circuit City recently announced a collaboration to experiment with virtual worlds and 3D environments. The alliance aims to enhance the retail customer experience and solve business problems in new and creative ways, IBM said. "Increasingly, companies are exploring 3D Internet, Second Life and other virtual worlds for exciting new business opportunities, many of which can barely be imagined today," said Zanwar.

Swati Prasad is a freelance IT writer based in India.

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