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11/14/2006
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IBM Unveils $100 Million Innovation Agenda

CEO Sam Palmisano says the company has opened its labs, its 'crown jewels,' to help create 10 new offerings that will support advanced consumer and business products and services.

IBM is thinking big when it comes to solving next-generation business problems. The company said Tuesday that it will spend $100 million over the next two years creating 10 new offerings that will gird a host of advanced consumer and business products and services ranging from portable, electronic health records and blackout-proof electricity grids to 3-D virtual worlds in which consumers can play games and businesses can hold meetings and collaborate with partners.

IBM CEO Sam Palmisano unveiled the plan before a meeting of 6,000 company employees in Beijing. "We opened up our labs, said to the world, 'Here are our crown jewels, have at them,'" said Palmisano, referring to IBM's plan to partner with customers and other tech players in developing the solutions. "Collaborative innovation models require you to trust the creativity and intelligence of your employees, your clients, and other members of your innovation network," he said.

Drawing on the wisdom of the masses for product development is catching on in the tech industry. Sun Microsystems said on Monday that it would put its own crown jewel, Java software, out for collaborative development through the open source community.

IBM identified the 10 offerings, which include a Digital Me service that will help consumers unify and safely store all of their personal data and advanced solar power systems, through a process the company calls Innovation Jam. Under the program, thousands of IBM researchers, partners, and top customers use online tools like wikis, blogs, online chat, and instant messaging to identify, debate, and solve pressing business and social problems.

"The Jam--and programs like it--are greatly accelerating our ability to innovate in meaningful ways for business and society," Palmisano said Tuesday. To emphasize the point that IBM's innovation map goes beyond business as usual, Palmisano planned to deliver Tuesday's announcement live and also through his avatar in Linden Lab's Second Life virtual world. On Monday, Sun used Second Life to announce its open source Java plans. The areas tagged for investment by IBM cut a wide swath across numerous industries and disciplines. In a statement, the company listed the following projects:

  • Smart health care payment systems: Overhauling health care payment and management systems through the use of small personal devices (such as smart cards) that will automatically trigger financial transactions, the processing of insurance claims, and the updating of electronic health records.
  • Simplified business engines: Developing and bringing to market an intuitive, easy-to-use, and pre-packaged set of Web 2.0 services and blade server offerings that allow small and midsize businesses to easily tap applications customized to their specific business needs.
  • Real-time translation services: Offering advanced, real-time translation capabilities across major languages as a service for high-potential applications, industries, and environments, such as health care, government, and travel and transportation.
  • Intelligent utility networks: Increasing the reliability and manageability of the world's power grids by building in "intelligence" in the form of real-time monitoring, control, analysis, simulation, and optimization.
  • 3-D Internet: Partnering with others to take the best of virtual worlds and gaming environments to build a seamless, standards-based 3-D Internet -- the next platform for global commerce and day-to-day business operations.
  • "Digital Me": Creating a secure, user-friendly service that simplifies storage, management, and long-term access to the deluge of personal content that people accumulate (digital photos, videos, music, health and financial records, personal identification documents, files, etc.).
  • Branchless banking for the masses: Enabling existing and new financial institutions to profitably provide basic banking services (checking, savings, payments, microlending) to often remote, inaccessible populations in fast-growing emerging markets.
  • Integrated mass transit information system: Establishing on-demand systems for integrating, managing, and disseminating real-time data for all of a municipality's or region's transit systems, thus optimizing buses, rail, highways, waterways, and airlines.
  • Electronic health record system: Creating a standards-based infrastructure to support automatic updating of, and pervasive access to, personal health care records and the integrating of patient data with global payer and provider transaction systems.
  • "Big Green" innovations: Launching a new business unit in IBM that will focus on applying the company's advanced expertise and technologies to emerging environmental opportunities, such as advanced water modeling, water filtration via nanotechnology, and efficient solar power systems.
  • IBM says it's in negotiations with more then three dozen companies and organizations to provide Jam offerings and services as a result of the program.

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