Saturday, August 07, 2010

MNCs spawn new technologies from Indian campuses

Global tech majors such as IBM, Microsoft and Yahoo! have tied up with Indian campuses to lead the innovation race. Earlier this week, IBM, the world's largest computer-services company, announced a partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B) to develop a mobile application that can be used by semi-literate or illiterate people. This is part of the strategy to tap opportunities in emerging economies as future growth for the computing major is expected to be driven by these markets. A similar open collaborative research (OCR) project between the Indian and IBM Tokyo Lab, National Institute of Design and Japanese Universities will create more intuitive mobile interfaces for Japans ageing population.

IBM has given its India Research Lab $100 million in hand and five years to build the technology. More such innovation will come from the OCR mode where IBM Labs will work with social scientists, designers and academicians within leading universities. We also have more futuristic work, such as the spoken web on the mobile phone and telephone network, which will take some years. We have done some pilots of this with farmers in India, said Dr. Manish Gupta, Director, IBM Research India and Chief Technologist, South Asia.

IBM's first OCR project in India with Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad is developing a new academic discipline services science that will prepare talent for the computer services business. This project has been expanded to a full-fledged research collaboratory, where IBM researchers are housed within a university, government, or commercial partners premise to share skills, assets and resources. Such partnerships, which are based on models such as setting up laboratories in universities, transfer of knowledge from academia to employees, consulting, sponsored and open research, are also helping MNCs to hire good talent, says Harish Singh, Director for Global Consulting at management consulting company Zinnov.

For the institutes, industry-collaborations helps bring in funding and tools to develop new technologies and to commercialise them. We are doing another project with phone maker Nokia, where based on intuition, consumers will be able to communicate in their mother tongue, said Anirudha Joshi, Associate Professor, IIT-B. Other global technology firms are also working with Indian universities. Internet major Yahoo! is collaborating with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore in the area of machine learning. It is a branch of artificial intelligence (AI) in which a computer program analyses huge chunks of data and makes predictions about the future. Applications include understanding the behaviour of the users, providing advertisements which have higher click probability and can filter pornographic images, determine fraudulent transactions and help investors make investment decisions, said Dr. Rajeev Rastogi, Vice President and Head,Yahoo! Labs, India.

Informatics for rural health management and disease prevention is another area where industry collaborations are taking place. SAP Research has collaborated with PES Institute of Technology (PESIT) to develop a software platform to predict cardio-vascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes and anemia. The system, which PESIT plans to commercialise in future, will soon be commissioned in remote rural areas of Andhra Pradesh. We have developed a mobile application which can be used in remote rural schools. This system will be modified as a web-based application and be accessible from a mobile device, said Dr. A. Srinivas, Dean, Research & Consultancy and Professor of Computer Science, PESIT. Software maker Microsoft, is also building collaboration between its research arm and Indian universities in a bid to tap into growth in emerging markets.

To access these markets it is very important to work with partners such as IISc, IITs, government, and NGOs, said Ed Cutrell, who manages the Technology for Emerging Markets (TEM) group at Microsoft, which aims to target people for whom access to computing remains largely out of reach. Thiagaraja College of Engineering and Honeywell, the maker of controls for planes and buildings have already joined hands to promote an innovation incubation centre as an industry-institution initiative. TCE is developing imaging system in collaboration with Honeywell, that can see objects behind the wall.

Source: The Economic Times, August 7, 2010

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