IBM bolsters pervasive computing efforts

IBM Corp. recently announced product upgrades and partnerships in support of its pervasive computing strategy, an ongoing effort to provide end users with on-the-fly access to any content, from any device, on any network.

IBM’s latest efforts are aimed at making it easier for companies to deliver enterprise applications to wireless devices. Central to its plan is new software – Extension Services for WebSphere Everyplace – designed to improve remote administration of mobile devices.

Extension Services for WebSphere Everyplace is embedded middleware that enables software makers, device manufacturers and enterprises to extend IBM’s WebSphere platform and Java-based applications to handheld devices. The technology doesn’t require developers to rewrite applications for mobile devices, or require a connected micro-browser to access information, IBM says.

Instead, the services-based technology allows for “connection-independent” deployment and management of applications and network services, according to IBM. With Extension Services technology, end users can run applications on mobile devices that are intermittently connected to the network, and remotely download only the portions of applications and data they need to complete secure transactions.

IBM unveiled Extension Services for WebSphere Everyplace at a press event at its Hawthorne, N.Y., research facility, where it also announced device management applications being developed by its partners.

For example, IBM partner and CRM software maker Blue Martini Software Inc. has embedded Extension Services technology, along with IBM’s WebSphere MQ Everyplace messaging software, into its sales application. Blue Martini is using the technology to allow salespeople to manage complex sales processes – including configuring products and generating quotes – from their mobile devices.

In addition, IBM announced that several software vendors are embedding its Tivoli-based WebSphere Device Management software into their applications to bolster remote management capabilities.

For example, customer service software maker SupportSoft is using IBM technology in its products to allow its service provider customers to wirelessly diagnose user problems and implement automated fixes.

Similarly, software maker Bitfone is using IBM’s WebSphere Device Management software to allow its service provider customers to deliver embedded software updates for mobile devices over the air, saving end users from physically delivering their phones to a service centre.

In the speech technology arena, IBM announced support for VoiceXML 2.0 in upgraded versions of its WebSphere Voice speech products to allow users to integrate speech commands into existing business applications.

In addition, IBM announced new “natural language extensions” to WebSphere Voice Server and WebSphere Voice Application Access to allow the systems to understand the context of a customer request, enabling more natural, conversational interactions with automated voice response call centers, IBM says.