IBM soups up the SUV

Combining current products with future technologies that are still fresh from the IBM Corp. labs, Big Blue last month at its Solutions software conference for developers demonstrated some of the unique capabilities that might just be found in the car or SUV (sport utility vehicle) of the future.

Among the concept products exhibited were Bluetooth, Blue Eyes, BlueDrekar, and TSpaces, plus Web-based remote control of a vehicle.

BlueDrekar is Big Blue’s version of Bluetooth for embedded Linux that will allow developers to use Bluetooth with a low-cost operating system in small devices with low-power processors.

On the show floor, an IBM engineer, Chuck Lam, used what can only be described as a slightly clunky-looking, over-sized watch with BlueDrekar built in to lock and open the doors and turn on and off the lights, the air conditioning, and the stereo of the demo car, which was a 2002 Ford Explorer, dubbed the TechMobile.

On the inside of the car, Blue Eyes is a new technology developed at IBM Labs and passed on to IBM’s alphaWorks product development team. The job of the alphaWorks team is to productize technologies that come out of the labs.

Blue Eyes detects movements of the retina and frequency of eye blinks. Using this technology, the alphaWorks team created an alarm system. An infrared camera watches the eyes, and if the system does not detect the eyeballs, it assumes the driver has fallen asleep and an alarm is sounded.

Other uses for Blue Eyes, according to Baldemar Fuentes, another member of the alphaWorks team in Cupertino, Calif., would be to log your retina signature and when the same driver returns to the driver’s seat, it would make adjustments to the mirror and seating position accordingly.

Because Blue Eyes can also take facial measurements, it can determine if a person is smiling or frowning, and perhaps if it identifies a frown it might play happy music, said Fuentes.

Although technologies like Blue Eyes take the measurements, it is another

IBM lab technology called TSpaces that allows one device to recognize another device and allow each device to control the other.

IBM offers the TSpaces development suite as a free download at its alpha

Works Web site at

Also demonstrated was Web-based control of a car and capabilities to check

status such as remotely controlling and operating windows and doors.

As well, embedded in the car was IBM’s ViaVoice product, which on the Ford Explorer was used to read and send e-mails as well as used as another interface to control the vehicle, including starting the ignition.