IBM's Pervasive Computing: The New "Killer App?"

For several years now, a market opportunity – one that involves Internet-enabling remote devices and appliances, thereby freeing users from the constraints of a personal computer – has been exploding. IBM recognizes that growth, and so do other large competitors who are rapidly crowding the space known as Pervasive Computing.

Many view the market explosion as a natural evolution from wired web, to wireless web, to embedded web. Or looked at another way, from client server computing, to network computing, to pervasive computing. What is the payoff for business owners: Access to their products and services from any location, at any time.

Wireless is being called the new "killer app" for e-commerce. And with that, new terms have been emerging in the halls of IBM, including "Pervasive e-business" to supplant Pervasive Computing, and "m-business" or "mobile e-business" to supplant, simply, e-business.

I first wrote on this topic early in 1999, when I noted IBM's commitment to making "smart devices"—networked devices embedded with computer chips connected to intelligent networks that incorporate the Internet.

At that time, the newest focus for IBM, and for many of its strategic partners, was the Internet-enabled cell phone, the networked automobile, the "smart house," and the like. Today, expectations have been lifted a few notches higher.

IBM sees a huge opportunity to empower e-business by further Internet-enabling wireless and mobile products. Brent Miller, senior software engineer for IBM's Pervasive Computing division, claims that open access to Web services has the potential to be as much a "business enabler" as the advent of the Internet itself. Wisely, then, services professionals across all major IBM divisions are being trained in Pervasive Computing applications and opportunities.

The Pervasive Computing division – in partnership with IBM's Global Services – seeks to grow market share by allowing customers to build on existing platforms, not replace them. Indeed, Miller describes IBM's Pervasive Computing technology as "device agnostic." No doubt he and others hope that feature will help to differentiate Big Blue from competitors like Microsoft and Hewlett Packard, who are rapidly premiering their own embedded network devices.

As I've mentioned, medical devices, autos, household appliances and other "things" are routinely being equipped with intelligence capable of connecting to Web content. Yet, despite the glamour of such a reality – having access to Web services "anytime, anywhere, any device," to quote an IBM motto – it's really the opportunity to extend e-business that is fueling IBM's rapid growth in strategic partnerships, and investments in technology, middleware and services.

Analysts predict the market for pervasive e-business to grow to $231 billion over the next four years, with wireless representing roughly half of that total. There's also a market for IBM to sell e-business infrastructure (products and services) to wireless operators – which may soon number towards one billion worldwide – and telecommunications equipment manufacturers. IBM hopes to become the leading provider of silicon and chips to be used in wireless handsets and other devices. An ambitious goal, but IBM isn't one to shy away from a challenge.

The wireless Internet converges the IT industry with another, very powerful player—telecommunications. So along with increasing its sales focus on wireless, IBM is busy establishing partnerships with wireless operators and service providers, developing technology based on open standards, and investing in extending its hardware and software products, to form that critical e-business infrastructure for the wireless industry.

IDC forecasts that by the end of 2002, more than 50 percent of devices connected to the Internet will not be personal computers. Clearly, enormous opportunities loom ahead. With players like IBM, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard in the game, don't expect the momentum to abate anytime soon. And let's not forget Motorola, Nokia, Ericcson etc.

In fact, to give you a real good idea of what's coming, a company in Fort Myers, Florida (NeoMedia) has patented a product called "PaperClick" where scanning a bar code on any printed material will open up a Web site i.e. from paper to computer, instead of computer to paper! Think about the possibilities and what's coming and know you are not dreaming!

Related Information:

  • IBM Pervasive Computing (new window)
  • IBM Global Services (new window)
  • IBM E-Business (new window)