Big Blue's Watching You

Talk about applied research: IBM chip goes all the way from the Xbox to GPS

May 4, 2006

2 Min Read
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9:00 AM -- LAS VEGAS -- IBM execs admitted that they have got gaming on their minds at Interop, although not the type that involves slot machines, showgirls, or bankruptcy.

The type of gaming that is big in IBM corporate circles involves an Xbox and a bedroom-dwelling adolescent. Specifically, execs taking part in an IBM-only panel yesterday afternoon poured forth on the weird and wonderful world of the vendor's technology research, from ultra-smart cars to the new Cell processor.

Up until recently, Cell processors -- jointly developed by IBM and Sony and used initially in Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 -- were more relevant to acne-ridden teenage gamers than CIOs. But IBM recently deployed the nine-way chip in a blade, proving that even technologies make it through puberty to adulthood. (See IBM Flashes New Blades and IBM Unveils Cell CE.)

Clearly, the excitement of this propaganda pitch was too much for the guy next to me, who dozed off at one point during the presentation, presumably dreaming of a happier life far from the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

I, however, stayed conscious and heard all about how the new processors are finding their way into medical imaging, seismic research, and financial services. But I really sat up in my chair when one of the panelists explained that, outside of the world of the ber-chip, IBM is also working on sensor technology to take the concept of the "smart car" to a new level."By 2010 the average car will have 100 million lines of code in it -- that's two and a half times as much as there is in Microsoft Windows," explained Jai Menon, CTO of architecture and strategy in the vendor's services and storage division.

IBM, according to Menon, has worked with a U.K. insurance company to deploy specialized GPS technology in cars. This apparently will enable insurers to set personalized insurance rates based on a driver's specific driving habits. Scary, or what?

So in a few years time, when you jump the lights for the umpteenth time in your SUV, just be careful. Big Blue and God knows who else might be watching you.

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Sony Corp.0

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