IBM Gives Voice to Mobile Communications Technologies
SOMERS, NY - IBM announced the latest software tools and middleware for the development of multimodal technology. IBM's multimodal toolkit for developers and the addition of multimodal capabilities to its recently announced WebSphere Everyplace Access (WEA), are IBM's latest efforts designed to help companies extend e-business from the desktop to a growing range of devices. Based on the XHTML and Voice (X+V) mark-up language, the toolkit, available in the fall, will allow developers to rapidly turn voice and Web applications into multimodal applications. The planned addition of these capabilities to its recently announced WebSphere Everyplace Access (WEA), can also enable a variety of wireless devices multimodal access to back-end business applications. Multimodal technology allows multiple forms of input and output, such as voice commands, keypads or stylus, to be used interchangeably in the same interaction. Standards, the backbone of IBM's multimodal strategy, will be a key in ensuring that these heterogeneous devices work with one another. IBM, Motorola and Opera late last year submitted the multimodal standard X+V, to the standards body W3C. This mark-up language leverages standards that voice and web developers are already familiar with so that enterprises and developers can leverage their existing skills and resources and extend applications they already have instead of having to build new ones from ground-up. "As computing gets embedded into our everyday lives and moves from PCs to wide varieties of devices, we'll need new, flexible ways to interact with technology, "said Rod Adkins, General Manager of IBM Pervasive Computing. "Multimodal interaction allows us to access enterprise applications -from databases to inventory, financial and sales information - in ways that are convenient to us, instead of forcing us to adapt to technology. By adding this capability into our middleware, we aim to make it easy for our customers to make multimodality part of their infrastructure." Implementing these solutions will allow users to interact with a wide range of computing devices to send and receive information, including cell phones, kiosks, handhelds and even vehicles. For example, a sales executive booking his next overseas meeting could use voice to request "New York to Paris," and have a list of available flights displayed for him on his wireless handheld. He could then tap or speak to the handheld to purchase the ticket - changing the input or output method depending on which option is most suitable for him at the time. Built on IBM's WebSphere Voice Toolkit, the multimodal toolkit will contain a multimodal editor, in which developers can write both XHTML and VoiceXML in the same application; reusable blocks of X+V code; and a simulator to test the applications. Additionally, the toolkit adds Eclipse-based plug-ins to a web developer's existing WebSphere Studio development environment. The Eclipse platform is an open source tool integration environment. The capabilities provided in the tools allow the developer to speech-enable existing or new visual applications with X+V speech tags. To include phone access as a interface, additional tags can also be added so that the application can run on existing VoiceXML servers. Because X+V is built on standards that Web and voice developers are already familiar with, developers can turn existing Web applications into multimodal ones and deploy them using existing Web infrastructure. IBM also plans to add multimodal capabilities to WebSphere Everyplace Access in the first half of 2003. WEA enables access to enterprise data and applications from a wide range of mobile devices. The addition of X+V-based multimodal capability to WEA allows users to access business applications such as databases and Customer Relationship Information applications via multimodal devices. WebSphere Everyplace Access is IBM's mobile application platform. Customers can start mobile implementations with a single application like PIM and e-mail or a SCM, CRM application and scale to many applications tailored to the needs of the users. IBM's platform provides links to back-end systems and related services, support for multiple devices, multiple applications, intermittent, connected and disconnected connectivity, synchronization, intelligent notification, security, device management, and content adaptation. These capabilities are delivered through server and client components supported by integrated development environment based on IBM's implementation of the Eclipse standard - WebSphere Studio for developing and managing mobile applications.