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June - 2007 - issue > Cover Feature

The Research Moto

Christo Jacob
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Christo Jacob
Scientists at Motorola Labs in Bangalore believe that next wave in communications will be created by blending the mobile world with the Internet.

In order to attain this, an essential problem has to be tackled. Primarily, one has to connect the unconnected. Today, out of six billion people globally, only two billion enjoy a certain degree of connectivity. Most of the people among the other category reside in regions like China, India, and Eastern Europe. “Motorola believes India is the ideal market for applied research and software development for these emerging markets,” says Padmasree Warrior, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Motorola.
Motorola labs, which started its Bangalore operations two years back, is focused on addressing the needs of the local market, and has 50 researchers working in areas ranging from radio to mobile communication.

Out of its 30 full time employees, 60 percent are PhD holders and execute research in key areas of mobile communication technologies such as delay tolerant technologies for voice and text messages delivery; nano materials for efficiency storage, displays and RF electronics; residential gateways for converged communications and seamless mobility.

All this is aimed mainly at harnessing untapped opportunities in the Indian rural context. Interestingly, says Dr Chandra Kintala, Director Motorola India Research Labs, a significant percent of the 6,00,000 Indian villages still remain unwired. The market in these villages could prove to be the clinching pie for Motorola, which lags behind Nokia’s 42 percent market-share in the handset arena, with its own eight percent share. The challenge to tapping into that market, of course, is to bring them on to the network. “How do you reach out to those remote villages?” questions Kintala.

The answer, he says, lies in what exists on ground today. Almost all of these unwired villages have public transport connectivity. The team at Motorola Labs extrapolated the post office-post man concept and devised a prototype, wherein they envisioned that every bus hitting the rural hinterland will have an access point. At every village, there will be a kiosk. When the bus arrives, information gets exchanged between the access point and kiosk enabling delivery of messages to people in that particular area. It works somewhat like a store-forward delay-tolerant network. The field trials were carried out for last few months in four villages near Bangalore. While whether these prototypes will ultimately be implemented remains to be seen, such experiments give scientists a platform to go to the rural base and see what technologies can have a play.

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