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IBM Drives Traffic Safety in UAE

IBM secured a $125 million telematics deal with the United Arab Emirates to help curb the number of traffic accidents among the 2 million drivers in the country.

Under the terms of the four-year accord, IBM engineers and business consultants will build a device that will attach to the automobile's carriage.

Similar to the "black box" situated on airplanes, the gadget will monitor the speed of the moving vehicle and compare it to the speed limit on each road. If the car exceeds the limit, the device could send out a warning message to the driver.

This is crucial for UAE, a country with a high accident rate, IBM said in a statement. According to UAE government traffic studies, one person is injured every two hours, and one person dies approximately every 15 hours on UAE roads. These are both alarming statistics for a country with only two million drivers.

Based on microprocessors from Big Blue's Power chip architecture, the new device will store vehicle data and integrate a number of wireless technologies capable of quickly piping data to the UAE's Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, IBM said in a statement.

These technologies will include the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) , Global Positioning Systems (GPSs) , Bluetooth and an optional driver identification feature based on RFID .

The device will also be equipped with IBM's speech software, Via Voice, to give the UAE a better opportunity to boost road safety, better manage traffic and prevent accidents.

Design prototypes of the device are currently under way, with field testing to take place early next year. IBM expects the black box will be introduced in volume next year.

IBM inked the deal with research group CERT Telematics, part of the Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training in Dubai. CERT Telematics expects to roll out thousands of these devices for all types of vehicles.

The deal is one of the largest telematics plays in history. Most frequently used to reference computing in cars, telematics is an emerging field that involves the blending of computers and wireless telecommunications technologies to shuttle information over networks.

Telematics Research Group Phil Magney said IBM is committed to telematics and the automotive space because the numbers are huge: 60 million cars are sold each year and nearly a quarter of them are electronics-based.

"This is a core telematics technology, and IBM is a player in many aspects of that, from the hardware to the infrastructure to the back-end," Magney said.

But Magney isn't sure this is IBM's largest to date. For example, he said IBM supplies Via Voice for all of the new OnStar modules going into General Motors cars. The modules will be standard gear in 2007.

IBM has other projects in the works to promote vehicular safety. Earlier this week, the Armonk, N.Y. company announced the Parametric Analysis Center service to help anticipate and treat vehicular malfunctions.