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AT&T brings the network closer to the cloud

CTO Krish Prabhu says that the company is resolving bandwidth, coverage issues to bring cloud closer

By Agam Shah
April 21, 2012 08:27 AM ET

IDG News Service - AT&T wants to change how mobile devices are used, and the company's chief technology officer, Krish Prabhu, is looking for ways to deliver "intelligent" cloud services to consumers over its wide-ranging network.

One research project that exemplifies Prabhu's vision is Watson, which enables the use of voice commands not only for control, but also transcription, translation or voice-based search in the cloud. With Watson, AT&T wants to make speech and natural language processing an integral part of how users interact with smartphones.

"People want to do more with the network and can do more if the cloud is closer to them." Prabhu said in an interview with the IDG News Service this week.

The company this week released Watson APIs (application programming interfaces) so developers can add voice recognition, text-to-speech and voice-based search features into mobile applications.

"Now what we're going to do is to put Watson in the cloud, open it up, and when we open it up it will be interesting to see how people use it," Prabhu said.

AT&T's goal is to help customers achieve more on mobile devices through cloud services tied to the network, Prabhu said. But the spectrum is limited and there is a growing appetite for bandwidth, so AT&T is taking steps to deliver a wider pipe and coverage so cloud services can seamlessly talk to users, Prabhu said.

Innovations like Watson were shown alongside other cloud projects at an event in New York this week. A project called Got My Stuff tags objects such as car keys or laptops, and a smartphone can alert a user if an object has been forgotten at home. An enterprise cloud project includes the ability for system administrators to locate specific devices in danger zones and backup data remotely from devices in case of events like tornados.

AT&T has a storied history with some key scientific inventions through its research labs. But the nature of research has changed in the Internet age, with the focus slowly shifting to services, Prabhu said.

"Today the inventions are not so much unique point inventions, they are more about bringing things together, to get more utility out of something," Prabhu said.

The cloud is a fantastic delivery model because it is portable, and can also be decoupled from the network to some extent, Prabhu said, adding that mobility and cloud are key for services like Watson.

However, delivering cloud services with low latency is an ongoing challenge, and AT&T is using a combination of technologies to make wiser use of available spectrum. Some include using software techniques for congestion management and placing antennas in selective places for wider reach.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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