HP Labs India's Geeta Manjunath ( left) and Sudhir Dixit unveiling SiteonMobile in Bangalore ( IndiaTechOnline photo)
Tap into the Web -- without an Internet connection!

Disruptive new tech from HP Labs India.

From Anand Parthasararthy in Bangalore.

Researchers at the Bangalore unit of HP Labs have unveiled a solution that allows users to tap into the huge information resources of Web – without having to establish a connection to the Internet. For this alone, it qualifies as one of the most disruptive technologies to flow from a development lab in India for many years.
But the technology of “SiteonMobile” goes beyond this: it offers a full slate of tools which allow both lay users, as well as Web-based service providers, to create their own custom tools and ‘widgets’, that mix-n-match chunks of information from the Web and deliver it to the most basic mobile phones, through voice or even simple text messages. Instead of delivering a complete web page to the phone, the solution delivers only the short content through ‘TaskLets’ or small task-based personal web interactions.

“We are ready with the portal-based solution where website owners can create these TaskLets for their services”, says Sudhir Dixit, Director, HP Labs India, “We received an overwhelmingly positive response from select businesses whom we approached to partner with us. They not only agreed to use our platform, but also offered to enhance their web portals to offer services they wished to make available through mobile phones but hadn’t been able to invest time, money and resources for it so far”.
The portal is currently hosted at http://www.siteonmobile.com .

Selected customers are being invited to create TaskLets based on their current or planned services – and HP researchers have created dozens of standard templates which can be plugged in to create a new TaskLet. The fact that this can be done in a ‘dummies’ way without the need to write code in HTML, XML etc seems to be the USP of HP’s solution.

Geetha Manjunath, the senior research scientist, at HP Labs India with the project, suggests that many small businesses could create such TaskLets without professional help, to reach out to customers who might want to to check status of an order, request for a cab service, ask for a quotation, book a doctor’s appointment, and so on.

The automatic code generation capability of the HP solution seems to be its real strength – and even a brief exercise, tweaking some of the ready made templates that are available, will allow lay users to create their own custom services – a daily localized news or weather update or a horoscope feed.

Of course the ability to tap the Net without formal Net connectivity is an illusion-- the buckle that binds the user device like a phone through a text message, to the Internet resource is the special portal that HP is currently hosting.

My understanding is that HP Labs is testing the techno-commercial potential of its solution and could plan to hive it off once there are enough enterprises to underwrite the cost of running the service. And having experienced SiteonMobile and tried out its offerings in the guise of a business user, I am convinced that HP has created a powerful new tool whose real value lies in its ability to touch the lives of millions who cannot afford a a GPRS-type Internet connection for their phones, but would still be enriched by being able to tap into the Internet.

This is not something that can be measured in money terms – and one can only hope HP sees value in reaching the fruits of its latest research to as many lay users as it can – and worry about monetization and commercial spin-offs later.  That would be   in the spirit of the legendary "HP Way".

July 22 2010