Site:IBM Zurich Laboratory
Communication Systems Department
Soodmattenstrasse 8
H-8134 Adliswil

Date Visited: 29 April 1999

WTEC Attendees: T. Itoh (report author), D. Friday, L. Katehi, W. Stark

Hosts:Dr. Pierre R. Chevillat, Mgr. Wireless Communication System
Mr. Martin Hug


The panel visited IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory in Switzerland and, more specifically, its Communication Systems Department, located in Adliswil in a suburb of Zurich. This building is several kilometers from the main laboratory. It is planned for this building to be vacated shortly, as this department will be relocated to the main site. This is one of eight research laboratories of IBM. The others are the T. J. Watson Research Center (headquarters), the Almaden Research Center, and the Austin Research Laboratory in the United States. There are also research labs in Haifa, Israel; Tokyo, Japan; Beijing, China; and New Delhi, India. The first three laboratories noted here employ 1,000, 800, and 220 people, respectively, while the other five laboratories each employ 200 workers. IBM Zurich has three departments: Science and Technology (famous for the number of Nobel prizes awarded), Communication Systems, and Applied Computer Science (formally IT Solutions). The two latter departments comprise the major part of the Zurich operation.


Mr. Martin Hug and Dr. Pierre Chevillat greeted the WTEC panel. After the welcome and presentation of the March 15 Workshop summary by the visiting panelists (T. Itoh, L. Katehi, W. Stark, and D. Friday), IBM researchers made four presentations and one presentation/demonstration. The first two presentations and the presentation/demonstration came from the Communication Systems Department and are more engineering oriented. They are (1) "Mobile ATM" by Doug Dykeman, Manager of IP and ATM Networking, and (2) "Short-Range Radio Communication, Home RF vs. Bluetooth" by Dietrich Maiwald, "Wireless Communication Systems," and (3) "Infrared Technology" (Short Lecture and Demostration) by Walter Hirt, Wireless Communication systems. The remaining two were from Applied Computer Science Department. They are (4) "'DEAPspace' Short-Range Wireless Communication" by Dirk Husemann, IT Solutions, and (5) "Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)" by Carl Binding.

Fairly extensive discussions on the role of university research and on technical subjects have taken place during the technical sessions. The presentations are mostly software oriented. Little description was given on hardware as it is outside of the charter and operation of these departments and are in some cases worked out at other facilities of IBM. The wireless subjects discussed were heavily oriented to data and computers.


This project is for development of a mobile network integrated with a fixed infrastructure and is for aircraft, ships, and large ground vehicles. Uninterrupted operation is the goal while mobility is hidden from the users. Key protocols are ATM and IP for voice and data in the range of 0 ~100 kbps. This is a mobile ad-hoc (reconfigurable) network.

A new protocol called PNNI was introduced. PNNI routing has been accomplished while PNNI signaling is still under investigation. ATM Forum Standardization is carried out, and the prototype implementation is in progress with U.S. Navy through IBM's U.S. operation. The Federated Battle Lab of the U.S. DoD (Army, Navy, and Air Force) and NATO are responsible for implementing the prototype, and a demonstration is planned for September 1999.

Mobile IP, integration of IP on mobile ATM, and a new protocol for the future were discussed. The problems to be addressed are Routing (ATM, IP) and Re-routing (ATM). In the future, voice needs to be prioritized. Two problems that emerged from the discussions are the fading effect and frequency mobility (jamming in a military environment).

Short Range Radio (Home RF vs. Bluetooth)

Because of the evolution of consumer electronics devices, connectivity is now a problem. Items in this category include digital broadband (ISDN, LMDS, etc.), cellular phones, and PCCS in a changing life style. Interconnectivity should be built in, not created using many phone lines. The key to acceptance by the customer is that these devices be made "easy, affordable and standard."

That is, the connection is interactive wireless without new wires. For Laptop and PDA, mobility is important. For the short-range format, Cordless (DECT) and Radio LAN, 2Mbps, 2.4 GHz including Hyperlan 1 (5.2 GHz, 10 Mbps) and Hyperlan 2 (5.2 GHz, 25 Mbps), are examples although simple infrared LAN has a problem in diffusion and shadowing by wall so that this can be used for line of sight only.

The following initiatives, Home RF and Bluetooth, must be considered:

HomeRF is a networking project, but Bluetooth is for people on the move. The RF section was worked out at Yorktown. Future versions may use 5 GHz.


IBM is working on advanced infrared wireless (AIr). Although similar physically to a TV remote control, AIr requires wide-angle (360) coverage and long distance (10 m) data communication of 250 kbps to 4 Mbps with an LED of 900 nm wavelength. An experimental demonstration was provided during the WTEC visit.


This is a software project and the acronym came from Distributed Embedded Application Platform. The objective is to connect nomadic and pervasive devices through transient ad-hoc and proximity-based network for short-range (less than 10 m) applications. There is no master-slave arrangement but rather the devices are allowed to talk to each other. The device characteristics are embedded into the microcontroller. There is no central node. Challenges for this software development are a description of services, flexibility and extensibility, simple process, and scalability. Currently, IBM has been working on simulation for transient ad-hoc networks and primitive test beds. Some of the competition is SUN's Jini, Microsoft's Universal Plug and Play, and Xerox's PARC's UbiHome.

Support of Pervasive Application and Devices (Wireless Application Protocol or WAP)

This is an effort to develop an emerging industry standard for Internet style context to mobile users. Currently, 90 members are helping to develop such a standard. An example is EasySabre (airline reservation system with Web-like operation) where software translates html to WAP.


n the opinion of several WTEC panel members, this location understood the panel's objectives most fully. IBM members, particularly the host, Dr. Chevillat, indicated their desires that the academy play an increased role in future oriented, often non-targeted research because most companies are decreasing research operations.


White Paper "IBM Mobile ATM Networking Technology Overview." Version 2, August 1998.

Gfeller, F., and W. Hirt. 1998. "A robust wireless infrared system with channel reciprocity." IEEE Communications Magazine 36 (12).

Published: July 2000; WTEC Hyper-Librarian