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IBM tries to come up with creative ways to help companies jump on the outsourcing train.

IBM has a new idea for business software, which it feels is unique enough that it deserves a patent.  The computer industry giant has filed application for a patent, which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is currently mulling over.  IBM seeks to patent "Outsourcing of Services", which is briefly defined as a "method for identifying human-resource work content to outsource offshore of an organization". 

The patent application, which can be found here, is an attempt to patent the use of computer software to algorithmically analyze a workforce and the various workloads on a company and determine which parts should be cut and outsourced.

The patent application was filed July 12, 2007.

IBM is also seeking to patent a software system for "matching a knowledge worker" with a corporate entity via means including "experience levels, salary, geographic location, job starting date and duration, and industry sector".  The patent application can be viewed here.  The patent has a figure attached which demonstrates its software, which looks like a small calculator.  The figure shows an example of the device displaying the lower costs of dealing with IGSI (Indian) professionals.  IGSI stands for IBM Global Services, India.  The device also seems to be closely connected to outsourcing jobs, as its main purpose appears to be demonstrating to employers that labor can be found far cheaper in non-U.S. locations.

Finally, IBM has at least one more patent in the works.  They currently have an application for a patent for a "System and method of using speech recognition at call centers to improve their efficiency and customer satisfaction".  This application attempts to patent a system for accent reduction in international workers.  The patent's language clearly indicates that it is targeted for situations such as call centers, where a large number of non-native English speakers will be answering calls. 

The patent first propose to electronically transcribe and then provide a digital voice for the caller.  In order to do this IBM proposes using its text transcription system, IBM ViaScribe, developed for hearing-impaired individuals.  Finally, the patent also suggests the speaker take accent reduction classes, such as the programs which IBM offers.

Some may be troubled by the developments that IBM's patents are contributing to the trend of outsourcing technology jobs outside the U.S.  They should not be surprised, however, with the overly broad scope of the applications or of the fact that the applications appear to be for existing or common sense practices. 

There is a long history of tech patents with overly broad language.  There have also been many patents which attempted to patent a well-defined existing technology that already had become common-place in an industry, which the applier was not necessarily the first to develop.  A famous example is Microsoft's 2004 successful attempt to patent the "double-click" (note--their patent only applied to PowerPCs).

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RE: All IBM has to do ....
By Ringold on 10/1/2007 8:05:54 PM , Rating: 1
Further explination:

The free market makes the decision. If low skilled labor internationally can do similar work at lower cost despite high transport costs, then jobs will move overseas.

The labor here, now defined as structurally unemployed, has three options. (a) Remain unemployed (b)Accept underemployment in low-skill jobs (c) A combination of a & b while receiving education/skill training such that one acquires an in-demand skill.

Some sectors of the economy even qualify for some sort of trade-adjustment job training benefit, though that's much more common in Europe.

We get lower inflation, and since ultimately we improve our productivity in response to the competition in the aggregate, our income rises. Wealth creation. Malthus fans need not apply.

Of course, some overpaid individuals, namely union workers, will be protected. They're merely holding back the rest of us, though, and if they're not taking their wages and improving themselves and sending their kids to college, they're fools.

RE: All IBM has to do ....
By sinful on 10/1/2007 11:01:29 PM , Rating: 3
So what happens when one day, goods can be loaded onto huge shipping vessels and shipped overseas cheaply -- negating the "high transport costs" portion of the equation?

And I think it's a little dubious to use terms like "low skill".

If tomorrow the legal system employs video conferencing with lawyers in India, is the legal profession now considered low skill?

RE: All IBM has to do ....
By Ringold on 10/1/2007 11:53:49 PM , Rating: 2
Okay, low skill doesn't seem to apply to lawyers, but it's not that simple. There's reasons why doctors still bother to go to their offices and people to offices; there are tactile skills and.. I don't bloody know, not my field, there would seem to be clear benefits to "live action" but I won't BS a response on that count.

But I would say, no, if an American lawyer can't perform a duty competitively with an Indian counterpart, and the Indian is willing to accept lower pay, then I for one will not shed a tear. On the other hand, you have to keep in mind that wage inflation in India is currently astounding -- which flows beautifully from the idea that as their economy grows and skills shortages develop that wage differences will in the long run equalize, given a certain level of productivity. A similar story is developing in China which is about to, for the first time probably since Mao, feel what it's like to have a massive skills shortage. Not that either nation can produce lawyers of the caliber of a home-grown American with an instrinsic understanding of our society.

Of course, the next frontier is Africa. History moves forward, and trade protectionism has never been anything but a failure. Do you think it could be otherwise now?

RE: All IBM has to do ....
By sinful on 10/3/2007 12:00:43 AM , Rating: 2
Well, right NOW there are reasons for doctors to see patients, but there really isn't any compelling reason it will stay that way.

Let's put it this way: how often do you actually need real, physical contact with a doctor? Would a nurse suffice, with a Doctor video-conferenced in India for a lot of things? Just because it isn't happening now does not mean it won't eventually. I would propose that skyrocketing healthcare costs is going to push this industry out too. Just give it time.

And logically, aren't the high paying jobs going to be the ones that are most prone to outsourcing? Sure, an Indian can go to school for 6 years and become a programmer. But if he can go to school for 6 years and become a lawyer, and the potential pay is 2x as much as a programmer, don't you think that's a huge incentive? I think you seem to be under the illusion that only mindless, tedious jobs are prone to outsourcing. That's not the case. In fact, it's the lucrative, high paying jobs that are going that are the end target.

I do agree that globalization will eventually lead to equalization; The question is, when does that happen, and how long will it take to get there, and is that something we REALLY want?

You seem to be of the view that protectionism is bad. Which is somewhat interesting, when you really think about it.

"Equalization" is more or less just another way of saying "Averaging", is it not?
Doesn't that somewhat imply that the top-end will go down, as the bottom end goes up? In other words, first world countries will (eventually) see a decrease in the quality of life, while the 3rd world countries will see an improvement?

To put it this way: right now, the US (with something like 4% of the world's population) consumes something like 25% of the world's resources. Do you see a potential problem here?
What happens when other countries start demanding the same quality of life / needing the same amount of resources?

Either we're going to have to find vast, vast amounts of new resources, or we cannot possibly consume the same amount we are now.
Put another way: you thought $4/gallon for gasoline is bad, what happens when 2 Billion more people start using gasoline to power their cars as well? Either we're going to have to find massive amounts of oil to keep them satiated, or we're going to have to drastically cut our consumption. (or, perhaps more accurately, watch prices of gasoline skyrocket to $20/gallon).

Explain to me again why protectionism is bad?

RE: All IBM has to do ....
By Hexxx on 10/2/2007 9:21:05 AM , Rating: 2
As a South African embedded software engineer working on firmware for devices with applications as varied as mixing ANFO (mining explosive) and infant life support for our various partners in the US and Australia, I can assure you that not all work that is outsourced is "low skill" as you put it.

RE: All IBM has to do ....
By Ringold on 10/2/2007 1:08:52 PM , Rating: 2
Nor would I describe South Africa in the same terms as, ah, whats the politically correct term these days? A 'transitional economy', such as your northern neighbors. South Africa's GDP is, what, more than all the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa combined? You having that job isn't any more controversial than an American job going to Europe on occasion; not a big deal. Software engineers also aren't unionized; low skill jobs tend to be unionized, and thus the ones making a fuss.

Speaking of those northern neighbors, ya'll really should try to do something about Zimbabwe. It's gone from bad to worse and could go from worse to humanitarian disaster any day now.

RE: All IBM has to do ....
By Hexxx on 10/3/2007 5:19:41 AM , Rating: 2
It's still an example of outsourcing to get the job done for cheaper. The man hours would be less expensive seeing as the cost of living here is cheaper than Europe and the states and our salaries, as a consequence, aren't as high. Making us a prime candidate for outsourced skilled labour. The table at the bottom gives a comparison of the average IT salaries relative to the US and Aus (divide by 7 to get USD):

I can' comment on the figures for the other countries, but for SA those salaries look about right.

With regards to Zimbabwe, unless someone removes Mugabe from power there will be a humanitarian disaster. Unfortunately, I don't see him being removed. Even if he is removed, the situation may have already reached critical mass.

The problem is also cultural, among some of my countrymen (I can't speak for Zim residents), he is seen as a leader. Their reasoning is that leaders are not meant to be questioned. That is why they are leaders. If he says the Western powers are sabotaging the economy, it must be true. He is doing what's best for the people.

It's a sad truth, and a view that I found is shared, to my absolute astonishment, by a few of my relatively well educated colleagues. I don't hold much hope, they may have to hit rock bottom before they can come right again.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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