Click to listen to podcast: Building a Smarter Planet – Patents
Manny Schecter, IBM Chief Patent Counsel told me that “patents are the currency of innovation.”
Approximately 150,000 U.S. patents are granted to investors each year and for the last 17 years, IBM has received more U.S. patents than any other company in the world. According to IFI Patent Intelligence, in 2009 IBM was issued 4,914 U.S. patents. So IBM is clearly a major player in the world of innovation.
Yet it’s still the case that some don’t know what IBM does. It’s clear based on numbers that IBM is an “innovative” company, sure, but what does IBM invent and why?
What I found out from speaking with Kathryn Guarini and John Gunnels, two IBMers with a number of IBM patents is that, believe it or not, inventors don’t want to spend their time reinventing the wheel to pad their portfolio, they’re looking toward innovation that matters (a company line which I understand better now that I’ve spoken with some true innovators). Guarini, director of Systems and Technology Development for IBM Systems and Technology Group says, “We want to innovate where there is real value. We don’t want to innovate everywhere, all the time.”
Mr. Gunnels is a research scientist in the area of high performance computing. He has worked on several projects and is named on multiple patents related to IBM’s Blue Gene Supercomputer which was awarded the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2009. Blue Gene systems have helped map the human genome, investigate medical therapies, safeguard nuclear arsenals, simulate radioactive decay, simulate brain power, envision financial scenarios, predict weather and climate trends, and identify fossil fuels. And he told me that there have actually been cases where Blue Gene predicts the outcome of an experiment, which were only later verified with an actual experiment.
Several patents have been issued around Blue Gene in 2009, but consider another patent which IBM was issued this year:
U.S. Patent 7,612,655 – “Alarm System for Hearing Impaired Individuals Having Hearing Assistive Implanted Devices”
This patent describes a method for alerting profoundly deaf sleepers to danger, such as fire and carbon monoxide, or to circumstances such as a doorbell, phone call or wakeup alarm. The concept works best for deaf individuals who have cochlear implants. These people typically deactivate their implants when they bathe or sleep for reasons of comfort and safety. They do so by detaching a small device normally worn outside the ear, and which normally functions as a signal transmitter to an implanted component. During sleep or bathing activities, they typically can’t or won’t wear a device that vibrates, nor can they rely on flashing lights to catch their attention. The patented method enables the implanted component to begin buzzing abnormally or stay silent, depending on what occasion for which the user has programmed it to respond.
As an IBMer, it’s a source of job-related pride to see companies like mine investing in something that actually makes a difference for our company and for the world. “Innovation that matters”, not just a catchy slogan or corporate mantra. It is one of our company values. Something we, as IBMers, take pride in and use as inspiration everyday. And I think that the real thing to take away from all the reports on patents and patent leadership is this: a great number of these innovations being patented are helping to make the world safer, cleaner, more efficient and most notably, smarter; for people, societies, and for the world.
To read about more IBM innovations and their impact, see this article from IBM Research.
As you may have noticed from the last post, IBM’s Sam Palmisano visited the Chatham House stage in London today having delivered a speech titled ‘Welcome to the Decade of Smart.’ Throughout tonight (and over the coming days) we will be posting content and links to images and video from the event here, as they become available.
From the post-event materials being distributed:
On January 12, 2010, Samuel J. Palmisano, IBM Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officers, addressed business and civic leaders at Chatham House in London. In his remarks, he described how forward-thinking leaders in business, government and civil society around the world are capturing the potential of smarter systems to achieve economic growth, near-term efficiency, sustainable development and societal progress.
Launch a video of the speech: Sam Palmisano at Chatham House
Launch a video of the Q&A from Chatham House: Q&A from Chatham House
Today, Steve Lohr of the New York Times published a brief article about the speech that takes a look at the past year of Smarter Planet work from IBM.
Paul Glader of the Wall Street Journal published an article today as well that examines aspects of IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative.
Recently I was asked by WBEZ, the Chicago NPR affiliate, to write an essay on a topic or trend from 2009 that I would like to see carried forward “from here on out”.
What I wrote was a condensation of a year of conferences and talks informed by IBM’s Smarter Cities perspective — all with a Chicago bent. It was an interesting and ultimately enjoyable exercise, whittling down a tough subject into something to be read aloud. I’m grateful to NPR for the opportunity and their collaborative editing.
Here’s the link to the transcript and audio on NPR. The actual broadcast, I’m told, will be during All Things Considered on 1/1/2010. Pretty sure the broadcast is Chicago-only.
Here is the original essay, which gives a little more context to my screed.
This past year offered Chicagoans some unique opportunities to consider our collective identity as a city. We looked forward, dreaming of how we might remake the urban space to host the world and its Olympians in 2016. We looked backward, celebrating Burnham’s 100-year-old vision for what the city might become and, perhaps more interestingly, what it never did become. These two events both asked Chicagoans to imagine a city that did not exist, to grapple with a series of what-ifs about the built environment.
And yet, there’s another city — equally intangible — being built even as we move on from the Olympic decision and unrealized bold plans. It is a literal second city, built right atop our architecture of buildings, streets, and sewers. This is the city of data — every bit as complex and vital as our physical infrastructure, but as seemingly unreal (and unrealized) as the what-might-have-beens of Burnham’s Plan and Chicago 2016.
But what is a city of data and why should Chicago care about being one?
IT research firm Gartner notes that by the end 2012, 20% of the (non-video) data on the Internet will originate not from humans but from sensors in the environment. If your eyes just glazed over, let’s look at this from a different angle: if Gartner is right, for every four text messages that a pedestrian sends, the sidewalk she is walking on while doing so is also sending an equivalent amount of data. The city itself is becoming part of the Internet.
This is happening already. The city is increasingly instrumented; nearly everything today can be monitored, measured, and sensed. There are billions of processors embedded in everything from structural girders to running shoes. Millions of radio frequency identification tags turn inanimate objects into addressable resources. The city is immersed in a environment of data continuously built and rebuilt from the lived experiences of its occupants. And yet, this information architecture is hardly planned, much less dreamt about, or celebrated.
Consider the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Congress Parkway, what Burnham envisioned as a grand pedestrian-friendly concourse leading westward towards a towering civic center and eastward to the lakefront. This was never built, of course. (The circle interchange is our civic center, alas.) And yet there’s another built world, equally intangible, an infrastructure of data, overlaid on this intersection.
- Three students surf the web thanks to an open WIFI cloud that leaks out of a local hotel lobby.
- Several GPS units in cars all update with detail about the intersection as they approach.
- Sensors embedded in the water main below the street register a blockage.
- Closed-circuit cameras in three different shops capture the same window shopper as he moves down Michigan towards Randolph.
- An exhausted cyclist’s bike computer uploads his location and energy expenditure as he stops to use his iPhone to log into a Zipcar waiting to take him home.
- The city 311 database is populated with 7 different service requests from the surrounding area, coming from phone and e-mail.
- Taxis criss-cross the intersection as their fare data trails are logged locally and broadcast to dispatch.
- Four different people tweet from different perspectives on the same news crawl that moves across a building’s frontage.
- A bus stops to pick up passengers and bathes them in the glow of the full-color video screen running along its side.
- RFID chips on pallets loaded into building docks beneath the street respond to transducers in the receivers’ doorways.
And on and on. The examples are commonplace, but together they form an infrastructure — or superstructure — a second set of interactions, invisible or barely visible, atop the interactions that we plan for and currently build for. Proprietary, public, local, remote — all manner of data continuously permeates the streetscape. And yet we scarcely think of how it plays a part in the city that we’re building, the city that we want to become.
We don’t dwell on physical city infrastructure much either — unless we’re momentarily captivated by an architectural facade or, more commonly, inconvenienced by some lapse in the expected service. And yet. We’re the city that defines architectural styles for the world, that elevates an urban planner to local celebrity, that engages in a heated debate about the merits of remaking ourselves for the Olympics. From here on out why should we not apply such passion to the next wave of digital infrastructure? It is a decision not to be made lightly or as a thought exercise: how we design our city of information is as vital to quality of life as streets, schools, and job opportunity.
Dan Hill, a leading urban designer in matters digital, notes that we often think of the information landscape like street furniture and road signs, as adornment or a supplement to the physical environment. But fissures in a city’s data infrastructure are as consequential as potholes. They are structural failings of a city at the most basic level, in a way that a busted piece of street art would never be.
Think of cell phone outages — “dark zones” — as potholes in the urban information landscape. Or consider GPS brownouts, such as cause error in bus-tracking when the CTA enters the satellite-blocking skyscraper canyon of the Loop. But these examples are minor compared to the real issue before us: how do we proactively build a city of information that is inclusionary, robust but flexible, and reflective of a city’s unique character?
Our built structures — physical and digital — are manifestations of the patterns of human life in a city. They encode our desires, our needs, and our hopes. In some cases the permanence of the built environment inhibits or works at cross-purposes to these goals. (Think of expressways as barriers to the way people move about neighborhoods.)
We have a unique opportunity to ensure that our digital infrastructure avoids the mistakes of our physical infrastructure, to make Chicago the envy not just of building architects but of information architects.
I suggest two ways to start. To engage in a dialogue about this new built environment — such as we did collectively this summer — our city planners and citizenry need to be at least as conversant with the language of information architecture as we are, at a basic level, about physical architecture. Call it an aesthetics of data. This is as much a matter of becoming aware of what’s happening around us, of figuring out the most elegant ways of making the unseen felt, of thinking of our urban spaces as I described the interactions at Michigan and Congress.
Second, we need to recognize that, while the power of information is the power to connect, every linkage made represents a connection not made or, at worst, a disconnection. (Think again of the unintended effects of expressways on neighborhood mobility.) Our plan for a networked urbanism should seek above all to be maximally enfranchising, lowering barriers to commerce and community.
We must take up this mantle and be active participants in the design of this networked urbanism. We must make our voice heard. From educating our elected representatives about the opportunities before us, to encouraging our youth — who increasingly live in a world of data — to think critically about their role in the urban fabric, we must embrace this challenge with the same passion embodied in our historical tradition of remarkable plans for Chicago.
embedded by Embedded Video
While it seems everyone is focused on Copenhagen starting next week, we thought it was a good time to shed some light on a real-life project underway to use renewable wind energy to power electric vehicles. On the small Danish island of Bornholm, a coalition of government, academia and industry are working on an innovative pilot program – the EDISON Project — that could provide some unique technical insights to help address the challenges of combining renewable energy with EVs.
Copenhagen utility DONG Energy is working with regional energy company of Oestkraft, the Technical University of Denmark, Siemens, Eurisco and the Danish Energy Association, and IBM to develop the system. To the extent allowed by consumer preferences, electric vehicles using the system will be charged when wind is generating excess power. Conversely, the vehicle charging will be slowed or delayed when the wind stops and energy production is diminished.
The goal is to use this small pilot of only about 15 electric vehicles to develop a model for deploying roughly 200,000 wind-powered EVs nationwide by 2020.
Denmark is already a leader in wind power – it produces more than 20 percent of the country’s electric power, with a goal to double it. And roughly half the wind turbines produced worldwide come from Danish manufacturers. The EDISON Project will create a model for letting eco-minded consumers charge their cars with renewable energy while allowing utilities to better absorb and manage wind-generated power.
And Bornholm provides a perfect environment for testing the wind power/electric vehicle project. As an island, its electric power grid is self-contained and isolated, making it easier to manage the project and measure the results.
Developing this project requires more than simply delivering a fleet of electric vehicles to the island and plugging them in. Public and personal charging stations must be installed and integrated into the local grid, and a variety of technologies must be integrated and evaluated.
The first step of the consortium is to develop smart technologies to be implemented on Bornholm. The island has 40,000 inhabitants and an energy infrastructure characterized by a large proportion of wind energy. Creating a test bed on the island will allow researchers to study how the energy system functions as the number of electric vehicles increases. The studies will be simulation-based and will not impact security of supply on the island.
Within the project, researchers from IBM Denmark and from IBM Research – Zurich will develop specialized analytics software to synchronize the charging of the electric vehicles with the availability of wind power in the grid. This includes tasks like governing when and where the EVs can recharge, based on available power and peak demand, and how to bill drivers when they use public recharging stations.
The technology must also address complexities such as balancing load on the grid, eventually allowing the electrical distribution system to use the EVs as supplementary power storage that can contribute electricity back to the grid as needed.
IBM has also contributed a Bladecenter server to the Technical University of Denmark that will be used for large-scale real-time simulations of the energy system and the impact of electric vehicles.
System design for the pilot project began this year, with the first test EVs slated for delivery before year-end. System test and evaluation will proceed in 2010, with a full rollout of EVs and charging stations on Borhholm scheduled for 2011.
Keel Beach, Achill Island, Ireland. Courtesy Giuseppe Peronato.
One of the challenges dedicated surfers face here in the Northeastern part of the U.S. is that great swells are rarely accompanied by good weather. Prime surf season begins once the storms begin to pick up in September and extends through the winter. And while storms bring great swells, they also bring higher ocean pollutants as storm runoff carries bacteria from streets, drains and even sewers down to the beaches. If you want to surf good waves here, it’s something you have to deal with. I even have one particular friend whose ear infections became so frequent his doctor gave him a standing antibiotics prescription. The problem is, one never really knows which beach is safe at any given time.
If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you probably know where this is going. What if we could instrument our beaches with sensors to measure environmental conditions, then use the Internet to connect the sensors and feed that information to consumers in real time. We could be much more informed and better evaluate the risks we are willing to take. Good idea, right?
The government of Ireland thinks so.
As one of the first governments to comply with the European Union’s recently enacted Bathing Water Directive, Ireland’s Environmental Protective Agency has been working with us at IBM to collect and analyze large amounts of complex environmental data from more than 130 of Irelands beaches and lakes. This information is available for the general public at the online portal called, Splash.
While on a much broader scale, the work is similar to the IBM-Galway Bay water management project where we have been attaching solar-powered sensors on buoys in the bay to collect massive amounts of data to help evaluate weather and environmental conditions to aid the local fishing industry. In this case, Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency, IBM and An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland the National Trust for Ireland is collecting data across beaches and lakes with the primary purpose to give citizens accurate, timely information on water quality.
From today’s press release:
The system also enables more efficient reporting by local government authorities and state agencies. Prior to the Splash portal, public reports such as water samples and compliancy with standards were not available until the year after they were collected and created. With Splash, this information is available immediately, in map-based format, and adhering to the requirements of the European 2006 Bathing Water Directive. Ireland is the first of the 27 EU member states to implement this online smarter solution for beach water quality reporting.
One hopes this kind of system is adopted not just by the 26 other EU member states, but by governments around the world. Accurate and current information on water quality will create greater expectations from consumers, which in turn motivates governments to act for greater quality. A benevolent cycle. And the world’s surfers will appreciate it.
Among the many highlights of the Smarter Cities summit we hosted in New York City October 1 and 2, Dr. Denis Cortese’s presentation ranks among the top. As the CEO of the highly esteemed Mayo Clinic, Dr. Cortese has a unique perspective on the state of health care in the United States. Given the prominence of the issue in public debate, I wish there were some way to mandate that every citizen watch his very lucid, very pragmatic 18-minute conversation on how to design a better health care system. You can see the whole thing here by clicking the image below (it will launch a player based on your browser’s preference).
Dr. Denis Cortese, President and CEO, Mayo Clinic Great Expectations for U.S. Health care
On Friday, Irving Wladawsky-Berger published his own lengthy post in response to Dr. Cortese’s presentation:
Dr. Cortese then discussed some of the most important new concepts that should be part of any future healthcare system. The first is personalized medicine. How can you translate new discoveries into incremental value for each individual patient? This involves not just major research advances such as genomics medicine, but also the ability to reach everyone in cases like the H1N1 virus, where untreated people can compromise the health of the whole community.
The second major concept involves the science and engineering of healthcare delivery. Our country invests a lot in medical research, a great portion of which is funded by the National Institute of Health. However, there are no major academic programs focusing on healthcare delivery, the very core of any healthcare system.
We have been trying to build such programs at MIT, and so have other institutions like Georgia Tech and Arizona State University. There is great interest on the part of faculty and students but little funding so far to help organize the efforts. The funding available from the Department of Health and Human Services for such programs is miniscule compared to the funds available for medical research.
We also have to figure out how to measure the value created by the healthcare system we are designing. Value for each patient must be defined in terms of better outcomes, better quality and better service divided by the cost of providing care for that patient. It must be concrete and measurable, otherwise you don’t know how well your system is performing and whether you are getting adequate returns for the money you are spending.
If you can spare the 18 minutes, please take some time to watch the video, then read Irving’s post, explaining more of the framework Dr. Cortese outlined in his presentation.
Below are links to full videos from every session of the New York City Smarter Cities event, in order of the agenda. (These are streaming videos, so click the image and it will launch the default player of your browser).
Sam Palmisano, IBM CEO
Building a Smarter Planet, City by City
Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, New York City
A conversation with Sam Palmisano and Michael Bloomberg, moderated by Dr. Laura Tyson, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley
Ivan Seidenberg, CEO, Verizon Communications
Smarter Cities, Smarter People: Enabling citizens through innovative network technology
Melody Barnes, Director, White House Domestic Policy
Partnering for Smarter Cities: The Federal Role in Supporting Local Innovation
A conversation with Melody Barnes, Sam Palmisano, Ivan Seidenberg, moderated by Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO, Partnership for New York City.
Dr. Denis Cortese, President and CEO, Mayo Clinic
Great Expectations for U.S. Healthcare
A conversation with Dr. Denis Cortese and Garrick Utley, president, The Levin Institute, The State University of New York
Ginni Rometty, senior vice president, IBM
Building a Smarter City
Joseph Hogan, CEO, ABB
A Smarter City Needs Smart Power
A conversation with Ginni Rometty and Joseph Hogan
Culture in the Smarter City. Charlie Rose, Editor and Anchor, Charlie Rose, with Roger Goodell, Commissioner, NFL; Rocco Landesman, Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts; Dr. Reynold Levy, president, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Glenn Lowry, director, The Museum of Modern Art.
Seizing the Opportunity. A panel of mayors, moderated by David Gergen, Harvard University and senior political analyst, CNN, with Mayor Shirley Franklin, Atlanta; Mayor Phil Gordon, Phoenix; Mayor Patrick McCrory, Charlotte; and Mayor Chuck Reed, San Jose.
Dr. Fareed Zakaria, editor, Newsweek International
The Leadership Challenge
A conversation with Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Sam Palmisano, moderated by Dr. Fareed Zakaria
I’m not going to attempt the impossible and succinctly synthesize the entirety of day 1 of the NYC Smarter Cities Summit into one blog post. Instead, keep an eye out over the next few weeks for a series of blog posts delving deeper into the main themes and topics of the Smarter Cities summit. In the meantime, let me at least share the list of presenters and panelists from the first day (in order of appearance) since it isn’t listed anywhere else online:
- Sam Palmisano, IBM CEO
- Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, New York City (announcing his Connected City Initiative)
- Ivan Seidenberg, CEO, Verizon
- Melody Barnes, director, White House Domestic Policy Council
- Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO, Partnership for New York City
- Tom Brokaw (moderator)
- James Douglas, Governor, Vermont and Chair, National Governors Association
- Sonny Perdue, Governor, Georgia
- Richard Ravitz, Lt. Governor, New York
- Elizabeth Roberts, Lt. Governor, Rhode Island
- Dr. Denis Cortese, President and CEO, Mayo Clinic
- Garrick Utley, State University of New York
There’s simply too much valuable content from each presenter to synthesize into a single post. I recommend going through the many good insights shared via Twitter during the event. As video becomes available, we’ll feature it here on the blog.
I did, however, want to point out three big recurring themes I noticed from the day:
- The use of data and analytics to make improvements in a city. These range from driving down crime in New York, to transforming public education in Mobile, Alabama to or managing water resources in Galway, Ireland. On that point, IBM announced a new analytics center based in New York dedicated to looking at the issues facing cities around the world.
- The need for new kinds of public-private partnerships. Every speaker and panelist – from Melody Barnes to Tom Brokaw – touched on how creative public-private partnerships were the key to solving these complex metropolitan issues. But innovation will be required to form these new kinds of partnerships. It’s a tricky balance, and one we’ll need to discuss more in the future on this blog.
- The need for “systems thinking” to solve big macro issues. Dr. Cortese captured it best when he discussed how addressing the challenges nations and cities face with health care requires first a holistic systems thought. Health care, like public safety, transportation or education, requires long-term thinking to understand the broader issues and all the highly complex interdependencies with other systems. Basically, Dr. Cortese said, the health system could use systems engineers.
Much more to come on Day 2. Look out in the morning for a quick preview of the Breakout sessions and other discussions planned tomorrow.
Day 1 of the Smarter Cities Summit is underway right now in New York City. Below is the live conversation. Join in by tagging your tweets with #smartercity, and check back later for an in-depth analysis of Day 1.
Back in June, we at IBM hosted our first large Smarter Cities summit, convening leaders across Europe from the private and public sectors in Berlin to discuss the most pressing issues facing our cities. We heard from mayors, governors and CEOs about how they were charting a smarter future for their cities.
Tomorrow, in collaboration with the Partnership for New York City and the City University of New York, we bring the Smarter Cities Summit to New York City. It’s hard to think of a more appropriate place to explore the opportunities and issues facing the rapid urbanization of society than New York. Consider the following:
- Largest mass transit system in the world
- $60 billion budget
- 330,000 city employees
- 1.19 million students, 90,000 teachers, 1,500 schools
- 40,000 police officers; 14,000 firefighters
- 14 million 911 calls each year
- Largest airline system in the United States
- Second largest city economy in the world (after Tokyo)
Few places are better at seeing the stark challenges and dramatic opportunities for smarter urbanization than in New York City. But this session isn’t really about making New York City smarter. It’s about every city smarter. With that in mind, we are convening mayors, governors, public officials, CEOs, academics and policy makers from across North and South America for working sessions focused on progress in our cities. From the ibm.com description:
Hosted by IBM Chairman and CEO Samuel J. Palmisano, our SmarterCities NYC forum will continue the conversation started in Berlin in June to explore new approaches to regional partnership, identify roadblocks, evaluate frameworks for investment and review the tools that are helping our cities meet 21st century realities. …
As leaders, we all have a vital stake in ensuring that our cities become more resilient, more sustainable and more secure. Indeed, the health of our planet and of society depends on it. Let’s start shaping that future.
Sadly, there aren’t seats to accommodate the world to join us in person. But, thanks to Twitter and this blog, you can join us on this progression. Once the Summit begins around 2 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time, we’ll begin featuring the live #smartercity Twitter stream coming out of the event. As you follow that through the day and into Friday, our hope is you’ll get an idea of some of the ideas, topics and issues being raised in the sessions. Be sure to share your ideas too -the #smartercity feed will be broadcast inside the event for participants to follow along as well.
And keep coming to this blog for a great deal of in-depth commentary and insights synthesizing the ideas from the event itself from many of our smartest urban thinkers.
Finally, the heart of the smarter cities concept is the thinking that a city is really a complex system made up of many other complex, highly interconnected systems. The traffic systems impact energy systems, which impact environmental systems, which impact public health systems and so forth. But can’t lose sight that cities are comprised of individual people. We are the blood that flows through the veins of those systems, with our own perspectives and personal relationships to each facet of a city. Chris Luongo, a colleague at IBM, created the following artistic vignette to illustrate the unique ways these systems come together in the context of a city like New York to form a personal identity. There’s no narration. Just watch, enjoy and think about how the city comes together for you. Share your thoughts as part of the #smartercity conversation.