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Smarter Systems

Matthias Kaiserswerth, Director, IBM Research, Zurich

By Matthias Kaiserswerth

Steve Jobs famously lured John Sculley from a soda pop company to Apple in 1983 by saying, “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?” In today’s business environment, the comparable challenge to a young engineer or computer scientist would be: “Do you want to create the next mobile app that makes your friends look like zombies or do you want to help transform the world of computing?”

That, in fact, is the challenge that we’re issuing today. IBM and ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, have assembled what some call a dream team of scientists to create a next-generation computing system capable of handling the ultimate big data challenge. Our project, called DOME, is a system for handling the deluge of data that will be created by the Square Kilometre Array, a radio telescope made up of more than half a million individual antennas that are to be scattered across southern Africa and Australia. When the SKA is completed in 2024, it is expected to process 14 exabytes of raw data per day. The data collected by the SKA in a single day would take nearly two million years to play back on an iPod.

We’re in the process of recruiting more than a half-dozen PhD.-level students to help staff the project–and we’re staging a virtual job fair to engage prospective employees. If you’re interested and qualified, visit the job fair Web site on March 26 at 5 p.m. Central European Time (Noon US Eastern Time). Only top students with huge ambitions should apply.

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Dr. James Hendler, Professor and Computer Science Department Head, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

By Dr. James Hendler

Every single student in the Department of Computer Science here at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has the potential to revolutionize computing. But with the arrival of Watson at Rensselaer, they’re even better positioned to do so.

Watson has caused the researchers in my field of artificial intelligence (AI) to rethink some of our basic assumptions. Watson’s cognitive computing is a breakthrough technology, and it’s really amazing to be here at Rensselaer, where we will be the first university to get our hands on this amazing system.

With 90 percent of the world’s data generated in the past two years, the ability for people and even traditional computing systems to make sense of this data has grown complex. The addition of Watson to our campus is very timely considering the growth of what some have termed “Big Data.” 

In 1976, Joseph Weizenbaum, a leading computer scientist, wrote a book called Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgement to Calculation, in which he criticized the field of AI for trying to replace human creativity and thought with the power of computers.  He suggested that humans and computers were inherently different, and that trying to get computers to think like humans was an insurmountable task, if it was possible at all.  Continue Reading »

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By Richard Silberman, Writer/Researcher, IBM Communications

During the past year, we’ve profiled nine exceptional “People for a Smarter Planet” who exemplify the spirit of change, innovation, creativity and curiosity that lie at the core of building a smarter planet. They are inventors and researchers, academics and executives, thought leaders, dreamers, risk-takers, pioneers.

These individuals come from a wide range of fields and possess an array of interests and expertise. What they all have in common is a passion for their work and a commitment to make the world a better place.

They include Ruhong Zhou, whose avian flu research may help prevent a global pandemic; Dave Bartlett, IBM’s smarter buildings guru; Bill Reichert, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist with novel advice for entrepreneurs; and sustainability expert Sarah Slaughter.

If you haven’t met them yet, here are nine People for a Smarter Planet you should know.

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December 18th, 2012

Andreas Dummler, Director of Information Systems, ARBURG GmbH + Co KG

By Andreas Dümmler

As one of the world’s leading manufacturers of injection molding machines used to make plastic products, ARBURG GmbH + Co KG is essentially a manufacturer’s manufacturer. We are as committed to smarter manufacturing processes in our own plants as our clients.

One of our foremost priorities is energy efficiency. As a family-owned business, environmental responsibility is a significant part of our culture. We make use of necessary resources, but stay true to a guiding principle to use the most energy efficient production and management systems in our plants as possible. Key tactics in facility engineering and management include the use of geothermal energy, photovoltaic technology, combined heat and power plants, rain water, waste heat from production equipment, and the use of natural ventilation and extraction in our buildings.

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November 8th, 2012

Phil Buckellew, Vice President, IBM Mobile Enterprise

By Phil Buckellew

Being a mobile business used to be straightforward – dishing up a web site for customers and partners to learn more.

But in less than a handful of years, mobile computing has shifted from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘how to get ahead’ proposition. Our devices got smart and being connected and on the go, meant being in-the-know.

Smart phones and tablets now serve every whim and need, enabling people to accomplish virtually anything from almost anywhere, whether it is comparing prices, paying a mortgage, checking on the status of the supply chain, or providing quotes to a business partner. Continue Reading »

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Stephen O'Donnell, CEO, S1NED Ltd.

By Stephen O’Donnell

It has long been recognized that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the single most significant engine of economic growth in both developed and developing economies.   

SMEs account for between 60 and 70 percent of jobs in the 34 countries who are members of the Organization of Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD). In developing countries in particular, programs that encourage entrepreneurship and the development and expansion of business help create political stability and a thriving middle class. An economically successful middle class drives local demand, enabling the entry of larger enterprises that mature the economy and drive the development cycle.

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Linda Sanford, IBM Senior Vice President, Enterprise Transformation

By Linda Sanford

Over the past decade, IBM has taken a systematic approach to transformation and has dramatically reshaped the company.

Since I’ve been helping lead that effort, I’m often asked by clients for advice on how to transform successfully. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but there are a few things that most organizations can start doing to create a smarter enterprise. It all starts with creating a movement.

Create a movement. In the age of the social network, employees expect to be part of the process. Mandates from the top aren’t sufficient. Continue Reading »

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November 1st, 2012

Charlotte Davies, Crime Analyst, Environmental Investigation Agency

By Charlotte Davies

From tracking the illegal trading of ozone-depleting substances, to helping law enforcement agencies stop the trade of endangered big cats in Asia, data analytics increasingly is being used to fight environmental crime. Much like organized crime, environmental crime can be localized or global. Left unchecked, it can threaten biodiversity and species’ survival on a global level. 

Part of my mission as a crime analyst is to assist the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in protecting the last of Asia’s endangered big cats — including the tiger, leopard, snow leopard and clouded leopard — which currently face various threats including habitat degradation, prey decline and poaching for their skin and bones. Using data analytics, my ability to track the illegal trade is now easier.

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David Lee, Executive Partner, IBM Global Business Services, Ireland

By David Lee

Internal combustion engines fueled by petroleum continue to power the vast majority of vehicles around the world and continue to produce the largest percentage of CO2 from the transportation sector.

Since transportation is one of the largest sectors in Europe, it’s no wonder the mission of the European Green Cars Initiative is to support research and development on technologies that help advance such things as renewable, non-polluting energy, transportation safety, and traffic flow. In other words, the group’s objective is to help create a smarter, greener, integrated transport system.

As part of this effort is a campaign to increase the number of electric cars on our roads.

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Ever since his grad student days at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Amir Ronen, now a scientist at IBM Research -  Haifa, has been thinking about the intersection of game theory and computer science. In fact, he’s one of the leaders in a sub-discipline, called algorithmic game theory, which lies at the intersection of the two fields.

Ronen believes that this line of thinking could lead to important breakthroughs that will help us improve everything from transportation systems in cities to environmental protection regimes.  “I’m dreaming of an ultimate game theory engine–a miracle engine that helps us make better decisions,” he says.

He is one of six scientists who recently received the prestigious Godel Prize, which is awarded each year  by the Association for Computing Machinery for academic papers what contribute significantly to scholarship concerning algorithms and computing theory. The ACM cited Ronen and his co-author, Noam Nisan, along with the authors of two other papers, for laying the foundation for growth in algorithmic game theory.

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