I am delighted that IBM recently launched Minds of Modern Mathematics, the free iPad app that recreates the remarkable 50-foot infographic on the history of math designed by Charles and Ray Eames.
IBM collaborated with the Eameses to develop the richly illustrated timeline for Mathematica: A World of Numbers…and Beyond, an exhibit that opened at the California Museum of Science and Industry (now the California Science Center) in Los Angeles in 1961. Replicas later traveled to the New York World’s Fair and beyond.
Mathematica’s interactive models illustrating basic math concepts have intrigued visitors at the Museum of Science, Boston since 1981. Children like playing with the Celestial Mechanics machine, releasing steel balls into orbits like those of planets around the sun, while a 12-foot-high Probability Board captivates adults, as it sends plastic balls clattering through a maze of steel pins to form a bell-shaped probability curve. Here is our exhibit:
Tonight IBM will receive the World Environment Center’s Gold Medal, so this week we asked students at the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise to share their views on sustainability (we’ve included a video to show what IBM is doing to make the world smarter). Here’s the final post in the series, from Lawrence Han:
People complain that my generation’s “addiction” to technology will lead us down the path of unsustainability. I think they are wrong. While it is true that my generation, Gen Y (those born after 1980) is the quickest demographic to adopt new computing trends, the advances that we are adopting—mobile, cloud, big data—are intrinsically greener. So, as white-collar Baby Boomers step away from their life in front of a computer, and the new wave of Gen Y workers step forward to take their place, the computing landscape will move to a more energy efficient and sustainable future.
Consider that a decade ago, Baby Boomer households joined the Internet Revolution by purchasing hulking desktop computers. But over the past decade we have seen a shift with laptops overtaking the personal computing market. And that means less energy use—a typical laptop uses 45 watts while your typical energy guzzling desktop computer uses a whopping 100 to 300 watts of electricity.
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.
The companion to this blog, our Smarter Planet site on Tumblr, is what feeds the "Related Discussions Across the Internet" links in the left hand navigation.
As Tumblr aptly describes its platform, if a blog is more like a journal or longer-form discussion format, a "tumblelog" is more like a scrapbook. Posts are brief, multimedia and in our case, cover the waterfront of news, developments, sites, insights and examples of how a smarter planet is emerging. Our goal is to give people a broad feel for what smarter planet means, and how widely it is taking shape.
And now we've i
mplemented a version of the site optimized for mobile devices. So be sure to add http://smarterplanet.tumblr.com/mobile to your iPhone, Blackberry or other device bookmarks.
Of course, this mobile iteration isn't just a convenience for the rapidly growing ranks of mobile internet users. The explosion of web-enabled smartphones and other handheld devices loaded with sensors such as cameras, microphones and GPS chips is one of the most salient signs of the "internet of things" and "ubiquitous computing" that is central to what Smarter Planet is all about.
IBM Global Business Services, Strategic Programs & Social Media Innovation
My colleague Adam Christensen wants to make Smarter Planet something that matters to each of us: something that more people can understand, appreciate and maybe even feel some degree of personal, emotional connection to.
As we expand our social media outreach for Smarter Planet, we will begin to feature and point to other bloggers who are thinking and investigating issues related to intelligent infrastructure. (Please feel free to recommend, via comments here, blogs and sites that we should connect with.)
Here’s one example from the Healthnex blog, on wearable healthcare devices and a home monitering system developed by Intel.
IBM Global Business Services