Services Innovation Lab strengthens Research

Today, IBM announced an initiative designed to link state-of-the-art IBM Research projects directly to the largest part of the company - services.

The Services Innovation Lab (SIL), led by researchers with development and client experience in virtually every field of science and technology, will bring together researchers and services professionals to generate ideas, solve problems, capture opportunities and create new innovations that will transform services. You can learn more about the SIL here.

IBM Research - Almaden senior manager for services research, Stefan Nusser, has been named Almaden Lead for the SIL. Below, he provides some additional thoughts on the motivations, goals and ideal outcomes.

Stefan's team, composed of researchers with varying expertise - nanotechnology, computational biology, user interaction, computer science, data mining, security and compliance, mathematics, business optimization and more - includes Sandeep Gopisetty, IBM Research Distinguished Engineer, who already has a portfolio of projects in place for the launch of the SIL:
  • Backup and recovery tools to help with the majority of critical situations in the customer environment.
  • Customer environment insights to check the heal and performance, reducing critical situations as well as helping to manage the customer environment more simply.
  • Addressing the management of firmware and patches for hardware.
  • Intelligent performance aware automation for complex storage tasks.
  • Unified policy-based ILM for enterprise storage.
Stay tuned in to the IBM Research news blog to learn more about projects and developments from the SIL.


A Century of IBM Patents

One hundred years ago, on July 25, 1911, IBM received its first patent for an invention related to punched card tabulation (U.S. Patent # 998,631). Since then, IBM inventors have been granted more than 150,000 patents globally for technological creations that have made a lasting impact on business and society.

Patents and innovation are essential components of IBM's business growth strategy, and they have enabled the company to evolve and lead for a century, despite dramatic changes in the IT industry. This commitment to inventing stretches back to the company's early days, when IBM's founder, Thomas Watson Sr., fostered an environment that stimulated a competitive and inventive spirit.

In the 1920s, IBM established its first patent department and the company's patent operation has evolved and expanded into a world-class organization that leverages cutting-edge technology to help manage tens of thousands of patents in its global portfolio. Over the past 18 consecutive years (1993-2010), IBM has received more U.S. patents than any other organization, and the company's inventors received a record 5,896 U.S. patents in 2010.

Patents are valuable assets and help IBM generate around $1 billion in income annually from the licensing and sale of intellectual property, while enabling the company to ensure and protect its freedom of action -- the ability to freely design and market its products and services.

From the punched card tabulation patent IBM received 100 years ago to last year's earthquake patent, and inventions that were patented earlier this week—such as U.S. Patent #7,984,479 for a computer security invention—IBMers have consistently pioneered ways to improve and transform the way we work and live.


Ponder This: A Q&A with puzzle master Oded Margalit

Every month since May 1998, thousands of people match wits with the best minds in IBM Research by trying to solve Ponder This puzzles.

The Ponder This puzzles began as a way for IBM researchers to increase productivity. Some employees found that when they got stuck on a problem, that immersing themselves in solving a completely different type of problem helped get them back on track. Researchers started sharing their most ambitious puzzles, and eventually this evolved into a published monthly challenge — Ponder This.

Oded Margalit, a Machine Learning researcher at the IBM Research — Haifa lab, took on the role of unofficial Ponder This puzzlemaster in February, 2009.

What do you find most interesting about Ponder This?

First and foremost, I love puzzles and have been doing them since I was a little kid. I think Ponder This is a great connection to IBM's "think" motto and a good way to extend IBM to the general public. I also like to imagine all the smart people who work on the puzzles as a potential think tank for future IBM challenges!

Where do you get the puzzles and how do you decide on the level of difficulty?

I generally make them up or use ideas that people submit. Occasionally, we have used puzzles from other sources, but we found that many of our users are already familiar with anything that's been published. The challenge is that our original puzzles haven't been tested.

As far as level, each puzzle is posted for a month before the solution is revealed. Twice, we left a puzzle posted for two months because it was too hard. Other times, the solutions start coming in so quickly that we know it's too easy. But I'm getting the hang of what works.

What is your favorite puzzle?

Every puzzle has a story. The most memorable one for me was a few years ago: one of our regular solvers was hospitalized. When his daughter would visit him, she brought along a Ponder This puzzle. The family used it to help pass the time. He sent in the solution from his bed in the ICU!

Another pair of solvers were inspired by one of our puzzles in their own research. Eventually, their ideas were published in the prestigious Physics Review Letter journal, along with a special citation for Ponder This.

What do you know about your solvers?

The last research I did showed that we have about 2,500 solvers from around the world.

What does the future hold for Ponder This?

We plan to continue, and we welcome new solvers and suggestions. We are also happy to receive suggestions for a significant value — send us a meaningful number and we'll create a puzzle around it.

IBM Centennial puzzles

With a nod to IBM's centennial year, all of the 2011 puzzles are being connected to IBM. The solution to one puzzle, for example, was 77,147 — the number of dollars the computing system Watson won on Jeopardy! May's puzzle was based on bar codes, an IBM Research invention.

Oded adds that he considers the perfect puzzle as being easy to describe yet difficult to solve, and most importantly, that the solution is easy to understand.

"Just look around, anything in the world can be made into a puzzle."

July's puzzle

There are 80 students in a school. Each of them eats fruit for dessert every day, and the available fruits are apples, bananas, and cherries.

Find a possible setting of desserts for 14 days, such that for every set of three students, there exists at least one day in which they all ate different desserts. Please supply your solution as a list of lines, in which each line is 80 characters long and contains the letters A, B, and C.

Check back soon on the Ponder This site for the solution, or sign up for the RSS feed to be notified when it is posted, as well as when new challenges are published.


Inventors' Corner: U.S. Patent #7,877,706 – Controlling a document based on user behavioral signals detected from a 3D captured image stream

This patent describes a technique that enables an individual to use gestures and movements to search the Web or automatically create or update a document, spreadsheet, e-mail, etc.

Similar to the technology used in gaming systems to capture a player's actions or movement, this invention is capable of seeing or detecting certain gestures or movements of computer users, which can be used to interact with a system, instead of relying upon on a keyboard, mouse clicks, or even speaking commands into a microphone connected to a voice recognition system.

The patented method uses one or more cameras to capture three dimensional (3D) user movements and then applies behavioral and movement controls to trigger related document actions, such as opening, editing or finding a document or Web page.

U.S. Patent #7,877,706 was issued to inventors Jacob Albertson, Kenneth Arnold, Steven Goldman, Michael Paolini, and Anthony Sessa.