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Innovation explanations

IBM's best and brightest share insights
into emerging subject areas and technologies

This series showcases some of IBM's brightest thinkers as they share insights into emerging subject areas and technologies. Their thoughts will help to understand the topics–such as smarter cities, the cloud, big data and more–that are changing our world.

Innovation highlighted

Quantum logic and entanglement

Where does computing go after transistors shrink to atomic dimensions? Quantum computing. Qubits. Carbon nanotubes. IBM Research's Dario Gil describes a future that makes us want to get there fast. Read more.

Electrification was one of the greatest achievements of the twentieth century. But now, more than a decade into the next century, electrification and energy in general need to get smarter.

More explanations on other topics


How to squeeze billions of transistors onto a computer chip

For decades, the number of tiny transistors studding integrated circuit chips has doubled every two years. But in recent years the progression has been slowed—some say stopped. Increasing the number of circuits on silicon chips, say critics, has reached its limits. Mukesh Khare, who’s responsible for all semiconductor research at IBM, disagrees and sees a promising future for adding lots more transistors, the minute engines of computation. Read the interview.

Reaching well beyond the resume

Why does one movie concession worker sell more popcorn than others? IBM's Debbie Landers explains how analytics, behavioral science and analyses combine to create a smarter, more dedicated and safer workforce. Read more.

Accidents on the job dropped by two-thirds after we focused on engagement.

Railroads chug down the smart track

Considered by some a smokestack industry, in reality railroads have embraced 21st Century technology and are continuing to become smarter in operations, safety and customer service. Keith Dierkx, IBM’s global leader for railroads explains what’s happened and future possibilities for a network that moves 40 percent of U.S. freight. Read more.

It’s a very innovation-intensive industry, where wheels meet steel.

“It’s a very innovation-intensive industry, where wheels meet steel.”

Perform good deeds with your idle bytes

World Community Grid uses the downtime of thousands of personal computing devices for research that fights diseases and betters the environment. IBM’s Sophia Tu explains how it works and how easy it is to join the project. Read more.

World Community Grid is inspiring researches to think big and tackle research at a scale that never seemed possible before, with incredible results

"World Community Grid is inspiring researches to think big and tackle research at a scale that never seemed possible before, with incredible results"

Tiny sentries to watch over food

David Chambliss is part of a team working on a new approach to food safety. The goal of the multi-year project is to have microbes, some of the very organisms behind many food-borne illnesses, become tiny sentries in the battle for food safety. Read more.

We’re trying to do something that’s never been done before in metagenomics.

“We’re trying to do something that’s never been done before in metagenomics.”

Nataraj Nagaratnam

Security in the age of the cloud

Cloud computing opens up new security issues, but it’s also engaged in securing those issues as well as security problems outside of the cloud. IBM security specialist Nataraj (Raj) Nagaratnam explains how that works and more. Read more.

“The cloud is an opportunity to rethink security.”

“The cloud is an opportunity to rethink security.”

Michael Dixon

The unseen evolution of the smarter city

Cities have been using information technology to improve everything from water management to public safety. Now, explains Michael Dixon, IBM general manager for smarter cities, they are doing more with their technology--and each other. Read more.

I´ve been in hundreds of meetings with clients around the world, and I haven´t had one where someone said, 'We´ve got too much money.' Cities want financial return, and we can deliver it.

Super potential for super power

Graphene, only one atom thick, has lots of amazing properties. But many of them are proving elusive for real world applications. Shu-jen Han, an IBM researcher, tells how his team has demonstrated a graphene circuit that could vastly improve cell phones. Read more.

We made a full circuit—transistor, inductor, capacitor and resistor--all on a single wafer.

Working with more than gut instinct

As the pace of change accelerates and data increases exponentially, gut instinct is no longer enough for good decisions. Brenda Dietrich, an IBM Fellow and vice president, talks about how analytics is helping to make decisions in almost all aspects of modern business and why that’s important.Read more.

The way things work today is not the way things worked five years ago. People have less time to build up experience that will remain relevant.

Watson cooks up computational creativity

The cognitive computing system Watson went to work developing new recipes. But its contributions won’t stop with food. Lead software engineer Florian Pinel says “computational creativity” can be applied to such diverse industries as travel, financial management and manufacturing. Read more.

“We wanted to see if computers could also be creative, instead of just reasoning about the world as it exists.”

Phil Gilbert

From features-first to user-first

Customer expectations for software design have changed drastically over the past few years, and satisfying a list of desired features is no longer enough to gain loyal customers. Phil Gilbert, general manager of IBM Design, says everyone in the development process should make the user their "north star."
Read more.


Opening up the world to everyone

As computers and the Internet become more and more central to daily life, the need for accessibility becomes increasingly important. IBM Fellow and research scientist Chieko Asakawa, herself blind since the age of 14, talks about this vital need.
Read more.

“Accessibility is about enabling human capability through innovation...

I’ll take ‘Business and Medicine,’ Alex

Two years after its resounding victory on Jeopardy! the cognitive computer Watson is hard at work helping cancer treatment and research and engaging customers in new ways. Rob High, an IBM Fellow, vice president and chief technology officer for Watson, relates the details. Read more.

Rajasekar Krishnamurthy on finding water's real cost

Around the world there is a backlog of some $1 trillion worth of water projects. One reason for that log jam is the difficulty in obtaining financing for water projects, in part because no one knows the real cost of water in a given area. Developed by IBM, the Water Cost Index is designed to fill that gap. Rajasekar Krishnamurthy explains how it works and why it’s important. Read more.

“Water is often subsidized in different ways, so it’s difficult, if not impossible to monitor its true cost.”

How can we put 'A Boy and His Atom” to work?

Being able to move individual atoms and switch their magnetic polarity holds great promise for increased computer efficiency and storage, says IBM staff scientist Chris Lutz. Read more.

“For years now, we've been putting more power and more storage on the same size device. If we continue this trend, we'll ultimately come to the level of atoms to accomplish it.”

Matt Berry talks about the growth of mobile technology

Mobile technology is already transforming the way we work, shop and socialize. That trend will only accelerate; soon connected devices will outnumber Earth's population. Matt Berry, director, Demand Generation and Client Experience for IBM MobileFirst, tells what else to expect. Read more.

Dario Gil on smarter energy

Just how broad is the term “smarter energy”? Dario Gil, director of energy and natural resources at IBM Research, explains. It encompasses smart grids that give new versatility to electricity distribution, the emergence of electric vehicles, even more efficient ways to find and extract oil and natural gas. Read more.

Electrification was one of the greatest achievements of the twentieth century. But now, more than a decade into the next century, electrification and energy in general need to get smarter.

David Puzas on preserving reputations

When information technology fails or suffers a security breach, it can cripple production, sales or even accounts payable. But David Puzas, IBM's worldwide marketing executive for enterprise and workplace services, says it can also eviscerate a company's reputation. That's an expensive—and often prolonged—injury.
Read more.

There are so many ways that businesses are trying to touch the marketplace...For organizations that want to take advantage of emerging technologies, the need to do it securely should at least represent table stakes.

Guru Banavar on smarter cities

Already home to more than half of the world’s population, cities are expected to house almost 5 billion people by 2030. Guru Banavar wants to make those cities smarter. As IBM vice president and chief technology officer for the Global Public Sector, he works to make urban areas more efficient, safer and easier to navigate. Read more.

Cities are where the action is. That's where innovation is happening. That's where the opportunities are. The important cities almost ignore national borders. They become their own ecosystems and connect with other cities seamlessly.

Sara Weber on social business

Social media is already going way beyond posting baby pictures on Facebook. Sara Weber, who heads a team that uses emerging technologies to improve the way IBM gets things done, sees a future that will help colleagues find expertise within their organization. Companies will have closer ties to their customers, and human resources departments could be largely automated. Read more.

When I think about social media, I think of a definition coined by Anthony Bradley of Gartner: 'an online environment established for the purpose of mass collaboration.

Chris Dotson on the cloud

The cloud is already ubiquitous thanks to consumer applications like Facebook and Gmail, and it's increasingly critical to business. Chris Dotson, a senior technical staff member in the IBM CIO Security office, discusses different approaches to using the cloud, including security issues. Read more.

The cloud is really a new service consumption model. With the cloud, you only pay for what you use.

Jeff Jonas on big data

What is big data, and what makes it different from regular data? How do organizations deal with it? Jeff Jonas, an IBM Fellow and Chief Scientist of the IBM Entity Analytics Group, goes behind the buzz. Read more.

Data started getting generated faster than organizations could get their hands around it. Then one day you simply wake up and feel like you are drowning in data. On that day, data felt big.

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