IBM Fellows

Fellows are the standard-bearers for IBM’s technical and scientific leadership

Blaine Dolph

  • CTO, Apple+IBM Partnership
  • IBM Global Business Services
  • BS Computer Science, Northwestern University

Blaine has always tinkered with computers, back to his first Commodore 64. The master inventor’s latest projects now include building enterprise apps — and kits to build those apps — with Apple.

In his own words

Blaine Dolph

… on sixth-grade engineering inspiration

I remember, when I was about 12 years old, reading a comic book published by RadioShack that showed Superman interacting with a TRS-80 personal computer — it drew me in. And at school, we had Commodore PETs that got me started with BASIC programming language.

My first job at 14 was computer-motivated, too. I washed dishes at a bakery to save up and buy a Commodore 64, which was a really cool computer — it had a full 16 colors! When I finally had the C64, my parents bought me a small TV — the monitor — and I used programming magazines to learn how to code.

… on leading IBM’s development of IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps with Apple

Think about how your life changed after the iPhone launched. You don’t have to use a paper map because you have a map app on your phone that speaks directions. Think about how your children’s lives changed after the iPad launched. Students now learn in a new way. We want to have the same transformative impact on the enterprise user’s life by building iPad and iPhone apps that empower these users.

Last year we built over 100 IBM MobileFirst iOS apps. This year we are taking these apps, building new apps, and integrating them even further with IBM’s strategy, particularly around analytics capabilities with cognitive.

Something else I recently worked on and am excited about is AssemblyKit. It’s a collection of reusable components that you assemble to rapidly build iOS apps. So far, we’re able to build apps for 30 percent less than a traditional custom development effort. We’ve even built AssemblyKit components to make it easy for an iOS developer to harness the power of IBM Cloud platforms. For example, we have a component that talks to The Weather Company services on Bluemix and knows how to draw weather alert boundaries on an Apple Map. The complexity is buried in the component so the iOS developer can use the service in a natural and intuitive way.

And I’m working on another app with our research scientists in Haifa, called WorkRight — a wearable app to monitor a real-time stream of safety-related data that can trigger alerts when something like a change in heart rate, or a sudden altitude change, which might indicate that someone has fallen. Or even when someone forgets to put on a hard hat or a safety vest.

… on keeping a child’s interest in programming

I’ve learned a lot from my four kids. They have all built various things over the years, like Raspberry Pi projects or apps. And when they get an idea, they just jump in and try to figure it out.

In contrast, when a team of adults starts a new project, they often tend to list reasons an idea won’t work. I think it’s important to not get overwhelmed with the obstacles and sometimes turn off that part of your brain that knows too much. Walt Disney once said, as he looked over what he had built with his theme parks and animation studio, “It all started with a mouse.” That’s really inspiring to me because you can start very small, but grow your ideas to have a huge impact on the world.

… on patents from friction

My 18 patents often came from some friction in my daily life, and thinking about how to solve the problem. For example, a few years back I was sitting in a meeting and got a phone call from my manager. I was frustrated that I didn’t know whether the incoming call was urgent enough to leave the meeting. So US patent 8670534 provides a way for the caller to indicate the importance of their call — and you get a text message, indicating that level of urgency, a few seconds prior to the actual call.

… on favorite apps

My current favorite is Duet Display. It lets me extend my Macbook desktop to my iPad Pro screen. I also like Apple Music and Spotify because I can stream Rush’s full catalog of more than 20 albums.

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