Turbotodd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘ibm research’ Category

Big Moves In Big Data: IBM New Data Acceleration, Hadoop Capabilities

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IBM just announced new technologies designed to help companies and governments tackle Big Data by making it simpler, faster and more economical to analyze massive amounts of data. New data acceleration innovation results in as much as 25 times faster reporting and analytics.

Click to enlarge. IBM just announced new technologies designed to help companies and governments tackle Big Data by making it simpler, faster and more economical to analyze massive amounts of data. New data acceleration innovation results in as much as 25 times faster reporting and analytics.

IBM made a significant announcement earlier today concerning new technologies designed to help companies and governments tackle Big Data by making it simpler, faster and more economical to analyze massive amounts of data. The new data acceleration innovation results in as much as 25 times faster reporting and analytics.

Today’s announcement, which represents the work of hundreds of IBM developers and researchers in labs around the world, includes an industry-first innovation called “BLU Acceleration,” which combines a number of techniques to dramatically improve analytical performance and simplify administration.

Also announced was the new IBM PureData System for Hadoop, designed to make it easier and faster to deploy Hadoop in the enterprise. Hadoop is the game-changing open-source software used to organize and analyze vast amounts of structured and unstructured data, such as posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, online transaction records, and cell phone location data.

The new system can reduce from weeks to minutes the ramp-up time organizations need to adopt enterprise-class Hadoop technology with powerful, easy-to-use analytic tools and visualization for both business analysts and data scientists.

In addition, it provides enhanced Big Data tools for monitoring, development and integration with many more enterprise systems.

IBM Big Data Innovations: More Accessible, Enterprise-ready 

As organizations grapple with a flood of structured and unstructured data generated by computers, mobile devices, sensors and social networks, they’re under unprecedented pressure to analyze much more data at faster speeds and at lower costs to help deepen customer relationships, prevent threat and fraud, and identify new revenue opportunities.

BLU Acceleration enables users to have much faster access to key information, leading to better decision-making. The software extends the capabilities of traditional in-memory systems — which allows data to be loaded into Random Access Memory instead of hard disks for faster performance — by providing in-memory performance even when data sets exceed the size of the memory.

During testing, some queries in a typical analytics workload were more than 1000 times faster when using the combined innovations of BLU Acceleration.

Innovations in BLU Acceleration include “data skipping,” which allows the ability to skip over data that doesn’t need to be analyzed, such as duplicate information; the ability to analyze data in parallel across different processors; and greater ability to analyze data transparently to the application, without the need to develop a separate layer of data modeling.

Another industry-first advance in BLU Acceleration is called “actionable compression,” where data no longer has to be decompressed to be analyzed.

Not IBM’s First Big Data Rodeo

The new offerings expand what is already the industry’s deepest portfolio of Big Data technologies and solutions, spanning software, services, research and hardware. The IBM Big Data platform combines traditional data warehouse technologies with new Big Data techniques, such as Hadoop, stream computing, data exploration, analytics and enterprise integration, to create an integrated solution to address these critical needs.

IBM PureData System for Hadoop is the next step forward in IBM’s overall strategy to deliver a family of systems with built-in expertise that leverages its decades of experience reducing the cost and complexity associated with information technology.

This new system integrates IBM InfoSphere BigInsights, which allows companies of all sizes to cost-effectively manage and analyze data and add administrative, workflow, provisioning and security features, along with best-in-class analytical capabilities from IBM Research.

Today’s announcement also includes the following new versions of IBMs Big Data solutions:

  • A new version of InfoSphere BigInsights, IBM’s enterprise-ready Hadoop offering, which makes it simpler to develop applications using existing SQL skills, compliance security and high availability features vital for enterprise applications. BigInsights offers three entry points: free download, enterprise software and now an expert integrated system, IBM PureData System for Hadoop.
  • A new version of InfoSphere Streams, unique “stream computing” software that enables massive amounts of data in motion to be analyzed in real-time, with performance improvements, and simplified application development and deployment.
  •  A new version of Informix including TimeSeries Acceleration for operational reporting and analytics on smart meter and sensor data.

Pricing and Availability 

All offerings are available in Q2, except the PureData System for Hadoop, which will start shipping to customers in the second half 2013. Credit-qualified clients can take advantage of simple, flexible lease and loan packages with no up-front payments for the software and systems that deliver a new generation of data analytics.

IBM Global Financing offers attractive leasing programs with 90-day payment deferrals for the PureData System for Hadoop, as well as zero percent loans for the broader portfolio of IBM big data solutions.

Talk To The Mannequin Middleman

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Middlemen have gotten a pretty bad wrap since the Internet came along.

First, it was the travel agents, who were one of the first to be “disintermediated” by sites like Expedia, Orbitz, etc. Why hire a person to do what a computer and network could do?

Although it turns out it wasn’t quite that easy, as we later discovered, and nearly 20 years later there are still travel agents, but they’ve evolved and often moved up the value stack in terms of their offerings. (As an example, whenever I book a scuba diving trip, I typically now use an exclusive provider of scuba vacation travel, and they’ve served me quite well…although, sigh, it’s been far too long since I went diving!)

At IBM, we’re only supposed to employ our American Express travel agents when we’re traveling overseas.  I, personally, don’t mind using our Online Travel Reservation system for planning my travel, but that Web-based system has never been the same as talking to a really good Amex travel agent, and it certainly has never made me laugh.

So this story in The New York Times caught my eye, which explains how e-commerce companies are “bypassing” the middlemen in a variety of e-commerce verticals.

From eyeglasses to office supplies to bedding to nail polish to shaving supplies, there are host of “smarter commerce” e-commerce ventures popping up that are “controlling the supply chain,” providing products and services to end consumers at lower costs than many big retailers while pocketing the disintermediated profits.

But before you leap headlong into a Web server (which, let’s be frank, could hurt!), let’s not forget that physical presence still matters.

CNBC reports that “what’s old is new again” for some e-commerce retailers, outlining that a “growing number of online retail companies are setting up physical stores” in response to trends like “showrooming,” whereby consumers do in-store flybys only to later make a purchase online.

IBM vice president and global retail leader Jill Puleri was quoted in the story with this observation: “If there’s one thing showrooming teaches us, it’s that consumers still want to see what they are buying in person.”

It goes on to cite data from IBM suggesting that “50 percent of online sales were generated after consumers first browesed offline.”

So what’s next? One could easily envision pop-up stores emerging in highly-trafficked areas around the world: airports, train stations, even shopping malls, where consumers could “touch and feel” the merchandise and then get incented to go and make an actual purchase online.

Now if they could just figure out a way to make those in-store mannequins just a little less creepy.

IBM Opens Lab To Bring R&D To The CEO

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One of the things we heard about extensively during our time on the ground at SXSW Interactive 2013 in Austin over the past week was the importance of the customer experience.

Whether that be in applications in mobile devices, in customer service via the social media, the physical experience of a brand’s product or service…the customer experience rules!

And this anecdotal data is supported by IBM’s own research, including last year’s Global CEO Study, which queried 1,700 CEOs from 64 countries and 18 industries and found that CEOs are changing the nature of work by adding a powerful dose of openness, transparency, and employee empowerment to the command-and-control ethos that has characterized the modern corporation for more than a century.

The study revealed that the advantages of this fast-moving trend are clear: Companies that outperform their peers are 30 percent more likely to identify openness — often characterized by a greater use of social media as a key enabler of collaboration and innovation — as a key influence on their organization.

Those “outperformers” are also embracing new models of working that tap into the collective intelligence of an organization and its networks to devise new ideas and solutions for increased profitability and growth.

In order to forge those closer connections with customers, partners, and a new generation of employees in the future, CEOs plan to shift their focus from using e-mail and the phone as primary communication vehicles to using social networks as a new path for direct engagement. And while social media is the least utilized of all customer interaction methods today, it stands to become the number two organizational engagement method within the next five years, a close second to face-to-face interactions.

Big Data, Big Opportunity

Given the data explosion being witnessed by many organizations, CEOs also recognized the need for more sophisticated business analytics to mine the data being tracked online, on mobile phones and social media sites. The traditional approach to understanding customers better has been to consolidate and analyze transactions and activities from across the entire organization. However, to remain relevant, CEOs must piece together a more holistic view of the customer based on how he or she engages the rest of the world, not just their organization.

The ability to drive value from data is strongly correlated with performance. Outperforming organizations are twice as good as underperformers at accessing and drawing insights from data. Outperformers are also 84 percent better at translating those insights into real action.

From Theory to Action

To this end, IBM today announced the creation of the IBM Customer Experience Lab, dedicated to helping business leaders transform the way customers experience their products, services and brands through the use of mobile, social, cloud and advanced analytics technologies.

IBM Research scientists and business consultants will co-create with clients to deliver systems that learn and personalize the experiences of each individual customer, identify patterns, preferences and create context from Big Data, and drive scale economics.

The IBM Customer Experience Lab will provide CEOs, CMOs, CFOs, heads of sales and other C-suite executives direct access to a virtual team of 100 researchers, supported by the deep industry and domain expertise of thousands of IBM business consultants addressing the opportunities of the digital front office.

In the new age of Big Data and analytics, organizations are reassessing how to move from addressing mass audiences to personalized relationships. The same technologies allow enterprises to engage in new ways with their employees, allow government agencies to build new relationships with citizens, or enable new models of interaction among students and educational institutions.

IBM Research is developing technology assets and capabilities that can help deliver front office capabilities as a service from a cloud, design novel products to match customer preferences, and leverage math and psychological theories of personality to improve marketing effectiveness.
Client Engagements

The Lab focuses on innovation breakthroughs in three primary areas:

  • Customer insight. Applying advanced capabilities such as machine learning and visual analytics to predict differences in individual customer behavior across multiple channels.
  • Customer engagement. Using deep customer engagement to drive insight and continuously deliver value by personalizing engagement, versus transactional experiences.
  • Employee engagement. Embedding semantic, collaborative, and multimedia technologies to foster employee engagement and insight – in person and online.

Among the clients engaged with IBM on advancing their innovation process are Nationwide Building Society, the world’s largest building society serving 15 million members in the United Kingdom, and Banorte, one of the largest banks in Mexico with more than 20 million customers.

“Mobile and social technologies, and the ability to access information anytime, anywhere, is driving significant change in the way consumers bank and in the services they expect,” said Martin Boyle, Divisional Director of Transformation, Nationwide Building Society. “Our ability to innovate and anticipate, and not just respond, is what sets us apart from the competition and helps us to provide our customers with new and better ways to do business with us. By partnering with IBM, we can tap into its vast research and innovation expertise and facilities, which has already proved invaluable in our transformation program and will continue to be an important part in how we continue to innovate our service for customers.”

New Tools and Capabilities

The Lab provides IBM clients with an innovation process, assets and platform to give line of business leaders the exclusive ability to work side-by-side with IBM researchers and business consultants to analyze business challenges and jointly create solutions that integrate next-generation mobile, social, analytics and cloud technologies.

Co-creation with clients includes an innovation model called Innovation Discovery Workshops, which generate ideas, roadmaps, prototypes and solutions that draw on research assets, business consulting and IBM Software solutions in areas such as Smarter Commerce, Big Data, analytics, and Mobile First products.

The IBM Customer Experience Lab will be headquartered at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., supported by researchers at IBM’s 12 global labs including Africa, Brazil, California, China, India, Israel, Japan, Switzerland, and Texas.

The Lab brings together skills across disciplines including service science, industries research, mathematics and business optimization, social, mobile, Smarter Commerce, data mining, cloud computing, security and privacy, cognitive computing and systems management. IBM invests more than $6 billion annually on research and development and employs about 3,000 researchers worldwide. IBM Global Business Services deploys business consulting, applications and delivery expertise globally, including market-leading business analytics, Smarter Commerce, mobility and applications management practices.

Visit here for more information about the IBM Customer Experience Lab, and follow IBM’s innovation breakthroughs on Twitter at @IBMResearch.

Dr. Watson Finds Bedside Manner

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Back in September of 2011 I mentioned in this blog post that one of Watson’s first jobs outside of playing Jeopardy! was going to be in the healthcare industry.

Well, earlier today WellPoint, Inc. and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center today unveiled the first commercially developed Watson-based cognitive computing breakthroughs.

These innovations stand alone to help transform the quality and speed of care delivered to patients through individualized, evidence based medicine.

Check out this short video to learn more about how physicians and other medical professionals are able to use IBM’s Watson technology to help them with their medical diagnostic tasks.

The American Cancer Society projects that 1.6 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year alone.  Studies suggest that the complexities associated with healthcare have caused one in five health care patients to receive a wrong or incomplete diagnosis.

These statistics, coupled with a data explosion of medical information that is doubling every five years, represents an unprecedented opportunity for the health care industry and next generation cognitive computing systems, to combine forces in new ways to improve how medicine is taught, practiced and paid for.

For more than a year now, IBM has partnered separately with WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering to train Watson in the areas of oncology and utilization management.

During this time, clinicians and technology experts spent thousands of hours “teaching” Watson how to process, analyze and interpret the meaning of complex clinical information using natural language processing, all with the goal of helping to improve health care quality and efficiency.

“IBM’s work with WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center represents a landmark collaboration in how technology and evidence based medicine can transform the way in which health care is practiced,” said Manoj Saxena, IBM General Manager, Watson Solutions (see my interview with Manoj at last fall’s InterConnect event in Singapore further down in the post).

“These breakthrough capabilities bring forward the first in a series of Watson-based technologies, which exemplifies the value of applying big data and analytics and cognitive computing to tackle the industries most pressing challenges.”

Evidence Based Medicine: Addressing Oncology Issues By Quickly Assimilating Massive Amounts Of Medical Information

To date, Watson has ingested more than 600,000 pieces of medical evidence, two million pages of text from 42 medical journals and clinical trials in the area of oncology research.

Watson has the power to sift through 1.5 million patient records representing decades of cancer treatment history, such as medical records and patient outcomes, and provide to physicians evidence based treatment options all in a matter of seconds.

In less than a year, Memorial Sloan-Kettering has immersed Watson in the complexities of cancer and the explosion of genetic research which has set the stage for changing care practices for many cancer patients with highly specialized treatments based on their personal genetic tumor type.

Starting with 1,500 lung cancer cases, Memorial Sloan-Kettering clinicians and analysts are training Watson to extract and interpret physician notes, lab results and clinical research, while sharing its profound expertise and experiences in treating hundreds of thousands of patients with cancer.

“It can take years for the latest developments in oncology to reach all practice settings. The combination of transformational technologies found in Watson with our cancer analytics and decision-making process has the potential to revolutionize the accessibility of information for the treatment of cancer in communities across the country and around the world,” said Craig B.Thompson, M.D., President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “Ultimately, we expect this comprehensive, evidence-based approach will profoundly enhance cancer care by accelerating the dissemination of practice-changing research at an unprecedented pace.”

The Maine Center for Cancer Medicine and WESTMED Medical Group are the first two early adopters of the capability. Their oncologists will begin testing the product and providing feedback to WellPoint, IBM and Memorial Sloan-Kettering to improve usability.

Speeding Patient Care Through WellPoint’s Utilization Management Pilot

Throughout WellPoint’s utilization management pilot, Watson absorbed more than 25,000 test case scenarios and 1,500 real-life cases, and gained the ability to interpret the meaning and analyze queries in the context of complex medical data and human and natural language, including doctors notes, patient records, medical annotations and clinical feedback.

In addition, more than 14,700 hours of hands-on training was spent by nurses who meticulously trained Watson. Watson continues to learn while on the job, much like a medical resident, while working with the WellPoint nurses who originally conducted its training.

Watson started processing common, medical procedure requests by providers for members in WellPoint affiliated health plans in December, and was expanded to include five provider offices in the Midwest. Watson will serve as a powerful tool to accelerate the review process between a patient’s physician and their health plan.

“The health care industry must drive transformation through innovation, including harnessing the latest technology that will ultimately benefit the health care consumer,” said Lori Beer, WellPoint’s executive vice president of Specialty Businesses and Information Technology. “We believe that WellPoint’s data, knowledge and extensive provider network, combined with the IBM Watson technology and Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s oncological expertise can drive this transformation.”

Watson-Powered Health Innovations

As a result, IBM, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and WellPoint are introducing the first commercially based products based on Watson. These innovations represent a breakthrough in how medical professionals can apply advances in analytics and natural language processing to “big data,” combined with the clinical knowledge base, including genomic data, in order to create evidence based decision support systems.

These Watson-based systems are designed to assist doctors, researchers, medical centers, and insurance carriers, and ultimately enhance the quality and speed of care.  The new products include the Interactive Care Insights for Oncology, powered by Watson, in collaboration with IBM, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and WellPoint.

The WellPoint Interactive Care Guide and Interactive Care Reviewer, powered by Watson, designed for utilization management in collaboration with WellPoint and IBM.

New Interactive Care Insights for Oncology  

  • The cognitive systems use insights gleaned from the deep experience of Memorial Sloan-Kettering clinicians to provide individualized treatment options based on patient’s medical information and the synthesis of a vast array of updated and vetted treatment guidelines, and published research.
  • A first of-its-kind Watson-based advisor, available through the cloud, that is expected to assist medical professionals and researchers by helping to identify individualized treatment options for patients with cancer, starting with lung cancer.
  • Provides users with a detailed record of the data and information used to reach the treatment options. Oncologists located anywhere can remotely access detailed treatment options based on updated research that will help them decide how best to care for an individual patient.

New WellPoint Interactive Care Guide and Interactive Care Reviewer 

  • Delivers the first Watson-based cognitive computing system anticipated to streamline the review processes between a patient’s physician and their health plan, potentially speeding approvals from utilization management professionals, reducing waste and helping ensure evidence-based care is provided.
  • Expected to accelerate accepted testing and treatment by shortening pre-authorization approval time, which means that patients are moving forward with the first crucial step toward treatment more quickly.
  • Analyzes treatment requests and matches them to WellPoint’s medical policies and clinical guidelines to present consistent, evidence-based responses for clinical staff to review, in the anticipation of providing faster, better informed decisions about a patient’s care.
  • WellPoint has deployed Interactive Care Reviewer to a select number of providers in the Midwest, and believes more than 1,600 providers will be using the product by the end of the year.

Watson: Then and Now

The IBM Watson system gained fame by beating human contestants on the television quiz show Jeopardy! almost two years ago. Since that time, Watson has evolved from a first-of-a-kind status,  to a commercial cognitive computing system gaining a 240 percent improvement in system performance,  and a reduction in the system’s physical requirements by 75 percent and can now be run on a single Power 750 server.

The transformational technology, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, was developed in IBM’s Research Labs. Using advances in natural language processing and analytics, the Watson technology can process information similar to the way people think, representing a significant shift in the ability for organizations to quickly analyze, understand and respond to vast amounts of Big Data.

The ability to use Watson to answer complex questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence has enormous potential to improve decision making across a variety of industries from health care, to retail, telecommunications and financial services.

For more information on IBM Watson, please visit www.ibmwatson.com.

You can also follow Watson on Facebook here, and via Twitter at hashtag #IBMWatson.

And below, you can see the aforementioned video where I interviewed IBM Watson general manager Manoj Saxena about Watson’s future at last year’s IBM InterConnect event.

Ooh Ooh That Smell — IBM’s 2012 “5 in 5″: Innovations Of The Senses

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IBM released its annual “5 in 5″ list yesterday, the seventh year in a row whereby IBM scientists identify a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years.

The IBM 5 in 5 is based on market and societal trends, as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s R&D labs around the world. This year, the 5 explores innovations that will be underpinnings of the next era of computing, what IBM has described as “the era of cognitive systems.”

This next generation of machines will learn, adapt, sense, and begin to experience the world as it really is, and this year’s predictions focus on one element of the this new era: The ability of computers to mimic the human senses — in their own manner, to see, smell, touch, taste and hear.

But before you try and spoon-feed your iPad some vanilla yogurt, let’s get more practical.

These new sensing capabilities will help us become more aware, productive, and help us think — but not do our thinking for us.

Rather, cognitive systems will help us see through and navigate complexity, keep up with the speed of information, make more informed decisions, improve our health and standard of living, and break down all kinds of barriers — geographical, language, cost, even accessibility.

Now, on to our five senses.

1) Touch: You will be able to touch through your phone.  Imagine using your smartphone to shop for your wedding dress and being able to feel the satin or silk of the gown, or the lace on the veil, from the surface on the screen. Or to feel the beading and weave of a blanket made by a local artisan half way around the world. In five years, industries like retail will be transformed by the ability to “touch” a product through your mobile device.

IBM scientists are developing applications for the retail, healthcare and other sectors using haptic, infrared and pressure sensitive technologies to simulate touch, such as the texture and weave of a fabric — as a shopper brushes her finger over the image of the item on a device screen. Utilizing the vibration capabilities of the phone, every object will have a unique set of vibration patterns that represents the touch experience: short fast patterns, or longer and stronger strings of vibrations. The vibration pattern will differentiate silk from linen or cotton, helping simulate the physical sensation of actually touching the material.

2) Sight: A pixel will be worth a thousand words. We take some 500 billion photos a year, and 72 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. But computers today only understand pictures by the text we use to tag or title them; the majority of the information — the actual content of the image — is a mystery.

In the next five years, systems will not only be able to look at and recognize the contents of images and visual data, they will turn the pixels into meaning, making sense out of it similar to the way a human views and interprets a photographs. In the future, “brain-like” capabilities will let computers analyze features such as color, texture patterns or edge information and extract insights from visual media, having a potentially huge impact on industries ranging from healthcare to retail to agriculture.

But please, no Escher drawings, at least for now…that’s just plain mean.

3) Hearing: Computers will hear what matters.  Ever wish you could make sense of all the sounds around you and be able to understand what’s not being said? Within five years, distributed systems of clever sensors will detect elements of sound such as sound pressure, vibrations and sound waves at different frequencies.

It will interpret these inputs to predict when trees will fall in a forest or when a landslide is imminent. Such a system will “listen” to our surroundings and measure movements, or the stress in a material, to warn us if danger lies ahead.

I’m ever hopeful such systems will be able to “listen” to my golf swing and help me course correct so I can play more target golf!

4) Taste: Digital taste buds will help you to eat smarter. What if we could make healthy foods taste delicious using a different kind of computing system built for creativity? IBM researchers are developing a computing system that actually experiences flavor, to be used with chefs to create the most tasty and novel recipes. It will break down ingredients to their molecular level and blend the chemistry of food compounds with the psychology behind what flavors and smells humans prefer.

By comparing this with millions of recipes, the system will be able to create new flavor combinations that pair, for example, roasted chestnuts with other foods such as cooked beetroot, fresh caviar, and dry-cured ham.

“Top Tasting Computer Chefs,” anyone?

5) Smell: Computers will have a sense of smell. During the next five years, tiny sensors embedded in your computer or cell phone will detect if you’re coming down with a cold or other illness. By analyzing odors, biomarkers and thousands of molecules in someone’s breath, doctors will have help diagnosing and monitoring the onset of ailments such as liver and kidney disorders, asthma, diabetes, and epilepsy by detecting which odors are normal and which are not.

Already, IBM scientists are sensing environment conditions to preserve works of art, and this innovation is starting to be applied to tackle clinical hygiene, one of the biggest healthcare challenges today. In the next five years, IBM technology will “smell” surfaces for disinfectants to determine whether rooms have been sanitized. Using novel wireless mesh networks, data on various chemicals will be gathered and measured by sensors, and continuously learn and adapt to new smells over time.

Watch the video below to listen to IBM scientists describe some of these new innovations and their potential impact on our world.

Written by turbotodd

December 18, 2012 at 7:35 pm

From Lab To Fab: Silicon Nanophotonics Arrives In A Nanosecond

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Angled view of a portion of an IBM chip showing blue optical waveguides transmitting high-speed optical signals and yellow copper wires carrying high-speed electrical signals. IBM Silicon Nanophotonics technology is capable of integrating optical and electrical circuits side-by-side on the same chip.

Angled view of a portion of an IBM chip showing blue optical waveguides transmitting high-speed optical signals and yellow copper wires carrying high-speed electrical signals. IBM Silicon Nanophotonics technology is capable of integrating optical and electrical circuits side-by-side on the same chip.

It’s Monday, and here in Austin, Texas, it officially got cold overnight.

Yesterday, it was partly cloudy and almost steamy warm. And this morning, it’s like I was transplanted back to IBM’s Somers, New York, location, where the wind streams across the Westchester landscape and chills native Texans like me to their core.

But enough talk about the weather. I want to get to the topic of the day: Making little things that move information faster.

Earlier today, IBM announced a major advance in the ability to use light instead of electrical signals to transmit information for future computing.

The breakthrough technology — called “silicon nanophotonics” — allows the integration of different optical components side-by-side with electrical circuits on a single silicon chip using, for the first time, sub-100nm semiconductor technology.

Silicon nanophotonics takes advantage of pulses of light for communication and provides a super highway for large volumes of data to move at rapid speeds between computer chips in servers, large data centers, and supercomputers, thus alleviating the limitations of congested data traffic and high-cost traditional interconnects.

Big Light, Bigger Data

The amount of data being created and transmitted over enterprise networks continues to grow due to an explosion of new applications and services.

Silicon nanophotonics, now primed for commercial development, can enable the industry to keep pace with increasing demands in chip performance and computing power. Businesses are entering a new era of computing that requires systems to process and analyze, in real-time, huge volumes of information known as “big data.”

Silicon nanophotonics technology provides answers to big data challenges by seamlessly connecting various parts of large systems, whether few centimeters or few kilometers apart from each other, and move terabytes of data via pulses of light through optical fibers.

Building Proof Beyond Concept

Building on its initial proof of concept in 2010, IBM has solved the key challenges of transferring the silicon nanophotonics technology into the commercial foundry.

By adding a few processing modules into a high-performance 90nm CMOS fabrication line, a variety of silicon nanophotonics components such as wavelength division multiplexers (WDM), modulators, and detectors are integrated side-by-side with a CMOS electrical circuitry.

As a result, single-chip optical communications transceivers can be manufactured in a conventional semiconductor foundry, providing significant cost reduction over traditional approaches.

IBM’s CMOS nanophotonics technology demonstrates transceivers to exceed the data rate of 25Gbps per channel. In addition, the technology is capable of feeding a number of parallel optical data streams into a single fiber by utilizing compact on-chip wavelength-division multiplexing devices.

Learning More About Nanophotonics

The ability to multiplex large data streams at high data rates will allow future scaling of optical communications capable of delivering terabytes of data between distant parts of computer systems.

“This technology breakthrough is a result of more than a decade of pioneering research at IBM,” said Dr. John E. Kelly, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research. “This allows us to move silicon nanophotonics technology into a real-world manufacturing environment that will have impact across a range of applications.”

Further details will be presented this week by Dr. Solomon Assefa at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) in the talk titled, “A 90nm CMOS Integrated Nano-Photonics Technology for 25Gbps WDM Optical Communications Applications.”

You can learn more about IBM silicon integrated nanophotonics technology here.

Written by turbotodd

December 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Think Small: IBM Researchers Demonstrate Carbon Nanotubes, Potential Silicon Successors

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Since I posted about Hurricane Sandy earlier in the day, I’ve seen some pretty stunning pictures and video coming in, and heard more reports from friends in and around the New York City area.

The story of the crane toppling over on a very tall building being built on West 57th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues (my old IBM office is at Madison and 57th, further east) was most stunning. You can find some of the pics or video on CNN.

While we wait to discover how big a problem Sandy presents to the northeast Atlantic coast, I’ll share with you a diversion focusing on a much smaller topic — but one with potentially huge implications.

IBM scientists recently demonstrated a new approach to carbon technology that opens up the path for commercial fabrication of dramatically smaller, faster and more powerful computer chips.

For the first time, more than ten thousand working transistors made of nano-sized tubes of carbon have been precisely placed and tested in a single chip using standard semiconductor processes.

These carbon devices are poised to replace and outperform silicon technology allowing further miniaturization of computing components and leading the way for future microelectronics.

Four Decades Of Innovation

Aided by rapid innovation over four decades, silicon microprocessor technology has continually shrunk in size and improved in performance, thereby driving the information technology revolution.

Silicon transistors, tiny switches that carry information on a chip, have been made smaller year after year, but they are approaching a point of physical limitation.

Their increasingly small dimensions, now reaching the nanoscale, will prohibit any gains in performance due to the nature of silicon and the laws of physics. Within a few more generations, classical scaling and shrinkage will no longer yield the sizable benefits of lower power, lower cost and higher speed processors that the industry has become accustomed to.

Carbon nanotubes represent a new class of semiconductor materials whose electrical properties are more attractive than silicon, particularly for building nanoscale transistor devices that are a few tens of atoms across.

Electrons in carbon transistors can move easier than in silicon-based devices allowing for quicker transport of data. The nanotubes are also ideally shaped for transistors at the atomic scale, an advantage over silicon.

These qualities are among the reasons to replace the traditional silicon transistor with carbon — and coupled with new chip design architectures — will allow computing innovation on a miniature scale for the future.

The approach developed at IBM labs paves the way for circuit fabrication with large numbers of carbon nanotube transistors at predetermined substrate positions. The ability to isolate semiconducting nanotubes and place a high density of carbon devices on a wafer is crucial to assess their suitability for a technology — eventually more than one billion transistors will be needed for future integration into commercial chips.

Hardly A Carbon Copy

Until now, scientists have been able to place at most a few hundred carbon nanotube devices at a time, not nearly enough to address key issues for commercial applications.

Originally studied for the physics that arises from their atomic dimensions and shapes, carbon nanotubes are being explored by scientists worldwide in applications that span integrated circuits, energy storage and conversion, biomedical sensing and DNA sequencing.

This achievement was published today in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Carbon, a readily available basic element from which crystals as hard as diamonds and as soft as the “lead” in a pencil are made, has wide-ranging IT applications.

Carbon nanotubes are single atomic sheets of carbon rolled up into a tube. The carbon nanotube forms the core of a transistor device that will work in a fashion similar to the current silicon transistor, but will be better performing. They could be used to replace the transistors in chips that power our data-crunching servers, high performing computers and ultra fast smart phones.

Earlier this year, IBM researchers demonstrated  carbon nanotube transistors can operate as excellent switches at molecular dimensions of less than ten nanometers – the equivalent to 10,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair and less than half the size of the leading silicon technology. Comprehensive modeling of the electronic circuits suggests that about a five to ten times improvement in performance compared to silicon circuits is possible.

There are practical challenges for carbon nanotubes to become a commercial technology notably, as mentioned earlier, due to the purity and placement of the devices. Carbon nanotubes naturally come as a mix of metallic and semiconducting species and need to be placed perfectly on the wafer surface to make electronic circuits. For device operation, only the semiconducting kind of tubes is useful which requires essentially complete removal of the metallic ones to prevent errors in circuits.

Also, for large scale integration to happen, it is critical to be able to control the alignment and the location of carbon nanotube devices on a substrate.

To overcome these barriers, IBM researchers developed a novel method based on ion-exchange chemistry that allows precise and controlled placement of aligned carbon nanotubes on a substrate at a high density — two orders of magnitude greater than previous experiments, enabling the controlled placement of individual nanotubes with a density of about a billion per square centimeter.

The process starts with carbon nanotubes mixed with a surfactant, a kind of soap that makes them soluble in water. A substrate is comprised of two oxides with trenches made of chemically-modified hafnium oxide (HfO2) and the rest of silicon oxide (SiO2). The substrate gets immersed in the carbon nanotube solution and the nanotubes attach via a chemical bond to the HfO2 regions while the rest of the surface remains clean.

By combining chemistry, processing and engineering expertise, IBM researchers are able to fabricate more than ten thousand transistors on a single chip.

Furthermore, rapid testing of thousands of devices is possible using high volume characterization tools due to compatibility to standard commercial processes.

As this new placement technique can be readily implemented, involving common chemicals and existing semiconductor fabrication, it will allow the industry to work with carbon nanotubes at a greater scale and deliver further innovation for carbon electronics.

You can learn more in the animation below.

Written by turbotodd

October 29, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Live @ Information On Demand 2012: Craig Rhinehart On Predictive Healthcare

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I made it back to Austin late last night, mostly no worse for the wear.

There were a number of key announcements made at Information On Demand 2012 over the course of the past few days in Las Vegas.

One of those that I mentioned in one of my keynote post summaries was IBM Patient Care and Insights, new analytics software based on innovations from IBM Labs that helps healthcare organizations improve patient care and lower operational costs by considering the specific health history of each individual patient.

This is a fascinating new capability with profound implications for healthcare providers.

The new IBM solution provides the core capabilities for devising predictive models of various health conditions, which can be used to identify early intervention opportunities to improve the patient’s outlook by minimizing or avoiding potential health problems.

It features advanced analytics and care management capabilities to help identify early intervention opportunities and coordinate patient care.

Providing Individualized Care

At the core of IBM Patient Care and Insights, developed by IBM’s software, research and services teams, are similarity analytics that help drive smart, individualized care delivery.

Born in IBM Research, IBM similarity analytics is a set of core capabilities and algorithms that allow healthcare professionals to examine thousands of patient characteristics at once — including demographic, social, clinical and financial factors along with unstructured data such as physicians’ notes — to generate personalized evidence and insights, and then provide care according to personalized treatment plans.

By way of example, physicians can make personalized recommendations to improve a patient’s outcome by finding other patients with similar clinical characteristics to see what treatments were most effective or what complications they may have encountered.

They can also perform patient-physician matching so an individual is paired with a doctor that is optimal for a specific condition. With this solution, caregivers can better tap into the collective memory of the care delivery system to uncover new levels of tailored insight or “early identifiers” from historical/long term patient data that enable doctors and others to help manage a patient’s healthcare needs well into the future.

Craig Rhinehart, director for IBM’s ECM Strategy and Market Development organization, sat down with Scott Laningham and I earlier this week to describe the challenges facing health care, and how the IBM Patient Care and Insights can help improve health care by delivering dynamic case-based, patient-centric electronic care plans and population analysis.

Go here for more information on IBM Patient Care and Insights and IBM Intelligent Investigation Manager.

Live @ IBM InterConnect 2012: A Q&A With Manoj Saxena About IBM’s Watson Being Put To Work

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IBM General Manager of Watson Solutions Manoj Saxena is responsible for the commercialization efforts of IBM’s Watson technology globally.

This morning on the IBM InterConnect stage, IBM general manager for the IBM Watson Solutions organization, Manoj Saxena, explained to the gathered audience in Singapore how IBM has taken Watson out of its “Jeopardy!” TV show playground and put Watson to work!

I last discussed Watson with Manoj this past April at the IBM Impact event, when Watson had just matriculated into the workforce, getting jobs in both the healthcare and financial services industries.

During our interview yesterday here at IBM InterConnect, Manoj and I conducted a mid-year performance review for Watson, and the evaluation was overwhelmingly positive — Watson will continue to stay gainfully employed, but as with any cutting edge technology, there are always areas for improvement.

We discussed all of this, and how Manoj’s team has made Watson smaller and smarter, during our interview here in Singapore. Manoj also explained how Watson has really become a demonstrable example of “one of the most dramatic shifts we’re going to see in our life times,” the shift from transactional to cognitive computing.

You can view the interview here.

Research In Nairobi

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Over the past several years, you’ve probably noticed that IBM has become much more active on the African continent.

IBM’s newest research lab will be the first on the African continent, in Nairobi, where scientists will conduct basic and applied research to tackle some of East Africa’s toughest challenges, including smarter water systems and transportation congestion.

IBM’s continued investment in this emerging and important continent were expanded upon yesterday when IBM announced that Africa would be the next frontier for innovation in IBM Research.

IBM Research – Africa will have its first location, in Nairobi, Kenya, in collaboration between the Ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT) through the Kenya ICT board.

This new venture will conduct basic and applied research focused on solving problems relevant to African and contribute to the building of a science and technology base for the continent.

Key areas of research will include the following:

  • Next Generation Public Sector: Governments have a mission critical role to play in the growth and sustainable developments in Africa. With the right kind of ICT, including big data solutions, advanced analytics, and cloud technologies, government organizations can draw insights and benefit from the vast amounts of data held by any number of government agencies. This can help advance e-government capabilities such as helping to reduce the cost of social services, improving efficiency and productivity, deterring fraud and abuse, improving citizen access to services, and enabling digital interaction between citizens and the public sector.
  • Smarter Cities – with initial focus on water and transportation: Rates of urbanization in Africa are the highest in the world. The single biggest challenge facing African cities is improving access to and quality of city services such as water and transportation. IBM, in collaboration with government, industry and academia, plans to develop Intelligent Operation Centers for African cities – integrated command centers – that can encompass social and mobile computing, geo-spatial and visual analytics, and information models to enable smarter ways of managing city services. The initial focus will be on smarter water systems and traffic management solutions for the region.
  • Human Capacity Development: A skills shortage is hindering the leadership and innovation of new industry in Africa. The IBM Research – Africa lab, while carrying out research, will help to elevate the level of ICT and related scientific skills in Kenya by working in collaboration with select universities, government agencies and companies. Boosting the innovation culture in Kenya and engaging local entrepreneurs and innovators in developing solutions that matter to the people of Kenya and the region may also assist in accelerating economic development.

“In today’s world, innovation is the main lever for a competitive national economy, is a source of employment, and has the potential to improve lives,” said Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology. “The IBM research lab, will not only rubber stamp Kenya as Africa’s leader in ICT, but will help the country to transform into a knowledge based economy.”

Operations at IBM Research – Africa will commence immediately. Expansion into other parts of Africa may be considered in a second phase.

IBM Investment in Africa 

IBM is making a significant investment in Africa, ramping up its profile on the continent as part of its focus on emerging markets. The expansion program is part of a major business plan to increase IBM’s presence in growth markets and support global strategy. The company is present in more than 20 African countries and recognizes the huge potential of research and smarter systems in transforming business, government and society across the continent.

Alongside its day-to-day business of providing advanced technologies and services to clients in Africa, IBM has deployed an array of programs aimed at building economic capacity such as IBM’s employee volunteer program, Corporate Service Corps, which is modelled on the U.S. Peace Corps. For example, IBM is working with the Postal Corporation of Kenya (PCK) to review the country’s changing economic landscape and develop a plan to deliver financial services to rural areas.

IBM Research – Africa will join existing labs in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and the United States.

IBM Research laboratories are credited with the creation of many of the foundations of information technology, including the invention of the relational database, disk storage, DRAM memory and much more. IBM Research has been recognized with five Nobel Prize Laureates, and many leading scientific and technical medals and awards.

Recently IBM Research created a question-answering supercomputing system called Watson that defeated the champions of a major televised quiz show, showing its ability to match humans in answering a wide range of free text questions.

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