IBM inventors were awarded a record 9,100 patents in 2018, topping the list of US patents received for an impressive twenty-sixth consecutive year, with an ambitious intellectual property suite spanning autonomous drone services, dispersed storage network defences, lake “doctors” and a massive 2,000 cloud computing patents.
Of the IBM patents – awarded to 8,500 inventors in 48 different countries – a further 1,600 were for artificial intelligence (AI), including for Project Debater, the company’s AI that can debate humans on complex topics. For this, IBM inventors patented a machine learning-powered approach to identify evidence, such as relevant text segments in unstructured text data, which supports or opposes a given claim or topic.
Cloud patents awarded include one for a specialist monitor for unikernel-based virtual machines (VMs) dedicated to improving isolation and security between a cloud application and its host. The approach is related to IBM’s research in container security and the company –which is focussing heavily on hybrid cloud – says it could help businesses move data and apps securely across cloud and on-prem environments.
CEO Ginni Rometty said in a release shared early Tuesday: “IBM is committed to leading the way on the technologies that change the way the world works – and solving problems many people have not even thought of yet.”
IBM Patents: The Plant Doctor
Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research, added in a blog early Tuesday: “We are all mindful of the impact of climate change on our planet, and of the potential of technology to help mitigate and manage some of its effects.”
“To that end, in 2018 IBM researchers patented a sort of “plant doctor” that could use machine learning and image analysis to identify a plant’s species, diagnose any diseases and recommend a treatment.”
He also pointed to AI used to monitor aquatic temperature variants, and the company’s development of a new way to miniaturise components used in quantum computers.
Exotic: Acoustic Holograms
Among the company’s more exotic recent patent applications seen by Computer Business Review (this one filed in 2017 but only recently published) is one for 3D printing on the surface of an acoustic hologram.
The application posits a system of soundwaves that would create a “tactile illusion of an object floating in space within a three-dimensional printing area.”
Fluid would then be sprayed around the surface of the generated sound-shape and harden to create a useable shape, providing a “fast, cost-effective way to generate hollow objects, such as lightweight toys, automotive components, electronic cases and chassis, protective covers, or product packaging”, IBM’s researchers said in the filing.
They added: “Other embodiments may use variations of this method to produce solid objects, seemingly solid objects that have a relatively small hollow core, or objects that have an internal structure. Such embodiments could, for example, allow a printer to print a dental crown or bridge, a medical prosthetic, or a multi-compartment container.”
IBM spent $5 billion on R&D in 2017, its filings show.
Figures for full-year 2018 are not yet available.