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IBM breaks US patent record, includes ‘labs on chips’ in its predictions for five years’ time

IBM has developed 'lab on a chip' technology that can detect particles as small as 20nm

IBM says it has broken the US patent record, having had 8088 patents granted in 2016. This is the first time any US company has had more than 8000 patents granted in a year. Areas of interest range from artificial intelligence and cognitive computing to cybersecurity.

Ginni Rometty, IBM’s chairman, president and CEO, noted: “We are deeply proud of our inventors’ unique contributions to discovery, science and technology that are driving progress across business and society and opening the new era of cognitive business.”

Highlighting the current trend towards the use of artificial intelligence, IBM patented more than 1100 inventions that help machines learn, reason and process diverse data types efficiently while interacting with people in natural and familiar ways.
Amongst the granted patents is a design for a hearing aid to meet specific needs. The device that can distinguish between and filter voices and sounds, allowing it to be trained to distinguish sounds such as a smoke alarm and to listen intelligently to one’s environment. Other leading recipients of patents include Samsung Electronics (5518), Canon (3665), Qualcomm (2897), Google (2835), Intel (2784), LG Electronics (2428 ), Microsoft (2398), TSMC (2288) and Sony (2181).

Meanwhile, as one of its five predictions on the future of technology in the next five years, IBM says medical labs ‘on a chip’ will trace invisible clues in our bodies, letting us know if we have reason to see a doctor.

Lab-on-a-chip technology, says the company, could be packaged in a convenient handheld device to allow people to measure the presence of biomarkers, sending this information to the cloud, where it could be analysed by AI systems.

Already, IBM’s researchers have developed technology (pictured) that can separate and isolate bioparticles as small as 20nm in diameter, allowing DNA, viruses and exosomes to be monitored.

Graham Pitcher

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