Home' Technology Review : March April 2012 Contents TR50 37
Why: The Siri virtual assistant built
into the iPhone 4S demonstrates a
new kind of conversational voice-
Key innovation: Software that can
interpret ambiguous sentences
allows Siri to understand even
Why: By reducing the electricity
demands of data centers, ARM is
making cloud computing cheaper.
Key innovation: Its powerful server
processors use an architecture
originally developed for energy-
conscious mobile devices.
Why: Speeding up production of dig-
itally animated movies will also ben-
efit gaming and augmented reality.
Key innovation: Software that
can take maximum advantage of a
multicore processor allows anima-
tors to create scenes in minutes
instead of hours.
Why: Its flexible artificial-
intelligence systems have the
potential to assist people in many
areas, such as health care.
Key innovation: Watson, which
demonstrated its capability by beat-
ing skilled human quiz-show players,
learned by automatically digesting
text from books and websites, an
ability that could be adapted to any
area of knowledge.
Why: By using virtual computer
networks rather than hardwired
systems to connect cloud servers, it
could make the cloud more secure
Key innovation: Its software takes
over the functions of network hard-
ware, resulting in a distributed sys-
tem of components that can swiftly
respond to changes in workload.
Why: Makes fuel and chemicals
from the carbon monoxide produced
by processes such as steelmaking.
Key innovation: Genetically engi-
neered organisms turn the gas into
ethanol and other useful chemicals.
Why: Its high-energy batteries
could make electric cars cheaper
and improve their range.
Key innovation: Making batteries
without the flammable liquid found
in conventional electric-car batteries
means they can store more energy.
Why: It has learned to exploit oil
resources that were previously
impractical to tap.
Key innovation: Has drilled and
started production at the world’s
deepest offshore well.
Why: Its cheaper turbines and
installation techniques will make off-
shore wind plants more affordable.
Key innovation: Gearless turbines
and streamlined manufacturing lower
capital costs and improve reliability.
Why: Has developed a low-cost way
of making better silicon solar cells.
Key innovation: Its new panels are
more efficient because they reflect
less light and use thinner elec-
trodes that block less light.
Why: Has created a cellular net-
work that can cope with our grow-
ing appetite for mobile data.
Key innovation: Its LightRadio
architecture uses many small, effi-
cient, and easily upgraded base
stations in place of the larger, less
efficient cell towers of today.
Why: Its high-efficiency gallium
arsenide–based solar cells provide
a way to lower the cost of solar
Key innovation: Can economically
produce robust cells that use only
small amounts of the expensive
Why: The company is developing
cheaper nuclear reactors.
Key innovation: A simplified mod-
ular reactor design decreases size
Why: It is reducing the cost of
utility-scale photovoltaic installa-
Key innovation: First Solar con-
strains costs with vertical inte-
gration of everything from plant
construction to the manufacture of
high-efficiency cadmium telluride
general Electric New
Why: By building flexible and effi-
cient natural-gas power plants, GE
is making it easier for utilities to use
intermittent sources of renewable
Key innovation: Gas turbines
based on jet engines allow power
plants to quickly increase or
decrease their electricity generation
to compensate for variations in wind
or solar power.
Why: It is optimizing wind farms for
conditions in China.
Key innovation: Wind turbines
are specially adapted for the high
altitudes and low wind speeds
that characterize Chinese wind
Why: Its software can extract com-
mon threads from mountains of
data, potentially yielding leads for
intelligence agencies and police
Key innovation: The software,
which can begin analyzing a new
data set without extensive prepa-
ration, can handle many different
types of input, including data from
military operations and financial
Why: The Mirasol display for mobile
devices provides full color even in
bright sunlight and uses a fraction
as much power as today’s phone
and tablet displays.
Key innovation: Technology mod-
eled on a butterfly’s wing creates
a bright image by reflecting and
amplifying particular wavelengths of
Why: Samsung is an increasingly
major player in consumer electron-
ics, from iPhone components to
new phones, tablets, and OLED
TVs; it was the world’s top seller of
smart phones in 2011.
Key innovation: Tightly integrated
design and manufacturing pro-
cesses result in clever, efficiently
Why: Managing natural resources,
planning humanitarian missions,
and assessing construction proj-
ects could all become easier
thanks to Skybox’s satellites, which
will take more frequent images at
Key innovation: Its small satellites
cost less to build and launch than
traditional ones, and its automated
analytic software makes it easier
for customers to extract useful
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