IBM has announced the 30th anniversary of IBM Research – Almaden in San Jose. The research and development lab is known as the birthplace of the world’s first hard-disk drive, the relational database, DVD and Blu-ray encryption technology and brain-inspired supercomputing chips. Almaden is one of IBM’s 12 global research facilities. It moved into its current location in 1986.
“What sets us aside from other research operations in Silicon Valley is our novel interdisciplinary approach to innovation,” said Dr. Jeff Welser, vice president and lab director, IBM Research – Almaden. “Our most profound knowledge comes from non-traditional combinations of computer scientists, chemists, biologists, mathematicians, medical doctors or even artists from within our own lab. Coupled with the passion of our people, their beautiful ideas and IBM’s robust technology offerings, we are uniquely empowered to speed the discovery of solutions to complex global problems.”
To commemorate Almaden’s 30th Anniversary, IBM announced the donation of an original IBM TrueNorth brain-inspired supercomputing chip array, designed for artificial intelligence and cognitive computing, to the Computer History Museum. TrueNorth’s brain-like, neural network architecture, which breaks path with the 70-year-old legacy of the von Neumann architecture, is able to infer complex cognitive tasks such as pattern recognition and integrated sensory processing far more efficiently in terms of energy and speed than conventional computer architecture.
Today, Almaden’s researchers are discovering new technologies and creating cognitive solutions to address major business and global challenges. Examples of recent research include:
- New Method to Use Grocery Retail-Scanner Data to Speed Investigations During Early Foodborne Illness Outbreaks: Today, IBM announced that Almaden researchers have discovered that analyzing retail-scanner data from grocery stores against maps of confirmed cases of foodborne illness can speed early investigations. In the study, researchers used 10 laboratory-confirmed reports of food poisoning to narrow down the investigation to approximately 12 suspect food products in just a few hours. The method combined the expertise of retailers, computer scientists and public health experts to make the discovery. [insert press release link]
- New Chemical Catalyst to Create Cheaper, Biodegradable Plastics from Plants: IBM also announced today that Almaden-based researchers have identified a chemical catalyst that can be used to create cheaper, biodegradable plastics from plants such as palm trees and beets. These inexpensive plastics can be used for making common consumer plasticware, such as eating utensils, as well as medical devices. The project used cognitive technologies and computer modeling for analysis to perfect in-lab chemical reactions. [insert press release link]
- New Scientific Discipline — Cellular Engineering — Pioneered by Almaden Researchers:IBM Research, in collaboration with UC San Francisco, is using image recognition and machine learning to find a direct connection between how cells structure themselves and the function they perform. The alliance has produced a new field of study called cellular engineering, which can help discover the links between healthy and cancerous cells. This new discipline uses cell biology, physics, mathematics and computer science along with large health datasets and cognitive computing to provide IBM Watson with “microscopic eyes” and establish novel ways to treat disease.
- Continued Momentum on Brain-Inspired Computing: Researchers are leading momentum around the rapidly growing TrueNorth Software Ecosystem that is now in the hands of more than 125 researchers at more than 40 leading universities, government agencies, national and corporate labs. Recently, Lawrence Livermore National Lab began using a 16-chip neuromorphic system to explore supercomputing capabilities important to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) missions in cyber security, stewardship of the nation’s nuclear deterrent and non-proliferation.
The IBM TrueNorth Project also received the inaugural Misha Mahowald Prize, recognizing outstanding achievement in the field of neuromorphic engineering. Dr. Misha Mahowald, for whom the prize is named, was an influential pioneer of neuromorphic engineering. Although Dr. Mahowald’s life ended prematurely, her novel designs of brain-inspired circuits for vision and computation have continued to influence a generation of engineers.
“IBM Research – Almaden continues to accelerate its pace, both in making key scientific breakthroughs and applying them to build solutions that can impact people around the world. IBM Research is proud to invest in a dedicated team of researchers who continue to push innovation forward in today’s cognitive era of computing,” said Dr. Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director, IBM Research.
IBM Researchers based at Almaden and alumni have been celebrated with prestigious science and technology awards including the Nobel Prize for Chemistry (2014), Millennium Technology Prize (2014), Kavli Prize in Nanoscience (2010), A.M. Turning Award (1998) and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation (1985).