Sunday, December 26, 2010

Online Content Is Exciting

By Ramin Vaziri Dec. 25, 2010, 12:01am PDT 2 Comments

What is it like to cut the cord from pay TV? What’s working, what’s missing, and what kind of equipment does the best job replacing the cable box? In our new weekend series, we’re asking cord cutters to tell us about their experiences. This week’s featured cord cutter is Ramin Vaziri, who uses not one, but two laptops to bring video to his TV.

Two years ago, I began supplementing my cable service with online video by hooking my laptop up to my 32″ LG flat screen with a VGA cord and stereo speakers. I began watching more and more online content, and four months ago I cut the cord entirely. I cut the cord partly to save money but mostly because my favorite content exists only on the Internet.

I now have two different hookups:

Laptop number one.
Wired Connected Laptop. After using my HP laptop for five years, I decided to buy a new laptop. This left me with a spare laptop. So I keep my extra laptop (HP Pavilion) connected to my LG 32″ LCD TV.

I’m using a VGA cord for the video and laptop speakers with subwoofer for audio. I keep an Ethernet connection plugged in to this laptop so the Internet speed is better than I can get wirelessly. I use a wireless Logitech mouse to control the laptop from across the room.

Wireless Connected Laptop. The new laptop I purchased was a Toshiba Satellite E205 with the Netgear Push2TV Wireless Display adapter. The Netgear adapter is connected to the TV via HDMI.

Laptop number 2.
The HDMI is great because it transmits my audio and video, so the audio plays right through my TV speakers. This hookup lets me stream whatever is on my laptop screen wirelessly to my TV so I can browse on my laptop, select a video and stream it to watch on my TV. I love having access to a browser and 100% of all online content.

There is definitely no shortage of content. I can find my favorite cable broadcast shows streaming online; I bought the NBA League Pass; and I have a Netflix subscription for movies. But what gets me most excited about online video are the new Internet-only content creators. The Young Turks, VBS.TV, MaxBoxing – The Next Round, ThisWeekIn, Wine Library TV, and The Real News Network are some of my favorites.

I also rely on curators like Music Video Jam, Gawker TV, Guyism and Huffington Post to suggest videos. ChannelStack helps me navigate between these favorite bookmarked sites. I think as people discover the great online content creators and curators, they will find that their traditional broadcast/cable programming is replaceable and be tempted them to cut the cord.

Ramin Vaziri is the founder of ChannelStack, a site that aims to be something like the Netvibes of online video. You can find his personal ChannelStack page here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

They Won. And Then What?

An update on past winners of the Journal's Innovation Awards

Innovation is an accomplishment in itself, but it's just the beginning of a bigger story. So what happens next? Here's a look at how things have gone so far for some recent Innovation Award winners.



AWARD: Overall Silver, 2009; Medical Devices category winner

INNOVATION: The company won for the i-Limb, a prosthetic hand that is more lifelike than others in appearance and performance.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Touch Bionics began offering its second iteration of the prosthetic, called the i-Limb Pulse, in May. It gives the user an adjustable grip that can be up to 25% stronger than the original i-Limb. The Pulse allows objects to be held longer and offers better control over fine motor skills.

In December, the company unveiled motorized prosthetic fingers called ProDigits. Mark Ford, vice president for North American operations, says the market for ProDigits has the potential to far outstrip that for i-Limbs.

Touch Bionics has sold nearly 1,200 of the original i-Limbs and more than 100 of the i-Limb Pulse. About 100 ProDigits systems have been sold, each system consisting of one or more fingers.

LOCATION: Washington, D.C.

AWARD: Health-Care IT category winner, 2009

DataDyne's EpiSurveyor in the field

INNOVATION: This nonprofit won for developing EpiSurveyor, mobile-device software that can be used by organizations to gather and send health data on commonly used phones in remote areas of developing countries.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? EpiSurveyor has more than 2,400 users collecting data in more than 120 countries. Users include the government of Canada, Unicef and Boston-based health-care consulting firm John Snow Inc. Some are exploring new uses for the software, including the collection of economic data and information on the health of farm animals. co-founder and Chief Executive Joel Selanikio says he expects the program, funded in part by the United Nations Foundation and the Vodafone Foundation, to be self-sufficient through paid subscriptions in two years. The group offers a premium subscription that allows unlimited data collection for $5,000 a year. Basic users, who pay nothing, are limited to 20 distinct forms, or lists of questions to be answered in the field, and 500 completed questionnaires for each form. also has developed another program called the Mobile Information Platform. It allows information to be sent from a central location, for example a government agency, to locals through text messages on basic phones.

One pilot MIP project sends weather information to farmers in Chile. Another helps provide continuing education for community health-care workers in Peru via text messages.

LOCATION: Watertown, Mass.

AWARD: Materials and Other Base Technologies category winner, 2009

An LED bulb using QD Vision technology

INNOVATION: QD Vision won for turning harsh light from light-emitting diodes into a warmer-colored beam through the use of quantum dots, which are semiconducting nanocrystals. A warmer light, more like the glow of an incandescent bulb, is seen as essential to the widespread adoption of energy-efficient LED lighting.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Nexxus Lighting Inc. has been selling screw-in LED light bulbs with QD Vision's quantum dots since March. The bulbs are designed for use in hotels and retail spaces.

According to Seth Coe-Sullivan, QD Vision's co-founder and chief technology officer, the bulbs being sold by Nexxus last for 50,000 hours—the equivalent of about 17 years at eight hours a day—and burn about one-fifth of the energy consumed by comparable halogen bulbs, most of which last no more than about a year at the same rate of use. The LED lights are more costly upfront—one LED bulb costs just under $100, while a halogen equivalent is about $5. But Mr. Coe-Sullivan says an LED light pays for itself in 12 to 18 months from the energy savings.

QD Vision is working with a lighting company it declines to identify to make another commercial bulb and is collaborating with display makers in Asia on LED screens for devices from handsets to television sets.

LOCATION: Palo Alto, Calif.

AWARD: Software category winner, 2009

INNOVATION: VMware won for its virtualization software suite called vSphere, designed to make it easier for a company to turn its existing data centers into a private cloud—an array of IT services delivered throughout a company over its own computer network—that's secure, reliable and easy to manage.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? VSphere, VMware's flagship virtualization and cloud infrastructure platform, is used in more than 170,000 deployments at companies around the world. The latest version of the software, called vSphere 4.1, is designed to expand the capacity of the platform and lower its operational cost. VMware revenue for the first half of 2010 was $1.3 billion, an increase of about 41% from $926 million for the first half of last year.

LOCATION: Sunnyvale, Calif.

AWARD: Environment category winner, 2009

INNOVATION: This building-materials maker was recognized for a drywall substitute called EcoRock made of recycled material. The product requires 80% less energy to make than standard gypsum-based drywall and is termite and mold resistant, according to the company.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? EcoRock remains in the testing stage with projects in California, due to the slowdown in new construction, says the company's chairman and chief executive, Kevin Surace. Meanwhile, Serious Materials has refocused its resources on energy-efficient windows, an area of growth. The company has nearly doubled its number of employees to about 400.

Serious Materials is supplying more than 6,000 windows for the Empire State Building, a project that is planned for completion in the fall.

LOCATION: Santa Clara, Calif.

AWARD: Energy category winner, 2008

INNOVATION: This manufacturing-equipment maker won for its SunFab production line, which was designed to manufacture large solar panels using thin-film photovoltaic material more quickly and cheaply than traditional production methods. It promised to drive down the cost of solar power, which would make it more competitive with traditional electricity sources.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? The SunFab line was discontinued in July, due to the weakness of the economy and a reduction of government incentives for solar energy, according to Applied Materials spokesman Matt Ceniceros.

Meanwhile, Applied Materials' sales of equipment used in the crystalline silicon solar-energy business are strong, driven by demand from China. And the company intends to focus as well on opportunities in LED lighting.

LOCATION: Santa Barbara, Calif.

AWARD: Consumer Electronics category winner, 2006

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Sonos music-networking gear

INNOVATION: This company won for a user-friendly digital-music networking system that allows music to be streamed wirelessly to speakers in different rooms of a home.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? The company is five times bigger than it was in 2006 in terms of revenue, according to co-founder Tom Cullen. And it continues to expand its product line. Among other things, it has developed software that allows a Sonos network to be controlled from an iPhone or iPad. The company also has expanded its expertise by hiring staff with acoustics knowledge.

In 2006, Sonos was just beginning to tap the European market; now about half of its business is outside the U.S., mainly in Europe, with Asia being the next target.

And Tomorrow's Winners Will Be...


It's one thing to know what innovations are winning awards today, but what if you could know what will win in, say, five or 10 years?

We don't have a crystal ball, but we have the next best thing: the informed opinions of people who are either innovators themselves or who study innovation in various fields.

Here are some of their thoughts on which areas—and possible companies—will see the most innovation in the years ahead:

Space Travel and Habitation
"Commercialized space travel will see a lot of innovation," says Jeffrey Baumgartner, founder of the JPB innovation consultancy.

"Much of it will be incremental in nature, but the result—low-cost, easy travel to space and potential bases on the moon and, in the longer term, Mars—will involve substantial innovation."

Some firms to watch, says Mr. Baumgartner, are Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic LLC and Bigelow Aerospace LLC.

Human habitation in space so far has taken place in rigid vehicles like the International Space Station. Bigelow, based in North Las Vegas, Nev., is developing inflatable modules that should be easier and cheaper to launch. Bigelow already is orbiting two unmanned, expandable prototypes and says it is planning assembly of four new spacecraft by 2015.

"The key here," says Mr. Baumgartner, "is that aeronautics is leaving government control and being taken over by industry, where cost-cutting and profitability, rather than contractors milking the state for as much as they can get, will lead to a lot of innovation, affordability and efficiency."

Heavy-Lift Launching
A critical obstacle to any sort of space-based future is getting some rather sizable objects beyond the reach of the Earth's gravity.

But Langdon Morris, a partner with the InnovationLabs LLC consulting firm, notes that while state-invested companies in the U.S., Russia and Europe have developed "heavy lift" launch capabilities, one private firm is moving to surpass them all in terms of payload capacity—an innovation that could slash launch prices and make larger payloads commercially viable.

SpaceX, of Hawthorne, Calif., says it hopes for a 2013 launch of its Falcon 9 Heavy rocket, which is designed to carry payloads of up to 70,000 pounds into low Earth orbit, about one-third more than the Space Shuttle, which is the largest-capacity launch vehicle now in operation.

"Cost-effective heavy-lift launch will enable new space commerce industries," says Mr. Morris.

Space-Based Solar Power
"Once heavy-lift launch is solved, space solar power will be close behind," says Mr. Morris. "Space solar power could transform the Earth's economy."

The idea is for satellites in geostationary orbit to collect the sun's energy and convert it into radio waves for transmission to surface stations, where it will be converted into electricity for local power grids.

Mr. Morris thinks there are several companies that could achieve this.

One is Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based Solaren Corp., which last year reached an agreement to sell 200 megawatts of electricity a year to California's largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., for 15 years, starting in 2016. Solaren says it plans to test key systems and deployments in space in 2014, and launch its Space Solar Power Plant into geostationary orbit in 2016.
A competitor, Switzerland-based Space Energy Group, says it hopes to launch a test satellite within three years, assuming it gets expected funding.

Nano-Scale Medical Devices
With advances in nano-scale engineering, medicine is about to redefine "minimally invasive," says Francis Collins, former leader of the Human Genome Project and current director of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Collins notes that Johns Hopkins University researcher David Gracias and his colleagues are developing a new class of nano-scale tools for surgery and drug delivery.

"The drug-delivery devices are small enough to fit through a hypodermic needle, thereby facilitating minimally invasive implantation and guidance in hard-to-reach microspaces," says Dr. Collins.

New Treatment for Blindness
Dr. Collins also sees possible breakthroughs in the work of Ehud Isacoff, John Flannery and their colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, who are working on a novel therapy for blindness.

Their technique involves introducing light-sensing molecules, or "photoswitches," into retinas that have lost photoreceptor cells. The photoswitches can be used to control the activity of proteins in the eye that are essential to transmitting information from the outside world to the brain in normal vision.

One such protein, the glutamate receptor, has been put under the control of a photoswitch and introduced into the retinas of mice. The photoswitch turns the glutamate receptor on or off by changing its shape depending on the wavelength of light used—a technique that's been shown to induce light sensitivity in blind mice. Mr. Isacoff says technologies of this type could one day treat blinding diseases in humans such as retinitis pigmentosa.

"The downstream retinal neurons that receive and process information from photoreceptor cells are preserved for years after the onset of blindness," says Dr. Collins, "giving hope that visual sensitivity might be restored by allowing the artificial input of information to these surviving cells."

Several retinal prosthetic devices have been under development, but their optical resolution has been poor and they present challenges in achieving long-term compatibility with host tissue, Mr. Isacoff says.

Breakthrough Fuel Technologies
Two firms could provide significant breakthroughs during the next few years in the search for cleaner fuel technologies, says Andrew Shapiro, founder and president of GreenOrder, a unit of consulting firm LRN that promotes corporate environmental sustainability.

In the race toward off-the-grid, personalized power stations, Sun Catalytix Corp., of Cambridge, Mass., is challenging the dominant notion of batteries as a means of electrical energy storage.

The company is developing a system that would use power from solar panels to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, then store both in tanks for use in generating power when the sun goes down.

Meanwhile, Amyris Inc., of Emeryville, Calif., is developing genetic-engineering technologies that change the way microbes process sugar, turning them into "biorefineries" that could provide alternatives to products derived from petroleum.

The company has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to raise about $120 million through an initial public offering of shares, and it recently received a corporate innovation award from the Aspen Institute.

Adaptive Learning
Education, like most other services, could become more tailored to individual needs. That's difficult in the low-tech, labor-intensive context of the traditional classroom, but "adaptive learning" could change everything, says Michael Horn, co-founder and executive director of the Innosight Institute, a nonprofit think tank.

The technology—an amalgam of computer science, education and cognitive science—uses both desktop and Web-based programs that in some ways mimic the interactivity of human teachers.

"Start-up companies like Knewton and Grockit as well as stalwarts like Kaplan are starting to push in this area," says Mr. Horn, "and there promise to be breakthroughs in the next five years."

One breakthrough could be a platform that tracks and analyzes the progress of individual students, allowing teachers to customize lessons to the individual. There's no clear leader here, says Mr. Horn, but outfits like Agilix Labs Inc., Nixty, L Point Solutions Inc. and IQity & Co. are making early waves.

Most Innovative Technologies 2010

The Winners, Category by Category
From Computing Systems to Wireless, the Most Innovative Technologies

This year the Innovation Awards judges chose winners in 17 categories. Here's a look at the winning entries.

Lightfleet Corp., based in Camas, Wash., won in this category for a novel way of connecting computer processors, using beamed light instead of copper or fiber-optic wires.

In big data centers, even the fastest servers get slowed by bottlenecks in the connections between microprocessors, or nodes. Lightfleet's technology aims to eliminate the bottlenecks by replacing the wired switches typically used to manage these connections with a device that sends a data-carrying beam of light to all the nodes at once. The faster transmission of data promises to make it possible, for example, to run Wall Street's high-speed trading operations more efficiently.

The company, founded in 2003, delivered a prototype of its first product earlier this year to Microsoft Research, the R&D arm of the computer giant, which will test how it handles different applications. A Lightfleet spokesman says the company expects the first commercial sales by the middle of next year.


Marvell Semiconductor Inc., U.S.: A small, low-power networked home server, called the Plug Computer, that can deliver data and applications to a variety of devices.

Consumer Electronics
Industrial Technology Research Institute , winner of the overall Gold award, won in this category. (See " Paper-Thin Screens With a Twist ")


NanoLumens Inc., U.S.: Lightweight digital displays that are flexible, thin and energy efficient. The first product, a 112-inch display, weighs less than 90 pounds, is less than an inch thick and consumes less energy than five light bulbs.

Ford Motor Co., U.S.: MyFord Touch, an instrument panel for cars that replaces traditional buttons, knobs and gauges with voice commands, customizable LCD screens and five-way controls on the steering wheel similar to those on cellphones and MP3 players.

Nokia Corp., Finland: An "augmented reality" browser for mobile devices, called Point & Find, that lets users get information about real-life objects by pointing a camera phone at the object.

New Orleans-based Receivables Exchange LLC won in the e-commerce category—the first winner in this group since 2004—for its online marketplace where small and midsize businesses can auction their receivables.

Smaller companies don't have the same access to financial markets that their larger counterparts do, so it's especially difficult for them to raise short-term working capital. Taking out a loan backed by receivables—known as factoring—is common in some industries. But for most small and midsize businesses, a factoring deal can be costly and often takes a long time to arrange.

Receivables Exchange aims to make it much easier for a company to tap the cash locked in its receivables. A company posts its unpaid invoices on the exchange, which screens the seller to make sure it has a certain minimum revenue and has been in business for at least two years. The screening can be completed within 24 hours and the invoices can be posted the next day. Bidders offer to buy some or all of the posted receivables, and the exchange takes commissions from the buyer and seller.

The company was launched in 2007 by Justin Brownhill, a former investment banker who is now Receivables Exchange's chief executive, and Nicolas Perkin, its president. The exchange hosts between $1 million and $5 million in trades each day, a spokeswoman says; it doesn't reveal its revenue.

InEnTec LLC, based in Bend, Ore., won in the energy category for a process that uses high-temperature plasma gasification to produce synthetic fuel from municipal and industrial waste.

The technology offers a cleaner alternative to using incinerators to burn garbage.

The company's Plasma Enhanced Melter heats the waste in a super-hot plasma. This produces a synthetic gas that can be converted to ethanol, methanol, clean diesel and other transportation fuels. Ash from the process is captured in molten glass, producing an obsidian-like material that can be buried in landfills or used in construction materials. Metals are captured separately and can be recycled.

Plasma gasification isn't a new technology; companies have used it for more than a decade to break down industrial and medical waste. Other companies are planning plasma-gasification plants to convert municipal waste, and a pilot plant from U.K.-based Advanced Plasma Power has been in operation since 2007. But InEnTec says its technology is more energy efficient than other plasma-gasification systems.

InEnTec was formed in 1995 by researchers who had studied and improved the technology in a collaborative effort between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Last year, the company created a joint venture with Houston-based Waste Management Inc. to build and operate plasma-gasification facilities using InEnTec's technology. The first, planned for Arlington, Ore., is scheduled to open by the end of the year, with the capacity to handle 25 tons of waste a day.


Enphase Energy, U.S.: The Enphase Microinverter System, which converts the direct-current output of solar panels to the alternating current used in homes and businesses. The system includes a meter that collects information about panels' performance and sends it to a website where customers can view the data.

Idaho National Laboratory, U.S.: An efficient, environmentally friendly process for making high-quality biodiesel from waste fats, oils and greases.

Solexant Corp., U.S.: Ultrathin-film inorganic solar photovoltaic cells.

Desalination promises to deliver virtually unlimited quantities of water to a water-constrained world. But for it to succeed, researchers are going to have to reduce the huge amounts of energy needed to make salt water drinkable.

NanoH2O Inc., based in El Segundo, Calif., was voted best in the environment category for a nanotechnology-based reverse-osmosis membrane that promises to reduce the cost of running a typical desalination plant by as much as 25%.

Reverse osmosis, which separates salt and other impurities from salt water by forcing it through a membrane at high pressure, is increasingly favored as a desalination technology. But the pumps that push water through the membranes consume large amounts of energy, and traditional membranes easily are clogged by impurities, reducing their efficiency.

NanoH2O, using technology based on research at the University of California, Los Angeles, weaves nanoparticles into its membranes. The nanoparticles are more permeable to water molecules than the material in traditional membranes, and they resist fouling by bacteria, salt and other contaminants. As a result, the company says, its membranes enable desalination plants to maintain the same levels of production while reducing energy consumption, or to produce 70% more fresh water at current energy levels.

The company says it has begun producing membranes and complete reverse-osmosis modules, which incorporate the membranes and can replace the filters already used in existing desalination plants. It delivered the first products in August.


Active Water Sciences LLC, U.S.: A portable, self-contained wastewater-treatment system, the Water Phoenix, that can convert municipal wastewater into effluent that meets U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards in less than 24 hours, producing little to no sludge.

Ceracasa SA and FMC Foret SA, Spain: A porcelain tile, BionicTile, with a photocatalytic glaze that reduces levels of nitrogen oxides and nitric acid in city air.

ClimateWell AB, Sweden: SolarChiller, a solar-powered air-conditioning unit that delivers heating, cooling and hot water to buildings without using electricity.

Health-Care IT
Software called Connect, developed by more than 20 federal agencies led by a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, won in this category for technology that enables health-care providers to exchange health information electronically.

The health-care industry is moving, albeit slowly, to replace patients' paper records with electronic files that can be easily shared among physicians, hospitals, health-care agencies and others. Two roadblocks stand in the way, though: The cost of electronic records systems and the need to ensure security and patient privacy.

Connect addresses both problems. The software was devised to meet all requirements for maintaining the security and privacy of medical records, including rules for federal agencies that are stricter than those for private health-care companies. And the Federal Health Architecture program, which coordinates health IT activities for several federal agencies, distributes the open-source Connect software free to both government and private health organizations.

In one of the first deployments, the Social Security Administration worked with the state of Virginia's regional health-information network to streamline the process of determining eligibility for disability benefits. Instant access to patients' records cut the time it takes to process disability applications to 46 days from 84.

Though there is other software for exchanging medical records, the Innovation Awards judges praised Connect for its ability to put the technology in the hands of lots of medical providers. The developers "were one of the few people who could move the needle on adoption of these things," says Barry H. Jaruzelski, one of the judges and a partner at Booz & Co.


Life Image Inc., U.S.: A cloud-based platform for sharing and storing diagnostic images, such as X-rays.

Ingenix, U.S.: Disease Precursor Identification software, which can identify people at risk of developing costly, difficult-to-manage diseases, such as diabetes.

Materials and Other
Base Technologies
Cement production pumps a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. U.K.-based Novacem Ltd. was recognized in this category for a new cement-making process that takes in more CO2 than it emits.`

The secret is using magnesium oxides instead of calcium carbonates, the main ingredient in Portland cement, the most common type. Magnesium-oxide cements have been around for a long time, but their quality wasn't as good as that of Portland cement, and their manufacture still emitted a lot of CO2.

Novacem, spun out of Imperial College London in 2007, says its cement is as durable as traditional materials and the production process can absorb 100 kilograms of CO2 for each metric ton of cement produced—compared with the roughly 800 kilograms of CO2 emitted in the production of each metric ton of traditional cement.

Novacem plans to begin construction next year of a plant to produce up to 25,000 metric tons of cement a year using the new technology, and to open the first commercial-scale plant by 2015.


Cambrios Technologies Corp., U.S.: A coating material made of highly conductive silver nanowires that can be used to create a transparent, less costly, bendable thin film for touch screens and other electronic components.

Bolt-A-Blok, U.S.: A building system that uses steel-reinforced concrete blocks that can be easily assembled into houses and other structures by unskilled labor.

MicroGreen Polymers Inc., U.S.: A method for reducing the cost of recycled plastics by adding a gas that expands the length and width of solid polymer sheets.

Medical Devices
Zoom Focus Eyewear LLC, winner of the overall Silver award, won in this category. (See " A Different Kind of Eyeglasses ")


MIT Mobility Lab, U.S.: The Leveraged Freedom Chair, a wheelchair designed for use in developing countries that can travel on virtually any terrain.

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Abbott Laboratories
Abbott Labs' MitraClip for heart-valve repairs

Abbott Laboratories, U.S.: The MitraClip System, a catheter-based device designed to repair damaged heart valves without open-heart surgery.

Aribex Inc., U.S.: The Nomad, a hand-held dental X-ray device. It's rechargeable, can be taken anywhere and allows the operator to stay with the patient during the procedure.

Counsyl Inc., winner of the overall Bronze award, won in this category. (See " A Genetic Test for Prospective Parents ")


CardioDx Inc., U.S.: Corus CAD, a genomic test designed to help clinicians determine, from a simple blood sample, whether a patient with chest pain has a significant blockage in the coronary arteries.

Pacific Biosciences, U.S.: A DNA sequencer, which reads individual molecules of DNA as they replicate in order to determine an organism's precise genetic code in real time—producing results 20,000 times faster with less overall cost than other systems.

DuPont Qualicon, U.S.: Tests using DuPont's BAX System to detect pathogens in fish and shellfish and E. coli O157:H7 in beef and fresh produce.

Network/Internet Technologies/Broadband
Vidyo Inc., based in Hackensack, N.J., won in this category with its technology for delivering high-quality videoconferencing over the Internet or cellular networks at a fraction of the cost of dedicated "telepresence" systems.

Internet videoconferencing has been around for a few years, but the calls typically are characterized by jerky, low-resolution video. More-realistic, high-resolution videoconferencing systems generally require dedicated communications lines and expensive equipment, limiting their use.

Vidyo uses a new video-compression standard to produce a high-definition videoconferencing product that can work on desktop or laptop computers, tablets and smart phones and travel over the Internet or 3G and 4G cellular networks.

The company introduced its systems, which can include routers and other hardware in addition to software, in 2007. This summer, it licensed software to Hewlett-Packard Co., which will use the technology to extend its Halo telepresence service to desktop computers and to conference rooms not already set up with dedicated systems.


Microsoft Corp., U.S.: An experimental Internet application, called Pivot, designed to help users to explore, organize and visualize collections of data quickly by showing relationships between the information.

Network Security
The Internet is thick with malware—viruses, worms, spyware, Trojan horses. The judges awarded Symantec Corp., based in Mountain View, Calif., the top prize in the network-security category for a new way to head off these threats: "reputation-based" technology that examines the usage patterns of millions of computers to spot dangers that traditional security products typically miss.

In general, security software identifies malicious software by looking for distinguishing patterns of code or watching for bad behavior—a computer's inexplicably connecting to an unknown server, for example. The problem is that there are so many new malware variants constantly appearing, some of them targeting only a small number of computers, that those techniques can't always spot them before they do mischief.

Symantec's new technology examines the software running on the computers of millions of volunteers, who remain anonymous, to spot possible threats. Based on what these patterns show about a program's source, age, prevalence and other characteristics, the technology assigns a "reputation rating" to every piece of software that it comes across. The technology had been known initially as Quorum but will soon be renamed.

Symantec says that the technology, first incorporated in the company's Norton 2010 security suite that was released in late 2009, is detecting about 10 million new threats a month that are invisible to traditional security methods.


Panda Security, Spain.: Panda Cloud Antivirus, a free, cloud-based antivirus solution.

Symplified Inc., U.S.: Symplified SinglePoint, a cloud-based service that enables organizations to apply and enforce security policies and controls on cloud applications.

Physical Security
Surveillance cameras generate a prodigious amount of video; unfortunately there's not enough time and manpower to watch it all.

The winner in this category, Israel-based BriefCam Ltd., has developed a fresh solution to the problem: Video Synopsis, which enables a viewer to browse a day's worth of recording in just a few minutes by creating a summary of all the activities captured by a camera.

Other video-surveillance technologies address the too-much-information problem by fast forwarding through recordings or capturing images only when something happens—using motion detectors, for instance.

BriefCam takes a different approach. Its patented technology pulls out activities recorded over the course of a day—vehicles driving through a security gate, people walking in and out of a building—and compiles the images into a highlight reel in which each vehicle, for instance, follows immediately the one that preceded it through the gate, regardless of how much time actually elapsed between their arrivals. Each vehicle's image carries a time stamp to show when it was recorded, and the user can click on the time stamp to call up that section of the video.

"Five hours of video is not five hours any more," says Shmuel Peleg, developer of the technology and the company's chief scientist. "It's five minutes."

Video Synopsis, licensed from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where Mr. Peleg is a faculty member, was launched in 2009.

Liquid Robotics Inc., based in Sunnyvale, Calif., is the winner in this category for developing an unmanned seagoing craft propelled by the power of ocean waves.

Most unmanned ocean craft can remain at sea for only a short time, relying on batteries to power propellers or pumps. The heavier their payload, the less time they have.

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Liquid Robotics, Inc.
Liquid Robotics' Wave Glider

Thanks to its propulsion system, Liquid Robotics' Wave Glider avoids those limits.

The craft, which consists of a surface buoy and a submerged glider with wing-shaped panels, converts the up-and-down motion of waves into forward thrust, making it possible to propel the buoy indefinitely without relying on batteries or other power sources.

The craft can be controlled remotely via satellite over an Internet connection. Instruments are powered by a solar panel on the surface of the floating buoy. Innovation Awards judge William Webb says the technology is "simple, novel and very workable."

The vehicle originally was designed by co-inventor Roger Hine, a Silicon Valley engineer and now the company's chief executive, to monitor the activities of humpback whales. It can also be used for tsunami warnings, observing weather and ocean conditions, and national-defense applications. The first craft was sold in 2009.

This summer, BP PLC deployed two Wave Gliders to the Gulf of Mexico to monitor water quality near the site of the well that exploded in April and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.

InVisage Technologies Inc., based in Menlo Park, Calif., took the prize in the semiconductors category with QuantumFilm, an image sensor for digital cameras that uses semiconducting nanocrystals to capture far more light than traditional sensors.

Inexpensive digital cameras rely on sensors made from silicon that are limited in the amount of light they can capture. This is especially an issue in the smaller sensors used in cellphone cameras.

InVisage replaced silicon in the sensor with quantum dots, semiconducting crystals that are nanometers in size. The product, InVisage says, captures more than 90% of the available light, compared with 25% for a silicon-based sensor.

The technology taps research from the University of Toronto by Ted Sargent, a nanotechnology researcher and InVisage's founder and chief technology officer. The first QuantumFilm prototypes were unveiled in March, and the company says it will deliver sample chips to smart-phone makers by the end of the year; these chips will be used to build prototype devices. The chips could be available in consumer products as early as the end of next year.


Industrial Technology Research Institute, Taiwan: Slim, flexible sensors. ITRI envisions use of the sensors in such things as electronic musical instruments and weight scales embedded in luggage.

STMicroelectronics, Switzerland: The iNemo family of smart multisensor devices, which can be used in new ways to measure movement, pressure, temperature and altitude.

Nanosys Inc., U.S.: QuantumRail, a component that delivers more vibrant color and brightness in notebooks and mobile devices as well as increased energy efficiency.

San Francisco-based Unity Technologies won in this category for a set of game-development tools that make it cheap and easy to create three-dimensional interactive content, including games, training simulations and medical visualizations, for a range of devices from cellphones to game systems.

The software for creating 3D online universes typically requires teams of engineers who spend years creating and refining these tools. As a result, they're often too complex and expensive for small-scale or amateur game developers.

Unity's software simplifies the process of building 3D games and other programs. It includes an easy-to-use editor that can take prefabricated components—rain or falling crates, for example—and combine them with other features to create full game environments.

The software also makes it possible to deploy games on a range of computer systems: Macs or PCs, game consoles from Sony Corp., Nintendo Co. or Microsoft Corp., and Apple Inc.'s iPhone and iPad.

The tools are simple enough for hobbyists or start-up developers; two developers used it to make the popular Zombieville USA app for the iPhone. They also are powerful enough for the largest game developers. Electronic Arts Inc., for example, used Unity to create its Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online game. "What you can create in a short time frame with a low learning curve is pretty revolutionary," says Robert Drost, a computer architect and one of the Innovation Awards judges.

The first version of the software was introduced in 2005, and it currently is being used by more than 200,000 developers. In October 2009, the company began offering at no cost its entry-level version, normally priced at $200 and intended mainly for hobbyists and small, independent game developers.

Technology Design
The efficient and compact storage of cookware may not be one of the world's great problems, but for anyone who has tried to put away a stack of awkwardly shaped pans with their lids and protruding handles, it's definitely an unmet need.

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Gavin Thomson Design Ltd.
Gavin Thomson Design's nesting pans

Gavin Thomson Design Ltd., based in the U.K., won this category with an elegant solution to this daily annoyance. Mr. Thomson designed a set of three saucepans that nest one inside the other. The largest pan snugly holds the next smaller pan, which holds the smallest one; each permanently attached handle rests inside the hollowed-out grip of the next larger pan, and the lids all fit on top.

The patented design was licensed to Stellar brands, a unit of Portugal-based Silampos SA, and the first products, called Eazistore, were introduced in March in the U.K. Mr. Thomson's firm is negotiating with housewares brands in North America and Asia to distribute the pans in those regions.


Smart Lid Systems, Australia: A disposable coffee-cup lid that changes color from brown to red when hot.

Panasonic Avionics Corp., U.S.: An in-flight entertainment system that integrates a touch-screen monitor with a thin, lightweight economy-class seat.

Ubiquisys Ltd., based in the U.K., won in the wireless category for a low-priced femtocell—a small cellular base station for use indoors.

Femtocells are designed to address two big, related problems: the poor cellphone coverage typically found inside a house, apartment or office building, and the growing congestion on cellular networks, aggravated by the explosion of data use on the latest smart phones. While femtocells have been around for a few years, their adoption has been limited by their high cost.

The company's G3-mini, introduced in December, is the first femtocell to be sold at a wholesale price under $100—a price that makes it possible for carriers to provide them to customers free of charge.

Ubiquisys keeps the cost down by providing software that's already proven to work on the leading carrier networks and delivering hardware blueprints to consumer-electronics makers, which can take advantage of their high-volume manufacturing lines to turn out lower-priced gear.

Tokyo-based Softbank Mobile Corp. began offering free G3-mini devices to consumers, retailers and small-office customers in the spring, and the first units were shipped in August.


Motorola Inc., U.S.: The iSIM, a thin, flexible wafer that attaches to the SIM card in a mobile device. The iSIM enables a host of new mobile applications built by third-party developers.

Shared Spectrum Co., U.S.: Technology that permits two or more networks or applications to share the same radio-frequency band by using channels when they are idle.

Pyxis Mobile Inc., U.S.: Application Studio, which allows companies to create applications for BlackBerry, iPhone, Android and Windows mobile devices from a single configuration with no coding.

Correction & Amplification

In one of the first deployments of the Department of Health and Human Services' Connect software, the Social Security Administration worked with a private regional health-information network in Virginia to streamline the process of determining eligibility for disability benefits. A previous version of this article incorrectly said the health-information network was run by the state of Virginia.

Google Goes to the Cloud for New Idea in PC System

Google Goes to the Cloud for New Idea in PC System

In the personal-computer industry, where things change fast, one fact has been a constant for years: There are two major, mainstream operating systems for consumers. One, Microsoft Windows, runs on many brands of hardware and dominates sales. The other, Apple's Mac OS X, runs only on its maker's Macintosh computers, and has had a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Other contenders, such as various versions of Linux, have remained on the fringes.

Google's new Chrome OS aims to do everything online, turning the entire PC into a giant browser. There are advantages, Walt Mossberg says, as well as disadvantages. For example, a Chrome OS computer can't do much when it's not connected to the Internet.

Next summer, however, Google hopes to add a third broad-based computer-operating system to challenge the duopoly. It's called Chrome OS, and is based on Google's Chrome Web browser. With Chrome, Google isn't just aiming to elbow its way into the OS business. It's hoping to change the entire paradigm. Instead of storing most programs and files on your computer itself, the Chrome OS will mainly run programs from, and require you to keep your data in, the cloud—remote servers located on the Internet. In effect, it turns your entire computer into a giant Web browser, instead of treating the browser as just one among many local programs.

The Chrome OS isn't finished, and isn't ready for broad public testing. Google readily concedes it has lots of bugs and rough edges. But the company has designed a small test laptop with the new operating system installed and distributed "a few thousand" of them to outsiders to try.

I have been using this machine, called the Cr-48, for about a week, and have some explanations and first impressions to share. This isn't a formal review; that will have to wait till the product is finished and is on commercial computers.

I focused mainly on the software, which is built on a Linux underpinning. That's because Google doesn't ever intend to sell the Cr-48 hardware, an all-black, unbranded laptop with a 12-inch screen, a rubbery surface and a large, buttonless touchpad that resembles those pioneered on the Mac.

In my tests, I found this early Chrome OS machine to be fast, with decent battery life and almost instant resumption from sleep. It handled most Web sites fine, and worked almost exactly like the very nice Chrome browser on Windows and Mac.

I also liked the one hardware feature worth mentioning: a radically redesigned keyboard. Instead of function keys, or various legacy keys such as Caps Lock, Chrome OS keyboards feature dedicated browser-oriented keys, like ones for moving back and forth among Web pages and windows, refreshing a page, entering full-screen mode, or quickly opening a new tab and beginning a search.

The Chrome OS will have a big advantage. Because it is mainly a front-end-to-cloud service, if you lose your laptop, you can get another one and just sign into your cloud accounts. You should be able to find all your stuff waiting for you.

However, users of the Chrome OS will have a huge adjustment to make. They will have to give up the rich, local programs they have spent years learning to use and tweaking to their liking. You can't install local programs on a Chrome OS computer. Instead, Google provides a Web Store inside the browser that allows you to download icons for "Web apps"—mostly websites designed to look and work like standard programs.

Some of these, like Gmail, are familiar and popular. Others are newer. For instance, the New York Times and AOL already designed Web-based news apps for Chrome OS, and there is a Web-based version of the TweetDeck program for Twitter. These apps, and the store's own icon, appear on the new Tab screen of Chrome OS (and also are available in the current Chrome browser.)

In my tests, I found these apps generally worked fine. But most aren't as rich and versatile as local Windows and Mac programs. For example, there was no way to play my local, personalized iTunes music collection, unless I spent many hours uploading it to some Web-based service.

I also had to settle for Web-based productivity programs—like word processors and spreadsheets—with many fewer features than standard local ones, such as Microsoft Office.

And I ran into plenty of frustrations. At this stage, Chrome OS can't do anything with USB flash drives or SD memory cards, and can't synchronize phones. And it has a very limited ability to store, or allow you to do anything with, email attachments or other files you might download and prefer to keep locally rather than on a server controlled by somebody else.

Printing was a chore, requiring a complicated setup on a Windows computer that Chrome used as a conduit to a printer.

Plus, Chrome OS is hardly stable yet. I suffered numerous crashes of Adobe's Flash player, and even Google's own Google Talk instant-messaging service, which appears in a little pop-up window on top of the browser. The company says it hopes to fix these problems by next summer.

Finally, the biggest downside: Because it's a cloud-oriented system, Chrome OS is almost useless if you lack an Internet connection. Google says it plans to offer some limited offline functionality, and to encourage makers of Web apps to do the same. It will also eventually be able to make some use of some files stored on external hard disks. But the basic operating mode will require you to be connected to the Internet.

To help with this, the Cr-48 has a Verizon cellular modem built in, to supplement its Wi-Fi connectivity. Verizon is offering 100 megabytes of data free, but that is a small amount, and you have to pay for more.

Like the Mac OS, but unlike Windows or Google's own smartphone operating system, Android, the Chrome OS will be deeply integrated with hardware. So, Google doesn't plan to distribute or license the new operating system to every hardware maker—at least not at first. You won't be able to install it on an existing computer. It will be available in 2011 on a limited number of computer models from selected manufacturers.

Google says this is because security is a high priority and requires special hardware designs that tightly bond with the software.

Also, Chrome OS computers will, in some respects, be more like iPads than laptops. They won't have hard disks, just a limited amount of flash-memory storage, and they won't have DVD drives.

They are an attempt to realize the old idea of a "network computer," or one which is mostly a front end for network services.

Of course, many people already spend most of their time with their PCs and Macs connected to the Net. Many use Web-based email programs or streaming music programs instead of local software.

So the time may be right for a cloud computer, a change in the paradigm. Google certainly hopes so.