IEEE Selects DaimlerChrysler Hybrid-to-EV Pickup as 'Winner' Project
A powerful ship motor with superconducting wires from American Superconductor, ultra-sophisticated software from IBM that can make sense of the crazy jumble of the World Wide Web, and a DaimlerChrysler hybrid-electric truck that can become a pure-electric vehicle at the flip of a dashboard switch - are just three of the six projects identified by the editors of IEEE Spectrum as "winners" in a new special issue highlighting the best and worst of global technology.
For the report, the magazine's editors considered six mainstay categories in technology: communications, electric power, semiconductors, transportation, computers and biotechnology. For each category, they picked a winner, a loser and a Holy Grail - a grand technological goal that has been sought for years, that would fundamentally alter a key industry, and that has so far eluded the best efforts of engineers and scientists.
"With the signs of life becoming stronger every day in the technology sector, it's time to take stock of some key initiatives that have the potential to transform major industries or that are likely to squander huge amounts of money, time and resources," said Glenn Zorpette, executive editor, IEEE Spectrum. "IEEE Spectrum editors considered well over a hundred technology projects, representing work on every continent. We picked six outstanding ones, along with six that seem destined for obscurity. The editors also turned up significant, surprising advances toward goals that technologists have been chasing for decades.
"To pick the winning and losing projects, we considered the feasibility of the goals described by the project leaders themselves," Mr. Zorpette added. "We analyzed these goals in light of technical and technology-related factors: regulation; competition; relevant technology and market trends, and more."
To come up with their final lists of winners, losers and Holy Grails, the staff relied heavily on the global resources of the IEEE. The professional organization has nearly 400,000 engineers, computer experts and technologists.
The results were surprising. Among the companies backing projects identified as losers in the report are such giants as Microsoft, General Motors and Nikon - confirming that size hardly guarantees strategic technological acumen. Meanwhile, the winning project in the communications category was a revolutionary data and voice network spanning all of the remote and sparsely populated Canadian province of Alberta. The network's operator, tiny and obscure Axia NetMedia, is relatively unknown, even among communications experts.
The other winners identified in the report are the Allen Brain Atlas - a project funded by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen to map the human brain, showing each gene, what it does and where it does it - and Sumitomo Electric Industries' work on gallium nitride wafers, which will be the foundation for new electronic devices that will power the next generation of DVD recorders and other consumer and industrial products.
The other losers were: ENSCO Inc.'s Global Environment MEMS Sensors - a plan to deploy billions of minute airborne probes to monitor weather; and two initiatives associated with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). One is the DOE's plan to develop and deploy a new fleet of advanced breeder power reactors by 2030; the other is a carbon sequestration program designed to genetically engineer carbon-eating microbes to rid the Earth's atmosphere of excess carbon dioxide.
The January issue of IEEE Spectrum is available by subscription, on many newsstands throughout the Northeastern United States and online at www.spectrum.ieee.org.
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