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Microbe-hunting drones and mood-sensing sat navs help IBM top patent rankings

Machine learning and health feature as Big Blue breaks records

By Patrick Goss | Jan 9, 2017, 03.53 PM IST
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You might be forgiven for thinking that the likes of trendsetter Apple or Google’s umbrella company Alphabet were picking up the most patents, but it is in fact proud old giant IBM that has topped the list for 2016. 

IBM largely stepped away from consumer electronics when it flogged its Thinkpad laptop brand to Lenovo back in 2005, but part of the reason was to focus on its R&D innovations. 

A list of the patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office shows exactly how that is going with IBM registering an astounding 8,088. To put that in context it’s 2,500 more than its nearest rival Samsung in second place and a staggering 5,000 more that Google.

Apple was not even in the top 10, but camera giant Canon was in third place ahead of Qualcomm, Google, Intel and LG - with Microsoft, TSM and Sony making up the rest of the rankings. 

Drones, AI and hearing aids

But what kind of patents is IBM registering? Well, the burgeoning world of machine learning was prominent, but also mentioned were sat navs that also account for your state of mind as well as the traffic, monitoring your stress before, say, deciding if the motorways is really the best option.

Also included were personalised hearing aids that work out what you want to hear and even drones that filter out microbes in environments like hospitals.

Like all patents - there’s often a big gap between the final product that we get to see and the filing from the company. But it’s clear IBM is leading the charge in the US at the moment when it comes to futuristic thinking.  

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