12 Revolutionary Innovations Win 2009 Wall Street Journal Technology Awards


The technology winners of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) awards do not disappoint.  They impact the world on a global scale or at least very significant parts of it.   Their arrival instigates change; they are watersheds, game changers...  The WSJ winners are all that through their efficiency, their flexibility, and their economy of energy, of expenditures, of time, of personnel, and of materials.  The inventor in all of us should find these 12 winners very inspiring.

In a tough field, the Journal judges came up with a most impressive list of technologies, many of which have already positively impacted the lives of millions of people. Here are The Gold, The Silver, The Bronze, and the technology category winners.


1. The WSJ 2009 GOLD Technology Innovation Winner: Abbott Laboratories/Ibis Biosciences, U.S. For The T5000 Ibis Biosensor System



T5000 Ibis Biosensor SystemT5000 Ibis Biosensor System


Petri dish, move over. The Ibis T5000 sensor is the first molecular-based technology that can identify an unknown virus by extracting and replicating its DNA and running it through a huge database of potentially dangerous pathogens until a match is found. In fact, the Ibis T5000 helped identify the first two cases of the H1N1 swine flu in the U.S., which led to the development of the H1N1 flu vaccine. 

"Because the T5000 can look at all of the segments of the influenza genome independently, and quickly identify the origin of each segment by comparison of resulting data with a database of all known strains, it offers a very efficient and cost-effective means of quickly screening large numbers of samples from around the world,"  David Metzgar, scientific adviser at the Naval Health Research Center, told the Chicago Tribune.  

The T5000 can also detect mutations of the influenza, providing information on the rate at which the virus is changing.  It was the WSJ's best 2009 innovation from the Medicine and Biotech category.


2. The WSJ 2009 SILVER Technology Innovation Winner: Touch Bionics, U.K. For The i-Limb Artificial Hand




The i-LIMB Hand, which was first place winner of the WSJ Medical Device category and the British Engineering Award of 2008, uses myoelectric signals from the muscles in a person's forearm to control the movements of the prosthetic hand, specifically the i-LIMB's artificial muscles that extend, bend, grip, close, and point the fingers and thumb of the i-LIMB.  This artificial hand offers greater dexterity and grip patterns than any other artificial hand developed to date. 

In the photo below, you can see the myoelectic sheath on the man's  forearm, which contains metal electrode plates that pick up the muscle signals and relay them to the i-LIMB. With minor software changes, the hand can be customized for functions that the wearer regularly needs, like operating a keyboard.




3. The WSJ 2009 BRONZE Technology Innovation Winner: Vihaan Networks Ltd. (VNL), India For World GSM5™




WorldGSM is an easily built, totally solar-powered system that brings mobile technology to rural areas in India, so that everyone can benefit from communication technology.  It is expected to bring countless opportunities to develop knowledge and skills to remote populations.  And unskilled workers can set up an entire network themselves.  "If you can change a flat tire, you can probably put [up a base tower]," says VNL.

WorldGSM was first in the WSJ Wireless technology category for 2009.