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.


4. The WSJ 2009 COMPUTING SYSTEMS Technology Innovation Winner: Organic Motion, U.S. For Organic Motion Capture Technology


Organic Motion is a revolutionary motion capture system which replaces the need for body suits and incessant retakes of actors for animation capture. Organic Motion also makes film capture much less costly.  It has applications in motion analysis for sports and medicine, digital-motion games, animated films, and any virtual reality environment.

Fourteen small cameras surround the "stage" simultaneously capturing the actor from all those angles.  Just tell the actor what to do and you've captured the action from all sides.  Done!





5. The WSJ 2009 CONSUMER ELECTRONICS Technology Innovation Winner:  Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), Taiwan For The fleXpeaker



A paper-thin technology that has a bright future expanding audio possibilities.  The "paper" speaker actually does recreate sound, although now, according to Engadget, it's in need of some sub-woofers. Though the speaker shown is larger, the aim is to have the fleXspeaker available in a standard 8.5 x 11 sheet for $20 each.  You'll be able to paste these to the ceiling and doors of your cars, or the walls of your room, and truly get "surround sound."

Listen to the short demo below.  Yes, it does shriek a bit, but remember that it's just a prototype!




6. The WSJ 2009 ENERGY Technology Innovation Winner: SFC Smart Fuel Cell, Germany For The SFC Fuel Cell




Why is this fuel cell so smart?  The SFC produces power from methanol rather than hydrogen, so the fuel can be stored in lighter weight cartridges which makes the whole cell lighter and less expensive.  The SFC's are currently being used by the military to power night-vision equipment and various equipment aboard military vehicles.  Also, as you can see in the photo above, there's plenty of SFC's dedicated to recreation.


7. The WSJ 2009 ENVIRONMENT Technology Innovation Winner: Serious Materials, U.S. For EcoRock Drywall



EcoRock is a drywall substitute made of recycled materials that reduces energy consumption by 80 percent just by manufacturing it.  And, as if that were not enough, it uses 80 percent less carbon dioxide than the most common drywall made of gypsum.  EcoRock is termite and mold resistent too!


8. The WSJ 2009 MATERIALS Technology Innovation Winner: QD Vision, U.S. For The Quantum Light™ Platform




The latest challenge to LCD technology, the deeper, richer, purer color for LED lights, is now the Quantum Light platform.  Made up of quantum dots, crystals only 3 to 12-nanometers wide, depending on the color they need to produce, Quantum Light colors can even produce patterns, making them perfect for many kinds of electronic displays, including computer and TV screens.

Quantum Light is also environmentally friendly, using much less power than other LED technologies.  The color produced is even been said to be brighter and more pure than OLED, used mostly in the screens of mobile phones.


9. The WSJ 2009 SECURITY - PRIVACY Technology Innovation Winner:  Ksplice, U.S. For Kspice Uptrack™



Another marvel in this amazing list of winners is the Ksplice Uptrack, software that completely does away with reboots after updating -- if you are using Linux. Think of all the interruptions caused by program updates that can't be fully installed until you've rebooted your computer.  Ksplice lets you install them in seconds, keeping your computer up to date at all times and enhancing computer security as well.   I don't know how much longer Microsoft and Mac users will have to wait for Ksplice, but there are many of us, and we can't wait much longer...


10. The WSJ 2009 SEMICONDUCTOR Technology Innovation Winner: Qualcomm, U.S. For The Mirasol® Mobile Display



Another color display winner, this one inspired by the shimmering colors of butterfly wings, the Mirasol display uses mirrors to enhance colors on your mobile screens, all while it saves the life of your battery by a whopping 40 percent!



11. The WSJ 2009 HEALTHCARE IT Technology Innovation Winner:  DataDyne.Org and Joel Selanikio, U.S. For The EpiSurveyor



Joel Selenikio was inspired by his years of trying to collect consistent and reliable epidemiology data while working for the Centers For Disease Control.  The EpiSurveyor is his open source software program now available free by download to mobile phones and PDAs.  It enables health care workers and surveyors in rural areas of the world to create and keep consistent health information and upload it to the DataDyne database.  DataDyne, also created by Selenikio, is a non-profit organization devoted to information and communication of technologies for public health and development.  

Selenikio, a professor of pediatrics at Georgetown University Hospital, was also awarded the prestigious Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability earlier this year for his work on the EpiSurveyor and DataDyne.


12. The WSJ 2009 SOFTWARE Technology Innovation Winner:  VMware, U.S. For VMware vSphere™



The first to bring cloud computing to every level of information technology, VMware vSphere turns your system into a private cloud no matter what your operating system. The vSphere increases efficiency and cos-effectiveness with solutions for data centers, critical applications, business and industry. It serves small companies, mid-size, and large enterprises.


Every year technology climbs even taller steps than the year before.