A cyber attack is every CTO’s worst phobia, and no company could be more acutely aware of security breaches this week than IBM. Amid the chaos of worse-than-expected Intel vulnerabilities – for which IBM will release firmware updates on Tuesday – the US conglomerate has surpassed its record for the number of patents granted in a year.
Despite Spectre and Meltdown woes from Intel, IBM inventors obtained 9,043 patents in 2017, more than any other company in the US for the 25th year in a row. Cybersecurity experts at the firm were granted 1,200 patents last year, including one programme which uses AI bots to bait hackers into email exchanges and websites which expend criminal resources and ultimately frustrate scams. IBM said the technology could “substantially reduce the security risks associated with ‘phishing’ emails and other attacks.”
The industry giant has also broken through 100,000 total patents, topping 105,000 in the US alone between 1993 and 2017. Last year saw the $80bn revenue company copyright ideas in machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud and quantum computing.
Formerly known as Bluemix, IBM Cloud consists of public, private and hybrid cloud offerings, with services consisting of Saas, Paas and Iaas. The cloud heavyweight earned 1,900 patents in 2017, including one for a system that uses unstructured data about real-world events (such as news feeds, social networks and weather reports) to forecast local cloud resource needs.
IBM acquired a further 1,400 patents in artificial intelligence, including a system that uses natural language processing to improve machine-to-human communication in AI programmes.
Another area of innovation is blockchain, where IBM scientists achieved a patent in their method for using blockchain technology to reduce the number of steps involved in settling transactions between multiple business parties.
“Today, nearly half of our patents are pioneering advancements in AI, cloud computing, cybersecurity, blockchain and quantum computing – and all are aimed at helping our clients create smarter businesses,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman.
Further patents secured have been in secure credit card transactions, guiding the visually-impaired using RFID, the world’s fastest supercomputers and earthquake detectors.