IEEE anoints technology winners and losers

Readers of the IEEE's in-house journal, Spectrum, have nominated the year's best computing projects

It’s the season for looking forward to the year ahead and back to the previous one, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Spectrum magazine is in the middle of the fray with its annual issue of tech winners and losers. What makes Spectrum’s efforts worth noting is the nature of the organisation it serves: the IEEE is the world’s largest professional technology association.

Spectrum identified five technology winners and five losers after readers were asked for nominations. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the technologies discussed involve network computing.

One of the blue ribbons went to the United Kingdom’s BT Group for its US$20 billion (NZ$28 billion) effort, launched in November, to replace all 16 of its legacy networks by 2012 with a single IP-based MPLS network.

“Although the upgrade will not create the fastest IP-based network around, it will be the most comprehensive one,” Spectrum reports.

Another winner was a cellular base station based on a software-defined radio. While the idea of processing radio signals in software instead of specialised radio gear has been around for a while, the time has finally come, Spectrum says. “Vanu, a small Cambridge, Massachusetts, company, says this year it will begin selling the first cellular base station that can simultaneously process two waveforms — CDMA and GSM — all in software,” the magazine says.

“Ultimately these kind of advances could enable carriers to add new services and adapt to new standards by merely tweaking software.”

Spectrum also bestowed one of its top awards on Innovative Silicon, based in Switzerland for its Z-RAM technology. “On-chip memory already takes up more than 50% of the surface area of any respectable microprocessor,” according to the magazine.

“It’s expected to occupy a whopping 83% of the area of high-end processors by 2008... [but] you can fit as much as 5MB of Z-RAM into the space occupied by a single megabyte of conventional embedded memory.” Cramming in more memory will significantly improve processor performance.

Losers on Spectrum’s list include a flexible LED display that can be fashioned into clothing, and Quaero, a Franco-German search project announced last year that was intended to leapfrog Google.

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