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Computerworld Horizon Awards 2005 Honorees

September 12, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld -

The Computerworld Horizon Awards were established this year to alert readers to especially cutting-edge technologies from research labs and companies that are "on the horizon." The 2005 winners and honorable mentions are presented here in alphabetical order.


IBM Almaden Research
Sovereign Information Integration

Current approaches to information integration are based on the assumption that all data in each database can be revealed to other databases. This might not be desired, however, in cases involving medical information, national security, law enforcement or intellectual property law. To allow two or more entities to share data without compromising the privacy or security of either data set, Sovereign Information Integration technology applies two or more encryption functions in different orders at different locations, resulting in double-encrypted data that can be compared without violating disclosure rules. This encryption technique also enables information sharing via a Web-based query interface.

IBM Almaden Research
Intelligent Bricks/Kybos

For a video presentation of developer Winfried Wilcke's speech at Stanford University:

This storage system architecture combines two interrelated projects: Intelligent Bricks and its system software, code-named Kybos. The basic unit of the modular and highly scalable hardware is called a brick. Each brick contains a processor, some disks and an Ethernet switch chip. Bricks are placed next to one another and communicate with their neighbors without cables or connectors by using capacitive couplers on each brick face, forming a 3-D high-speed mesh network. Kybos distributes the data throughout all the bricks in a system and manages it with a minimum of human invention. If a brick fails, Kybos reconstructs the user data from information stored on other bricks.

Microsoft Research
Vigilante is an end-to-end approach for automatic worm containment that relies on collaborative worm detection at end hosts but doesn't require hosts to trust one another. Hosts broadcast self-certifying alerts when they detect a worm. These alerts are automatically generated, machine-verifiable proofs of vulnerability that can be inexpensively verified by any vulnerable host. Hosts use dynamic data and control flow analysis to automatically generate filters that prevent infection when they receive an alert. Vigilante can contain fast-spreading worms that exploit unknown vulnerabilities without blocking harmless traffic.

NetScout Systems Inc.
Progressive Analytics
More information:

This technology automates the process of detecting and diagnosing application performance problems and anomalies before they impact critical business services. Using real-time network and application metrics from third-party instrumentation, the technology establishes statistically expected behavior values using advanced modeling and applies this information in a sophisticated statistical anomaly detector and a decision-tree-like diagnostic engine. This approach spots potential problems earlier than other methods by detecting performance anomalies rather than depending on external alarms.

Nice Systems Ltd.
This software records a call center interaction with a customer, for further analysis to identify business intelligence hidden in the unstructured audio data. It can also help call center representatives identify when a customer is getting frustrated. Using algorithms, the system determines a baseline of emotion during the first five to 10 seconds of a call. Any deviation from that baseline can trigger an alert to a supervisor. The software can be used to monitor compliance with legislation such as the do-not-call list, improve quality management, raise productivity, conduct root-cause analyses and enforce call agent adherence to scripts.

PubSub Concepts Inc.
PubSub Prospective Search provides a free prospective search matching service that continuously reads more than 10 million blogs, over 50,000 newsgroups, all SEC EDGAR filings, press releases from major wire services, earthquake data from the U.S. Geological Survey and Federal Aviation Administration airport delay information to instantly alert users whenever items of interest appear. This real-time notification service is made possible by PubSub's proprietary matching engine, which performs billions of matches of subscriber requests against newly published items on a daily basis.

Python Software Foundation
Python Software
Python is a user-friendly, object-oriented programming language, which forms the basis of some systems deployed on the Internet today, including search engine Infoseek. It is an interpretive language that began in the late 1980s as a research endeavor in the Netherlands. Known as ABC, a language intended for children to learn, it has grown into Python over the years. One of the more widely used programming languages, it is particularly powerful for rapid prototyping.

Sun Microsystems Laboratories
Proximity Communication
Created by Ivan Sutherland, research fellow and vice president
Key developers: Robert Drost, principal research scientist, and his team: Robert Bosnyak, Ajanta Chakraborty, Alex Chow, Wes Clark, Bill Coates, Ann Coulthard, Jack Cunningham, Robert Drost, Jo Ebergen, Scott Fairbanks, Jonathan Gainsley, Gilda Garreton, Bruce Guenin, Ron Ho, David Hopkins, Ian Jones, Russell Kao, Ashok Krishnamoorthy, Jon Lexau, Frankie Liu, Tarik Ono, Jeff Rulifson and Justin Schauer

This experimental technology can enable processor chips to communicate 60 times faster and with 30 times less energy than is possible using conventional means. Proximity refers to the positioning of two chips, each with transmitter and receiver circuits, extremely close to each other. Data is sent from one to the other across the gap by capacitive coupling, which is coupling between charged particles that are at rest. In proximity I/O, the long communication paths on printed circuit boards with soldered connections and wires are replaced by the tiny, simple interchip gaps. That greatly reduces what is often a bottleneck in multiprocessor computers -- inter-CPU latency.

Honorable Mentions

Alereon Inc.
Ultrawideband/wireless USB solutions
Running at speeds of up to 480Mbit/sec., Alereon systems are being designed to replace USB and 1394 solutions with industry-compatible wireless versions of these standards. The goal is true mobility -- a digital camera, MP3 player and cell phone will connect to your computer, flat-screen TV or media center using all the same software that exists today. Its first chip set will combine an analog front end and baseband processor with a media access controller that meets WiMedia standards.

Ardence Inc.
Software Streaming
This software-streaming technology enables on-demand delivery of the operating system and applications in real time to a diskless PC (both desktops and servers) from networked storage. The technology allows all processing to take place at the target PC and not on a server farm. The operating system is streamed, much like video streaming, so applications process locally on the PC and get only the information they need when they need it, maintaining network speeds and data security.

Arsenal Digital Solutions Worldwide Inc.
Arsenal ViaRecovery
More information:

This fully managed service for rapid server, application and disaster recovery enables remote bare metal recovery of a server's operating state -- including OS/patches, applications, files, configurations and settings. In the event of a complete server failure, the user can recover the complete system within minutes or hours as opposed to days.

Authentica Inc.
Authentica Mobile Mail
For more information:

This sofware is being designed to encrypt and secure the information received on mobile devices, allowing for transmission of highly sensitive e-mails. With it, users will be able to set the parameters of all e-mails and documents sent and viewed, including how long and when a user can view the information. It will also be enabled to revoke a user from accessing information and provide an audit trail of who viewed which information and when.

Bluesocket Inc.
BlueSecure Centralized Intrusion Protection System
For more information:

This security software is designed for wireless networks to monitor, manage and locate users, WLAN elements, including access points and controllers, and proactively remove rogue access points and unwanted users. The advantages of a centralized sensor are combined with distributed sensors to create a radio frequency security blanket with fewer individual deployments to save time and costs. The centralized sensors use antenna arrays to enable a larger coverage area from a single location.

ClickFox Inc.
Flash demo:
Using existing data found in raw logs, such as call or Web traffic and other data stores, ClickFox reverse-engineers this data to build a graphical depiction of the structure of the interactive systems. It then visually maps the actual step-by-step user interactions, in aggregate, to that depiction. The result is an objective decision-making environment that allows companies to understand how their customers, employees or any users are faring in any automated system. Interactions can be tracked across applications, for example, to see a customer go from Web, to a self-service kiosk, to an interactive voice response or speech recognition system, and then to the CRM application used by a customer service agent.

Codefast Inc.
Codefast Lifecycle Automation

This software automates processes in the back end of a software life cycle, such as policy enforcement, builds, regression testing, testbed configuration, packaging and deployment. This is accomplished through an object-oriented approach to the automation of back-end processes called collections. Projects under Codefast control are represented as a set of collections, defined and stored in the Codefast knowledge base. These collections are processed by the Codefast Collection Processing System, which drives the generation and execution of infrastructure scripts that perform the needed processes in an automated, reliable and repeatable way.

Dexterra Inc.
Dexterra Composer
This application framework enables applications to be built, complete with field flows and force flows tied into the framework. It uses a library of best practice components to allow rapid development of applications that are designed around specific mobile business processes without writing code. The applications are defined in the Dexterra Application Meta Language, which creates the ability to target multiple device platforms. By using standard protocols, applications can communicate across any network.

Hewlett-Packard Laboratories
Molecular-scale crossbar electronics
Real file link:
Windows Media version:
For more information:
To view a diagram of the technology:

These crossbars are molecular-scale circuits consisting of grids of wires whose intersections can be populated, by programming, with various devices such as resistors, diodes and switches. A new crossbar latch combines molecular-scale switches. HP Labs hopes this latch will enable it to build incredibly tiny, complete computers.

Hewlett-Packard Laboratories
Digital Media Platform
This software provides integrated access to content and media repositories and content processing in a Web-services-based service-oriented environment. It enables businesses to integrate all the content-centric processes, workflows and media management components necessary for content creation, production and distribution into flexible applications. Designed to handle rich digital media, it provides coordination of complex content processing flows, scheduling and load-balancing for content processing operations, dynamic discovery of content processing services and allocation of media across multiple tiers of storage.

Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions
First Responder Coordination System

This system was designed to enable distributed teams, such as fire and police personnel, to work efficiently and coordinate operations. The system consists of wireless-networked PDA-like devices with integrated location sensing and knowledge management services. Key innovations include intuitive user interfaces designed for environments characterized by limited visibility, orientation difficulties and poor situation awareness; an architectural approach based on a common data model, data-driven displays and XML schema to create visual and aural content that is device-portable.

Microsoft Research
Indy + Magpie
Indy allows IT professionals to ask what-if questions in a virtual performance environment. It encodes knowledge and best practices from application product groups in predefined application models, automatically configures these models through integration with an enterprise management infrastructure, and automatically calibrates and validates these models against a live environment. Magpie adds the ability to create Indy application models automatically, by inference and coalescence of event trace logs from every machine on which a distributed application runs, building a model of a line-of-business application simply by watching it work.

National Center for Supercomputing Applications
Secure E-mail List Services

This technology provides confidentiality, integrity and authentication for e-mail list services and is compatible with existing e-mail standards and systems. Its prototype works with a wide range of e-mail client software and provides easy-to-install plug-ins for commonly used list servers. The goal is to provide security for corporate information assets and privacy for customer and employee information by encrypting sensitive data and ensuring only authorized users can access it.

NetManage Inc.
OnWeb Mobile
For more information:
Video demo:

This technology enables remote employees' connectivity to existing corporate applications, giving them real-time decision-making capabilities that boost responsiveness, productivity and cost savings. It requires no change to existing enterprise systems and supports AS/400, mainframe, packaged applications and .Net and J2EE applications. Key technology highlights include multithreaded, robust and scalable support for connection pooling, load balancing and fail-over, and the ability to export JavaBeans and Enterprise JavaBeans, .Com and .Net objects, Web services, HTML and BizTalk schemas.

Palo Alto Research Center
For more information:

This technology enables system administrators to easily enable users to configure their wireless devices to the best available standards. To use the technology, users take a new device, such as a laptop, to an enrollment station, and then point (for example, through infrared or sound) to the station, indicating their desire to enroll the laptop in the corporate wireless network. After the exchange of trust information, which occurs when the device is pointed at the station, the user is informed by e-mail that their digital certificate is ready. The user's laptop installs the digital certificate using PARC's enrollment software, and configures the laptop according to policy settings provided by the enterprise's IT staff.

Palo Alto Research Center
Privacy Box
For more information:

This appliance is being designed to protect privacy while allowing data to be put to beneficial use. Operating as a privacy firewall, a privacy appliance sits between data consumers and data sources to filter queries into data sources and return only data that doesn't violate privacy. The appliances are owned and operated by the data owners. The privacy appliance performs inference control to identify queries that compromise privacy, access control to detect and prohibit colluding users from pooling query results to identify individuals or otherwise compromise privacy, and software to generate a tamper-proof audit trail that captures query history.

Sana Security Inc.
Active Malware Defense
The automated functionalities of this technology offer instant detection, classification and response to malware, and, unlike other products, the ability to kill and quarantine malicious programs.

Tacit Software Inc.
Tacit ActiveNet
For more information:
Demos and screenshots:
For commercial organizations, routine disconnects can cost millions of dollars and thousands of hours on an annualized basis. This software continuously and automatically discovers each employee's work focus, expertise and business relationships, helping employees leverage past project successes and failures, make critical decisions based on an awareness of the organization, and tap the valuable experience of others.

University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computing
For more information:
Video demos:

This platform enables the rapid and principled creation of intelligent agents that can be used to faciliate interpretation, monitoring and alerting, and information extraction and fusion. Agents can be used for dynamic collaborations of disparate systems. These agents can be created and customized quickly, and can participate in multiple applications with little or no modification.

University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computing
The Story project
For more information:

This prototype can extract information about entities (persons, events, places) from Web-based sources and other data sources and create stories from them. The system examines multiple, distributed data sources, extracts interesting factoids from each data source, then integrates these to produce a narrative targeted at the interest of the specific user. It uses an operations research style mathematical model to pack a story with facts that are pertinent to a user's interests, accessing vast amounts of unstructured or partially structured data across disparate sources and filtering that data into small stories.

Additional Resources

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