What Xerox PARC Will Do with Its Next 40 Years
What Xerox PARC Will Do with Its Next 40 Years
by Chris Preimesberger
Legendary Research Location
PARC, located in the Palo Alto, Calif., foothills, is literally a place where dreams come true, although sometimes it can take years of development before they become commercially successful products. The institution currently holds about 2,500 patents and not only works with Tier 1-type commercial clients such as Xerox, Fujitsu, Motorola, NEC and Microsoft, but it also serves as an incubator for new startups.
Working on an Alternative Internet
One of PARC's biggest current projects is called Content-Centric Networking (or Named Data Networking). It is an alternative approach to the architecture of computer networks, being led by Chief Engineer Jim Thornton (left) and Van Jacobson (right), the original author of TCP/IP header compression and now a research fellow at PARC. Basically, Jacobson said, it eschews conventional Internet "plumbing" and moves to a name and object-oriented approach to finding information whereever it may be. In September 2009, PARC published the specifications for interoperability and released an initial open-source implementation of the Content Centric Networking research project on the Project CCNx site. The next-generation Internet will be called the NDN (Named Data Network).
A New Company Is Born
On the day of PARC's 40th birthday, PowerCloud Systems was born. Incubated at PARC, the company provides a cloud service that controls one or more wireless networks within an enterprise. Each location has a standard-looking wireless hot spot (see next page) that can be controlled from one Web-based location. The company's first vice president of Product Development and Marketing is Andrea Peiro (left) and CEO is Jeff Abramowitz (right).
More on PowerCloud Systems
This is the way local wireless networks for enterprises may be controlled in the future. Startup PowerCloud Systems, which did its research and development at PARC, officially launched on Sept. 23 (see previous slide). In this system, each network location has a standard-looking wireless hot spot that can be controlled from a single Web-based location. This does wonders for security within an organization. The Website is powercloudsystems.compowercloudsystems.com.
Social Intelligence System
Social networks- such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, wikis and others- help members connect in real time to share awareness of news and information. These tools enable faster learning and decision-making. However, there are problems that include getting more people involved and information overload. PARC is modeling people's behavior in these social systems in order to develop solutions that enhance the usability and value of social analytics and collaboration systems.
He Made Networking Practical
Bob Metcalfe (right) laughs with a colleague at the PARC anniversary event on Sept. 23. Metcalfe, known as the father of Ethernet, founded 3COM to commercialize his product. 3COM was sold to Hewlett-Packard earlier in 2010.
Creating More Usable Water
This is not a trivial project by any means. PARC demonstrated a hydrodynamic separator at the Sept. 23 event. These are storm water management devices used to control water pollution designed as flow-through structures with a settling or separation unit to remove sediment and other pollutants. HDS are considered structural best management practices and are used to treat and pretreat storm water runoff.
New Intelligent Systems
These PARC projects involve data center software (PowerAssure), supply chain planning and control, and some new robotics. PowerAssure, another incubated company spun out of PARC, distributes the flow of electricity in power-hungry data centers to make best use of resources. Plantrol automation is model-based planning and control software for coordinated reconfigurable manufacturing processes. Lastly, MELT (Mobile Entry Location and Tracking) robots are interesting: Set free inside a building, for example, they feel their way around walls, map the size and shape of the space and send the information to a monitor. As one might imagine, the military is interested in this for land forces to use before they go into unknown structures.
Meshin for Better E-Mail Organization
PARC's Meshin is a Microsoft Outlook sidebar that organizes e-mail and other information on PCs so that people can work faster and smarter and save time. Using semantic and natural language processing, Meshin takes information from a mailbox and connects it with related information on the Web and even with conversations in social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. Chief Architect Peter Hizalev is shown here.
For 40 years, PARC has been in the business of researching and developing electronic devices, and that activity isn't waning one bit. The lab designs everything from data center rack backplanes to organic semiconductors to new chip fabrication prototypes. Flexible electronics also is a hot item, (see Slide 9 in previous slide show), with special multisensory head-trauma measurement "tape" now being readied for health care markets.
The Experts Talk Up a Good Game
This panel discussion at the PARC anniversary event focused on how PARC has used an interdisciplinary scientific approach to create so much important technology over the years. Left to right: PARC Vice President of Business Development Tamara St. Claire; Xerox CTO Dr. Sophie Vandebroek; Microsoft Search Strategist Dr. Barney Pell; Brad Wurtz, CEO of PowerAssure; Dr. Hitoshi Matsumoto, president of Fujitsu Laboratories America; and David Douglas, director of New Technology Development at Oracle Microelectronics.
The legend is that bean bag chairs were first used at PARC in the 1970s. While that story has not positively been corroborated, the lab nonetheless gave everyone at the anniversary event a bean bag keepsake.