IBM scientists and researchers received 9 130 US patents in 2020, the most of any company for the 28th consecutive year.

IBM led the industry in the number of artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, quantum computing and security-related patents granted.

“The world needs scientific thinking and action more than ever. IBM’s sustained commitment to investing in research and development, both in good and in challenging times, has paved the way for new products and new frontiers of information technology that have greatly benefited our clients and society,” says DarĂ­o Gil, senior vice-president and director of IBM Research.

“The culture of innovation at IBM is stronger than ever, thanks to our inventors worldwide who devote themselves to advancing the boundaries of knowledge in their respective fields every single day.”

IBM led the industry in the number of US patents across key technology fields:

Making AI More Intuitive

IBM received more than 2 300 AI patents as inventors developed new AI technologies to help businesses scale their use of AI.

Patents in this area ranged from technology to make virtual agents more responsive to emotions when speaking to customers, to AI that can help people make difficult decisions — summarising key decision points from a variety of information sources, both written and verbal, and presenting them in easy-to-understand visualisations.

Streamlining Hybrid Cloud Deployments at the Edge

IBM received more than 3 000 patents related to cloud and hybrid cloud technologies.

One of the crucial decisions CIOs face today is determining which data will be processed on premises and which will be processed in the cloud. IBM inventors developed a technology to intelligently distribute the data processing components between the cloud, the edge and computing devices in-between. It offers the potential to greatly optimise the hybrid cloud for IoT workloads – such as GPS-generated driving instructions – that are sensitive to latency.

Laying the Foundation for Powerful Quantum Applications

Quantum computing is a major focus for IBM and this is reflected in IBM’s leadership in quantum computing patents obtained.

One patent, for example, simplifies the mapping of quantum molecular simulation on a quantum computer. As a result, researchers will be able to explore simulating chemical reactions on quantum computers to understand how and when the discovery process around new materials and new pharmaceuticals will be revolutionized.

IBM was also granted a patent that sets the foundation for investigating more accurate and efficient risk analysis calculations on a quantum computer.

Maximizing Security for the World’s Most Sensitive Data

As enterprises work to protect their data, particularly in highly-regulated industries, IBM inventors received more than 1 400 security-related patents.

One of the patents is used for fully homomorphic encryption (FHE), an IBM-pioneered method of performing computation on data that remains encrypted while being processed in order to maximize security for data in use.

Previously, processing encrypted data required decryption before processing and re-encrypting the results, thus making data more vulnerable while unencrypted. IBM inventors patented a technique that allows encrypted data to be organized so that FHE vector comparison operations can be performed efficiently and maximises the security of the data.