PICTURES OF THE FUTURE
Patents and Innovations
Stereo Hearing Aid T hanks to an innovative researcher from Siemens, hearing aids fitted in both ears can now adjust automatically to specific acoustic situations. Dr. Torsten Niederdränk,who heads the Basic Technology Group at Siemens Audiological Systems in Erlangen, Germany, and his team developed the Acuris system, which has been on the market for about a year now. With Acuris, both hearing aids are always optimally adjusted because they communi- cate with each other and thus function synchronously. The resulting stereo sound makes it much easier for wearers to locate the origin of sounds and to hear low-level noises. The two hearing aids continuously exchange con- trol signals via a tiny radio transceiver only a few millimeters in size. If the wearer is engaged in conversation and a truck passes by, the system reacts in frac- tions of a second, automatically suppress- ing the vehicle noise and boosting the sound of the speaker’s voice. The system is available with hearing aids that can be worn either behind or in the ear. The de- vice worn in the ear is barely visible in the auditory canal. The computing power of each device is roughly equivalent to that of a Pentium 4 processor. Since 1999, Niederdränk has submitted 55 hearing o d a y ’ s i n t e l l i g e n t c a r r e c o g n i z e s i Inventor Torsten Niederdränk with the Acuris t s o w n e r , u n l o c k s t h e d o o r , a u t o m a t i c a l l y a d j u s t s t h e d r i v e r ’ s s e a t a n d e n a b l e s t h e i g n i t i o n . A l l t h e s e i n n o v a t i o n s o w e t h e i r d e v e l o p - g r e a t l y e n h a n c e s s e c u r i t y a s w e l l a s ■ f m T P A T E N T S h e a r i n g a i d . T h e t i n y d e v i c e p a c k s t h e c o m - p u t i n g p o w e r o f a P e n t i u m 4 p r o c e s s o r . P e r s o n a l i z e d C a r K e y a i d i n v e n t i o n s . I n 2 0 0 ment to Siemens inventor Alain Brillon from Toulouse, France. Brillon is the co-inventor of the Passive Start and Entry (PASE) systems. Since 1997, he has filed 26 patent applica- tions, most of them in this field. The system debuted in the S-Class from Mercedes in 1998, and more and more vehicles are now equipped with this technology. PASE is a key- less entry-control and start system. All a driver needs to have is an identification trans- mitter in the form of a small card or key. When he or she wishes to enter the vehi- cle, a proximity sensor registers hand contact on the door. In the meantime, the driver has already identified himself or herself by means of an RFID (radio fre- quency identification) tag integrated in the key or card. PASE then unlocks the door, adjusts the vehicle to the driver’s personal preferences and enables the ignition. To start the vehicle, the driver simply presses the gas pedal and then pushes a button. The engine can only be started when the identification transmit- ter is in the vehicle — a feature that 4 , h e w a s n a m e d “ I n v e n t o r o f t h e Y e a r ” PASE inventor Alain Brillon has filed 26 patent applications for intelligent entry-control systems for automotive applications. ■ n a comfort
Innovation in the Land of the Dragon
e e p t h i n g s m o v i n g ” i s D r . A r d i n g H s u ’ s m o t t o — a n d H s u , w h o h e a d s S i e m e n s K Corporate Technology (CT) in China, isn’t just referring to the country’s nine percent annu- al growth rate. To ensure that Siemens’ re- search activities remain in tune with the mar- ket — and to improve cooperation with partners — Siemens is rapidly establishing a new research center in China. It was for this reason that Hsu, who was born in China but is western-oriented, came to Beijing at the end of last year. Hsu studied in the U.S., where he lived for 30 years. For the last 21 years, he has worked for Siemens, most recently as CEO and President of the Siemens Technology-to- Business Center in Berkeley, California, where Siemens works with start-ups and universities to transform innovations into products as quickly as possible.
In response to China’s growing importance as a research location, Siemens Corporate Technology is speeding up its formation of a team that will develop solutions for China and the global market.
Research for China and the world. Arding Hsu (left) and members of his team in Beijing.
Hsu says he’s surprised by the speed at which Chinese companies are currently pene- trating global markets and acquiring competi- tors, and also by how fast Chinese scientists have succeeded in “becoming world-class” in research areas such as communications, gam- ing and life sciences.
He’s also discovered something else since he arrived in Beijing: “Young people in China are strongly influenced by a dynamic entre- preneurial spirit; with the right leadership they could fast achieve amazing results.” That’s why Hsu is convinced he will be able to recruit from an extensive pool of talented in- dividuals.
He’s also convinced that “we can benefit from this resource not only in the Chinese market, but also in the global market.” Hsu adds that “it is more important here than at other locations to work closely with up-and- coming companies and use innovations as a vehicle to create win-win strategies.”
Siemens has 22,000 employees in China. These people generated sales of around four billion euros in fiscal 2004. A small team of re- searchers led by Dr. Martin Scheurer has been working in Beijing since 1999. Since 2004, CT’s presence has been steadily expanded and now includes some 120 researchers in Beijing and Shanghai. Plans call for this num- ber to increase to 300 by 2007.
Healthcare is one of the main research ar- eas. Others include communications, au- tomation and automotive engineering. And Hsu is interested in all other Siemens business areas too. The CT Lab in Beijing is also in- volved in patent protection and standardiza- tion issues.
The facility houses a mixture of physicists, computer scientists, engineers and business developers. Most are from China but some, like Hsu, have come back “home” from abroad. “If you’re going to stimulate innova- tion and transform innovations into mar- ketable products, you need to have an excel- lent and experienced management team that recruits young scientists and asks them the right tough questions to bring them to the world-class level,” says Hsu, who admires the dedication of young Chinese scientists and the breathtaking speed at which they are as- sembling knowledge.
Experts such as Roland Chin, Professor of Computer Science and a Vice President of the Hong Kong University of Science and Tech- nology (HKUST), believe China will move ahead of Germany, the UK and Japan in the next five years to become the second most important center of research and develop- ment for international corporations after the United States.
Versatile Research Strategy. In particular, Hsu plans to focus on the following: ➔ Cutting-edge technologies such as those used for the development of fourth-genera- tion mobile communications systems. The latter will offer even higher data transfer rates than UMTS and provide mobile broadband ac- cess to the Internet. Here, CT is working with several Chinese and German universities in the “FuTUR” program (as part of China’s Re- search Initiative 863) as well as in the EU’s Wireless World Initiative New Radio (WINNER) project. CT researchers are working on opti- mizing existing radio networks through the use of multi-antenna systems for transmis- sion and reception as well as a special trans- mission procedure known as OFDM. (Pictures of the Future, Fall 2004, p.11). ➔ Effective technologies particularly suited to the Chinese market. These include solutions for a low-cost vehicle for the large number of peo- ple living in rural areas, who only need cars to transport goods and travel short distances. ➔ Alternative technologies first for China as an emerging market and later for the global mar- ket. Hsu’s strategy here is to “use Chinese cus- tomer needs and their environment to derive different approaches that are simple, cheap, and easy to use and maintain. The solutions could also prove relevant for developed markets.”
Alternative Medical Technology. The combi- nation of different fields of technology plays a major role in all three research approaches. For example, Hsu is thinking about having re- searchers in the field of medical technology in Beijing develop alternative diagnostic tech- niques based on a mixture of traditional Chinese medicine and Western high-tech diagnostics.
Although many research projects are still in their preliminary stages at CT in China, the groundwork for innovation has already been laid in many areas. Hsu has another reason why speedy progress is important: “China is a coun- try in which it is very important that Siemens lives up to its reputation as a socially responsible company,” he says. “The gap between rich and poor is growing in China at the moment; a lot of people are still living in poor conditions, have no access to clean water and are suffering from the effects of a polluted environment.”
In response to these problems, Hsu wants to establish a think tank in Beijing that will serve as a forum for bringing together government rep- resentatives, universities and customers to or- ganize programs to help underprivileged groups. “Plans call for the forum to meet once or twice a year and also to operate a website that will serve as a venue for fruitful discussions,” H s u e x p l a i n s . “ B a s i c a l l y w e j u s t w a n t t o k e e p ■ N i k o l a W o h l l a i b things moving.”
Pictures of the Future | Fall 2005