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RTP Inventor Patents New Kind of 'Gas Pump'

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — For the seventh consecutive year, IBM has been awarded more U.S. patents than any company in the world. Of the more than 2,700 patents, 225 had at least one inventor based in North Carolina.

One of those inventors came up with a new system that uses radio frequency technology to configure a computer even before it is taken out of the box.

The prototype is called "Gas Pump," named after quick changes made during pit stops in auto racing.

"The machine can be configured while it's still in the box by providing the AC power connection and network connection," said inventor David Rhoades.

Gas Pump speeds the process of getting computers operating.

"The world of business is now all about speed so this helps people move faster as they deploy computers inside their businesses," said Peter Hortensius, director of Technology Development at RTP.

A handheld computer uses radio signals to get information from the computer inside the box and feed the information to a network server.

"It will actually turn on, change the BIOS into Spanish and power off," Rhoades said. "When it's done, you can ship the box."

"The server downloads the information allows you to re-configure the software, either the firmware in the machine or actually reload the operating system, exchange the operating system, install applications." Rhoades said.

RTP inventors use the same radio frequency technology in a security system to protect laptop computers from theft.

This year, IBM plans to spend $5.5 billion in research and development.

The results of new patents granted to Big Blue are already in use. "One third of our patents have already been embodied in our products," Hortensius said. "So these patents are already impacting our customers."

IBM cross-licenses a lot of its technology. More than 900 of last year's patents are software related and pertain directly to the company's e-business strategy.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
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