Lisa Seacat DeLuca is the most prolific inventor in IBM's history, but after 500 patents granted, she still relishes the simple pleasure of finding a solution.
"It's super fun," DeLuca told Cheddar. "Really it's just problem-solving."
Much of DeLuca's work is in what she calls the ABCs (artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cloud computing), but her main focus is on digital twins. These are precise digital replicas of physical objects that can be used for various purposes, including maintenance and optimization.
Many of her inventions are based in what's called the Internet of things (IoT). The term describes a system of interrelated computer devices that speak to each other without human input. The field also touches on mobile, cognitive sciences, GPS, and security.
"IoT is catching up," she said. "It's now possible for all of our things to become more intelligent."
Though DeLuca is credited with having an entrepreneurial spirit, her career hearkens back to an old-school ethic of corporate-led innovation.
"That's one of the fun things about working at IBM. We're such a big company. There's so many different things that we've all been touching and playing with," she said. "There's no shortage of issues and problems and things that you can invent around."
Deluca has been with IBM for 15 years. During that time, she worked her way up into the position of director and distinguished engineer.
In addition to the 500 patents granted, she's submitted another 700 inventions that are currently under review. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office takes between three to five years to process applications, according to DeLuca.
"You got to be patient," she said. "You have a lot in the process."
Sometimes it turns out that someone else has already come up with the invention, but DeLuca said her current success rate is about 50 percent.
"You throw it out there and see, and worst case they come back and say it exists already," she said.