At Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Mahadev Satyanarayanan is working on a mobile-computing approach he calls “Internet suspend/resume.” The idea, says Satyanarayanan, is to be free to stop your work, have your files saved automatically over the Internet, and-when you’re ready to resume-find “your world restored” on any computer in any location, as if you were using your personal laptop.
The computer scientist is also experimenting with a new method of transforming his research into real-world technology. Every day, he takes a four-minute walk from his university office to an off-campus research lab funded by Intel. At that lab, the third “lablet” Intel has established adjacent to a leading university, Satyanarayanan has opportunities to translate his vision of Internet suspend/resume into a working prototype-and test Intel’s stated commitment to collaborating openly with academic researchers.
“Most companies have real difficulty” reconciling the academic urge for open communication with the corporate imperative to own and profit from ideas, notes Satyanarayanan, who became director of the facility in August 2001. Indeed, many corporations that fund university research force faculty and graduate students to sign nondisclosure and exclusive-licensing agreements. But “Intel has a collaborative model up front,” Satyanarayanan says. “The right approach is not to tightly control intellectual property but to treat it the way a university does.”
And so far, that’s exactly what the lablets are doing. “The vast bulk of the intellectual property produced by this research will be nonexclusive and licensed to all comers,” says Intel research director David Tennenhouse, architect of the lablet program (see “Intel Revamps R&D,” TR October 2001). At the first Intel lablet, near the University of California, Berkeley, for instance, the operating system behind the lab’s self-organizing networks of miniaturized wireless sensors is accessible to anyone who takes out a free license. Indeed, Intel plans to penalize lablet researchers who don’t share enough. “If a lablet isn’t collaborating with its university, then I’ll close it,” Tennenhouse says.