Lih Y. Lin
Built micromirror switches for faster, all-optical telecommunications networks.
At about three times the diameter of a human hair, the micromechanical optical switches that Lih Lin designed for AT&T in 1997 and 1998 were scarcely visible. And that miniscule machines she subsequently built solved a fundamental problem in telecommunications. Information travels at high speed over the optical fibers that form the backbones of telecom networks, but converting the optical signals to electronic bits for processing by traditional circuitry limits the network’s overall transmission rate and increases its cost. Lin introduced pivoting micromirrors that can switch light-wave signals directly, circumventing the pitfalls of electronic manipulation. Her technique has since been widely developed and is enhancing the capacity and reducing the cost of the optical-fiber network, as well as enabling faster and broader-band data and video transmission over the Internet. Lin’s work has yielded 16 patents and 120 published papers. As a newly appointed associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, she plans to apply her knowledge of photonics and micromechanics to biotechnology to devise new kinds of imaging tools that can analyze individual cells.
Develops ways to improve the security of streaming video on the Net.
The only TR100 innovator who can also say he’s an Emmy Ward winner is John Apostolopoulos. An MIT graduate student, he helped develop the video compression system that was integrated into the U.S. Digital TV standard for high-definition television, for which he received a Technical Emmy in 1997. That year Apostolopoulos joined Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, aiming to improve the fidelity and security of streaming video- video sent through the Internet in continuous flows of data packets. The internet is vulnerable to errors, or even attacks, that can keep those packets from their destinations, so Apostolopoulos designed a technique for sending video information across multiple paths simultaneously rather than relying on a single path. Interruption of one path doesn’t kill the transmission because the missing video can be recovered using the stream from another path. Meanwhile, a security-conscious U.S. government agency, which Apostolopoulos prefers not to identify, is evaluating a method he codeveloped for encrypting media streams so they can be carried by diverse networks and then adapted for viewing on diverse devices. Now a senior research scientist, Apostolopoulos has begun to tackle streaming-media schemes for wireless networks.
Sparked the widespread development of Web servers, mainstreaming the nascent Web.
Few people have had as broad an impact on the Web’s development as Brian Behlendorf. In 1993, while an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, Behlendorf set up wired.com, one of the earliest non-academic Web sites. In 1994 he led the team that built hotwired.com, the first ad-supported site. That same year, Behlendorf contributed to the development of the Virtual Reality Modeling Language, which added animation, music, and video to what had been a text-laden Web. But Behlendorf’s most important contribution came in 1995 when he founded the Apache Web Server Project, which sparked the proliferation of university and commercial server computers. Apache is a freely available, Unix-based Web server program that is now used to host more than 65 percent of the world’s Web sites; it is unquestionably one of the most important open-source projects in the history of computing. The Apache Software Foundation, which Behlendorf let for three years, now has 700 developers working on 120 projects to improve the Web. In 1999, Behlendorf founded CollabNet, a software firm in Brisbane, CA, that offers Web collaboration toolsl to help companies write software more efficiently.
Wrote software that is accelerating the expansion of wireless networking.
Steve Nelson, a venture capitalist and chairman of Durham, NC,-based Pinpoint Networks, says Jud Bowman “gains knowledge in the morning that becomes great business judgment in the afternoon.” Bowman exercises that judgment as Pinpoint’s founder and CEO. In 1999 Bowman deferred undergraduate admission to Stanford University to launch Pinpoint with a high-school friend. The company’s initial offering was a search engine that helped cell-phone users find wireless-data applications such as internet-messaging software. But Bowman quickly recognized that incompatibilities among handsets and service providers were stymieing wireless networking. So Pinpoint created Fuel- a software platform that acts as a mediator, feeding wireless applications from just about any network to just about any headset. Bowman believes Fuel could accelerate the wireless market; he raised $20 million in capital and has licensed Fuel to cellular giants Verizon Wireless and U.K.- based mm02. Fuel faces fierce competition from rival startups, telecommunications companies, and hand-set makers, but Bowman shows little strain, finding time to play viola in the Raleigh (NC) Symphony Orchestra. He never did find time for college.
Leads the global effort to improve privacy practices and tools on the Web.
In high school, the artistic Lorrie Cranor has no interest in a computer career, but today she is chair of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Platform for Privacy Preferences Project (P3P). P3P, a high-profile collection of Internet protocols released in 2002, has been adopted by more than 500 companies and will soon be added to more than 400 U.S. government sites. It allows Web sites to produce machine-readable privacy statements free of legal jargon, and enables browsers to interrogate these privacy policies automatically whenever they access the Web pages. Both the Netscape and Internet Explorer browsers have adopted P3P and take it a step further by blocking third-party cookies- those files Web sites plant on visitors’ hard drives to send back data. Discussion of P3P’s specifications began within the consortium in 1997, and Cranor, a leader in privacy research at AT&T who holds a doctorate of science in engineering and policy, steered representatives from industry, government, and academia toward consensus.
Wrote software that allows hundreds of minute wireless sensors to communicate better.
When sandstorms raged during the 2003 Iraq war, coalition forces stalled because they could not track enemy movement. Small wireless sensors scattered across terrain could in principle do the tracking instead- and Jason Hill, a PhD in electrical engineering and computer science, has created free software called TinyOS that greatly reduces the cost of setting up and running such a sensor network. Sensors in previous networks relayed information about acoustic vibrations or magnetic fields along predetermined paths to base stations. TinyOS allows the sensors to pass messages to any nearby peer as needed. The system can survive if some sensors are destroyed and reduces reliance on costly base stations, making for quicker deployment and greater flexibility. Today, 80 companies, including Intel and Bosch, use TinyOS in everything from military surveillance to energy monitoring. Last year Hill cofounded Dust in Berkeley, CA, to build custom network applications, some already sold to Honeywell to help grocery stores monitor power usage, and he has now started his own firm, JLH Labs in Capistrano Beach, CA.
Sparked the rise of the popular Web-based journals known as blogs.
Meg Hourihan didn’t intend to start a revolution when she cofounded the San Francisco Web application company Pyra Labs with fellow TR100 honoree Evan Williams in 1999. The duo, along with programmer Paul Bausch, created the pioneering application Blogger. Web logs, or “blogs,” are frequently updated, Web-based journals kept by individuals or groups; they have become wildly popular, with people around the globe now posting Web links, political commentary, or even diaries on them. Before Blogger, one had to be fluent in HTML code- and rent server space- in order to put up a Web log. Blogger removed this barrier with a simple interface that allows anyone to create a Web log, hosted free on Pyra’s servers. Today, Blogger has more than one million registered users. After leaving Pyra Labs in 2001, Hourihan cofounded the Lafayette Project in New York City, where she directs development of a Web-based search tool to help manage the growing glut of blogs. Last February, Pyra Labs was bought by search engine giant Google, where Blogger and its servers live on.
Paul Q. Judge
Wrote software that stops spam and viruses before they enter a network.
Where most of us see a nuisance, Paul Judge sees a security threat. While working on his master’s thesis on secure content distribution, Judge became employee number four at CipherTrust, an Atlanta data security startup. Judge, now chief technology officer, envisioned a clack box installed at the gateway between the Internet and a corporate or campus network that would block unwanted e-mail and viruses before they slowed productivity or destroyed data. Leading a team of 10 developers (all older than he was), Judge produced IronMail, a computer that runs a series of spam filters and virus detectors, some based on algorithms the team created. Now deployed at 700 corporations and universities, IronMail stops 95 to 98 percent of incoming spam without blocking legitimate mail, Judge says. He also founded the Spam Archive, a research storehouse of junk e-mail, and his efforts let to his appointment as the first head of the Anti-Spam Research Group within the Internet Research Task Force, a professional society. “Over the years, the anti-spam community has focused on symptom relief,” Judge remarks. “The Anti-Spam Research Group was formed to focus on a cure.”
Invented a server language that brought live data to the Web.
Born near the North Pole on Greenland’s Disco Island, Rasmus Lerdorf has learned five languages while living around the world. But it’s the language he invented that has had global impact. In 1995, without any formal programming training, Lerdorf developed a server language to help him set up Web sites he was designing for companies. He named the language PHP, for PHP hypertext preprocessor- an acronym that contains itself. Once embedded in the Web’s basic addressing protocol, PHP solved a fundamental problem. Before PHP, Web pages were dominated by static text and pictures; creating sites that could readily incorporate up-to-date information or interact with databases was difficult. PHP made all that possible. Lerdorf offered his code free, and today companies worldwide, including Ericsson, CBS, and Yahoo!, use it as the backbone for more than 12 million sites, where it enables live financial data, news feeds, and stock tickers. Along the way, Lerdorf worked stints at IBM and Linuxcare. In September 2002, he joined Yahoo! To assist it in migrating to PHP-based tools, a move expected to speed development and reduce training costs.
Brings database and Web-like services to remote areas through touch-tone phones.
There are about 2.5 billion phones worldwide but only 600 million computers. Knowing this, Paul Meyer, a Yale Law School grad and former speechwriter for President Clinton, founded Washington, DC-based Voxiva in 2001 to help isolated communities access computing power through touch-tone telephones. Because phone use requires neither literacy not much electricity, the system benefits regions that are short on both. Launched with funding from the Markle Foundation and the World Bank, Voxiva enables users to input and retrieve information by tapping phone buttons, listening to messages, and speaking responses. In Peru, health-care workers can call a Voxiva server to submit reports about patient symptoms or disease outbreaks. Peru’s Ministry of Health has already collected 50,000 reports on threatening diseases. Meyer’s ingenuity has benefited other countries as well. Working with the international Rescue Committee in 1999, he built a wireless network that became Kosovo’s first Internet service provider. He also set up a Lotus Notes system to help reunite refugees in Guinea. Impressed with Voxiva’s performance, the U.S. government hired the company to track the effect of smallpox vaccinations on U.S. soldiers.
Develops software that lets companies tailor services to their customers locations.
Stuck behind a dial-up connection in 1999, Sanjay Parekh grew frustrated having to enter information like his city and state before he cold find store locations on, say, the Federal Express and Ikea Web sites. “These sites should already know where I am,” he thought. Rather than curse at his monitor, he formed Digital Envoy in Norcross, GA, to make his idea real. Four years later his product, NetAculty, is used by eBay, AOL Time Warner, Microsoft, and others to determine a visitor’s locality. It traces connections back thorough Internet switching stations to the network nodes where log-ons originate- almost always in a visitor’s city or town. This is close enough to give users local weather forecasts, or the addresses of nearby electronics stores, without their having to enter any data. NetAcuity also enables Web sites to automatically tailor advertisements. A billboard ad for Home Depot, for example, could announce a sale at a store near the visitor’s home. Indeed, Google uses NetAcuity to target area-specific ads. “A lot of people don’t know about us,” Parekh says, “but everyone is touched by us,”
Vipul Ved Prakash
Developed free and commercial software filters that fight spam.
In 1997, Vipul Ved Prakash dropped out of Delhi University “for want of undisturbed coding time,” as he puts it. He then cofounded Sense/Net, one of India’s first privately owned Internet service providers, but soon encountered the scourge of spam. Customers paying by the minute for their connections complained they were wasting time deleting inwanted e-mail. So Prakash developed Vipul’s Razoe, a spam-fighting, opensource software tool available online for free. Thousands of users downloaded the “collaborative filter” program, which allowed them to keep messages or move them into spam folders. Vipul’s Razor transmitted those decisions to a central server, and if a majority of users discarded a given message, it would therefore be blocked for the entire group. After moving from New Delhi to California in 2000, Prakash worked for a time at Napster and then cofounded Cloudmark with Jordan Ritter, Napster’s former software chief. The San Francisco startup adapted Vipul’s Razor into a tool called SpamNet that today boasts 500,000 users. Initially free, it now costs $3.99 per month. “When a new person joins,” Prakash says, “they get the benefit of the entire community.” Cloudmark also markets Authority, a corporate version of SpamNet.
Provides support services and startup money for entrepreneurs.
Rueben Singh combines technology and capital to help other entrepreneurs. He started his first business- a fashion accessories shop- at age 18, and four years later, as CEO of a retail chain, he was worth millions. Relying heavily on eight assistants, he realized that most other time-strapped entrepreneurs could use the same kind of support. So in 1999, he used $6 million of his own money to found alldayPA in Manchester, England. The company uses custom software that enables a team of live personal assistants to handle calls, manage calendars, type letters, and perform other tasks for business owners, whose customers need never know that the assistants are at a 650-seat around-the-clock call center. AlldayPA now has a database of 94,000 registered customers, who save money by not having to hire employees. Meantime, Singh’s Golden Fund, a $24 million war chest for acquiring and turning around ailing information technology companies, has aided more than a dozen businesses. The Bentley-driving CEO is helping other entrepreneurs through Dream On Attitude, a venture capital fund that invests his and other people’s cash in startups founded by innovators younger than 25.
Simplifies peoples electronic lives with graphical data management.
By the time he completed his first high-school calculus class, Martin Wattenberg had already coauthored a software package for teaching calculus using a more visual method. Since then he has employed his rare combination of mathematical and artistic talent (New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art has exhibited his computer-based art) to introduce new ways of visualizing data. At SmartMoney.com, his popular, Java-based , interactive “Map of the Market” offers investors color-coded graphical representations of market capitalization and stock activity for more than 500 companies. Rather than sifting through reams of data investors can monitor the map for real-time color changes indicating whether a stock is up or down. His current research for the Collaborative User Experience group at IBM focuses on creating a visual paradigm for electronic collaboration. One tool under development will present users with maps of their in-boxes that highlight the names of people they own mail to and can graphically trace the history of each message. Wattenberg’s innovations at IBM are still in the lab (he only joined the company last year), but his skills should help people better organize and make sense of their increasingly electronic existence.
Builds wireless sensor networks that improve industrial efficiency.
From Hawaii to Norway to Japan, Andrew Wheeler’s wireless sensor networks are providing real-time control over factory conditions, energy usage, and inventory. As a graduate student at MIT, Wheeler built small processors with built-in sensors and radios that could be spread around a factory or power plant, where they organized themselves into smart communications networks that could manage sensor information, such as temperature. Wheeler’s hardware and data-routing algorithm proved reliable in field tests, so in 2001, he cofounded Ember in Boston, one of the first companies to commercialize self-organizing nodes for wireless sensing and control. An intensely curious engineer who can “focus like a battering ram,” in the words of Michael Hawley, his advisor at MIT, Wheeler helped raise $28 million for Ember in a difficult investment climate-which has enabled the company to aggressively sell its communications nodes to customers in industry, to utility companies, and to defense contractors.
Fueled the expansion of blogs across the Web.
Evan Williams is a survivor. In early 2001 he was the sole remaining employee of Pyra labs, the San Francisco company he had cofounded with fellow TR100 honoree Meg Hourihan and programmer Paul Bausch. They had designed Blogger, a Web application that allows people to create Web logs (or “blogs”)- Web pages where users can maintain Internet journals. Blogger helped realize the promise of the Internet; that ordinary folks with no programming experience could use it to air their views. Blogger’s friendly interface- and free server space- are widely popular. After the dot-com crash, when Williams had trouble raising money to buy badly needed servers, Pyra Labs asked users for help, and they donated more than $10,000. That modest infusion was enough for the company to rally, and Blogger’s popularity skyrocketed. It currently has more than one million registered users. Williams continues to develop Blogger at search engine heavyweight Google, which bought Pyra Labs last February. He believes blogs will become “an accepted part of the media ecosystem.” Indeed, blogs have turned public attention to overlooked news, including the controversial remarks of Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) that led to his ouster as U.S. Senate majority leader.
Wrote software widely adopted by the telecom industry that speeds up optical networks.
As a graduate student, Jennifer Yates was the only optical-network researcher in her native Australia. In 1999 she took a job in the United States at AT&T, where she went about rethinking the conventional method for managing optical networks, which required expensive hardware; Yates created an architecture, based on the common Internet Protocol, that uses software employed at each network node to do the same job. Previously, manual processes and centralized management computers set up each network connection and switch individually, slowing communications and introducing bottlenecks. Instead, Yates’s software is deployed across the network. Because the software can establish new connections and restore broken ones quickly, it lowers capacity demands and eliminates congestion. This network management methods is now being adopted by the telecommunications industry as the General Multi-Protocol Label Switching standard, embraced today by behemoths such as Lucent Technologies and Tellium.