Lisa Seacat DeLuca, 32
A software engineer makes a habit of going after everyday problems.
With more than 150 patents, Lisa Seacat DeLuca is IBM’s most prolific female inventor ever. Her inventions include a way for people on conference calls to get alerts when a certain topic comes up or a certain person starts talking; a system that can guide cell-phone users as they walk and talk so they don’t lose service; a necklace that lights up every time a given Twitter hashtag is used; and a locator service in cars that can track items like, say, a wallet that falls under the seat.
“The idea generation isn’t the slow part,” DeLuca says. “Anyone can come up with ideas very quickly. It’s taking the time to write them down and do research to figure out if it’s a great idea or how to make it an even better idea—that’s really the bottleneck in innovation.”
Most of that research happens outside the office on nights and weekends. By day, she works on mobile computing and commerce for IBM. Her latest project is an app for retailers that can send shoppers targeted offers based on their location in a store. DeLuca has filed nine patents related to the app and is testing out the necessary Bluetooth beacons in her own home. She also recently bought a 3-D printer that she plans to use for prototyping ideas. First up: a Fitbit key chain for her husband, who always forgets his fitness tracker on his way to work.