Need Help Turning Ideas Into Inventions?

Software helps track down the resources necessary to get your project off the ground

8 January 2009

Got a great idea for an invention, or for something that could make an existing product much better, but you don’t know what to do next? Help is available thanks to a new partnership between IEEE and Invention Machine Corp. of Boston.

The company offers what it calls innovation software, which can track down the information you need for that next step by researching and retrieving concepts from technical articles in the IEEE Xplore digital library and various companies’ design documents. The resources include Siemens’ product life-cycle applications, warranty records, and R&D projects, as well as documented engineering methods and patents granted around the world.

The Invention Machine Goldfire software can help you analyze your problem by digging up information that explains how similar obstacles were overcome in the past, and it can suggest a way for you to proceed.

FIRST, THE BASICS The would-be inventor begins by answering several basic questions about the invention. For example, product designers at Interface Flor, a carpet manufacturer in LaGrange, Ga., wanted to create a “smart floor” that would track people and equipment moving on it, but they didn’t know what technology to use. Using Goldfire, they first typed in a description of what they wanted. The software suggested they create a map of the interior of the building where the floor would go and then add tracking capability by putting RFID chips in the carpet tiles, called TacTiles. Scouring its knowledge bases, Goldfire brought up related diagrams and articles. It also presented evolutionary patterns of how similar RFID inventions were developed, and how they worked. Interface Flor’s designers selected the concepts they felt could be best applied to their idea.

“As engineers analyze their potential product and its design, the software identifies technical challenges they must resolve, and suggests ways to do it,” explains James Todhunter, Invention Machine’s chief technology officer.

The full text of a paper is accessible only by those subscribing to the digital libraries where the papers reside, or who work for an organization that does. Otherwise, only the article’s abstract is available. If you subscribe to the IEEE Xplore digital library, you can access its documents.

COMING SOON Interface Flor developed its smart floor, which is expected to be used in a variety of business and security applications, including keeping track of hospital patients and equipment and analyzing retail shoppers’ patterns.

For more information about Invention Machine, visit


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