SMART BRIDGE SENSORS: Miniature computers can be integrated into sensors, so that they can both collect data and monitor the structure for signs of damage. The sensors send electrical signals into the structure. If there is a crack or other damage, it will disrupt the electrical current, and the system will detect and analyze the disruption. Researchers estimate that by 2020, inspectors may no longer need to manually check bridges for damage -- an expensive and labor-intensive process.
I CAN'T REMEMBER WHAT THIS IS CALLED: If a part already failed, there may be a way to find a replacement. A company created a new kind of search engine called 3D-Seek, thanks to a major advance in pattern recognition. The program lets users find hard-to-describe items -- hinges, bolts, conveyor belts, or motors, for example -- in an online catalog without ever needing to know the items' names, part numbers or keywords. Instead, all a user needs to do is draw a simple freehand sketch: a doodle. The drawing can be done from any angle of the actual object. 3D-Seek will find the desired part in seconds via a related technology called i-prowler, which hunts for image files on a user's computer and merges them with either the online database or an internal company catalog.
The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.