Fang “Florence” Lu was driving in Beijing, receiving directions from an electronic map display, when she had a realization. Upon reaching her destination, the IBM senior technical architect considered how challenging it would have been to follow those directions if she suffered from a vision impairment.
Even a map display embedded with braille would not have solved the challenge efficiently. So, Lu did what innovators like her do best: She innovated.
Lu patented a map display that would allow users to input their destination and receive directions to their mobile device in text or voice format. It was a simple solution, but one that had an immediate impact on a significant portion of society.
“As citizens, we all are responsible for making the world a better place to live,” Lu said. “That is why innovation matters to me.”
A five-time IBM Master Inventor, Lu will deliver the 2023 George H. Boyd Distinguished Lecture at 1 p.m. on March 22 in room 2515 of the College of Veterinary Medicine. Her address, “Innovation Matters: Finding Inspiration in Everyday Life,” will explore this responsibility and how innovation—from the spark of an idea to patenting a technology—can help deliver real societal impact.
As part of her lecture, Lu will discuss the history of innovation within IBM and what innovation can look like from a corporate viewpoint. She will also share stories that sparked patents, requirements and processes of filing a patent application, and innovative strategies that can be applied to industry and academia.
“I truly believe everybody is smart enough to be an inventor,” she said, “so I have developed the S.M.A.R.T. methodology to demystify identifying invention opportunities through our day-to-day work and lives.”
Having received 250 granted patents, Lu is familiar with the invention process. She has been a significant contributor to the development of state-of-the-art technologies for over 20 years at IBM. This includes developing and designing software applications ranging from enterprise social solutions to healthcare analytics. She’s also been involved with developing cloud-based artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions for clients to solve real-world challenges.
“We should constantly observe the challenges around us daily and think about how we can solve those challenges innovatively,” Lu said.
In addition to the map display, Lu invented other technologies to ease visual challenges, such as software that pauses audio playback when it senses the user is distracted, or social media that can analyze the content of a post and infer the correct sentiment for the vocal program that reads the information.
Eager to inspire professionals early in their computing careers, Lu mentors others through IBM’s JumpStart program, avidly encouraging other IBM technologists in workshops and information sessions to turn their ideas into patents. She teaches STEM activities at a local school in her community and has mentored teams in events like HackMIT. Lu is a member of the Society of Women Engineers, the Association for Computing Machinery and a senior member of IEEE.
Free to the public, the George H. Boyd Distinguished Lecture Series honors the UGA Graduate School’s former dean, who was known for his commitment to education and research. The lecture series is supported by the Office of Research and the William S. and Elizabeth K. Boyd Foundation. Each lecture brings national leaders and policymakers in science, education and related fields to the university to talk about applications of research to contemporary issues in education.