Patent #8,387,065: Speculative
popcount data creation
Issued: February 26, 2013
What is patent #8,387,065? By IBM Fellow Ravi Arimilli
Our brains don’t need to tell our lungs to breathe or our
hearts to pump blood. Unfortunately, computers require instructions for
everything they do. But what if machines could analyze big data and determine
what to do, based on the content of the data, without specific instructions? Patent
#8,387,065 establishes a way for computer systems to analyze data in a whole
new way, using “speculative” population count (popcount) operations.
Popcount technology has been around for several years. It
uses algorithms to pair down the number of traditional instructions a system
has to run through to solve a problem. For example, if a problem takes 10,000
instructions to be solved using standard computing, popcount techniques can
reduce the number of instructions by more than half.
This is how IBM Watson played Jeopardy! It did not need to be given instructions to look for
every possible bit of data to answer a question. Its Power 7-based system used
popcount operations to make assumptions about the domain of data in question,
to come up with a real time answer.
Our patent takes this idea a step further with popcount
operations able to “speculate” on large regions of data. This could reduce the
number of instructions to analyze data down to a tenth of what standard
popcount operations use today. The idea is based on a couple of principles:
that while big data is, well, big, the output of popcount is small. Thus,
speculating ahead of time on big data dramatically improves performance when
the real time request occurs.
is that even when the region of data to be analyzed is uncertain, the
popcount can still generate a correct answer because of its cumulative
nature. Basically, the speculative results accelerate obtaining the right
Imagine Watson being able to speculate on what it’s being
asked so that it combs through a domain of data in real time. And before the
person who is asking the question even finishes speaking, the computer has
already found the right answer.
Speculative popcount technology is poised to be a
foundational piece of this new era of cognitive systems because of how it
efficiently analyzes any kind of data, across any domain. These systems will be
able to cut through the big data to find the right data.
IBM has led in total U.S. patents for 21 year in a row in 2013. Read more about patents like