I know it’s the information age, but keeping up with the latest in the industryis a constant challenge. One of the key parts of my job is to wade through thisenormous wave of information, find the items that would be of most interestto you, and then figure out how best to present them. After doing this for anumber of years, the decision process to keep or discard materials really hasbecome second nature. However, there are still those pieces of information that stopme dead in my tracks and make me think for weeks on end about how I might usethem. Typically, I print these items out, and they eventually become buried in oneof the many piles sitting on my desk.As I sat down to write this month’s “Industry Viewpoint,” I thought it would befun to share a couple of these unique electrical research items with you that fit inwell with this month’s editorial theme — electrical design.

• “New virus-built battery could power cars, electronic devices” — As recentlyreported in MIT News, MIT researchers have shown they can genetically engineerviruses to build both the positively and negatively charged ends of a lithium-ionbattery. This technology breakthrough leads the research team to believe these typesof batteries could one day be used to power plug-in hybrid cars and personal electronicdevices. The story goes on to say, “The viruses are a common bacteriophage,which infect bacteria but are harmless to humans.” Although the technology hasn’treached the commercial production stage, it makes me stop and think. Do I reallywant to drive a car or talk on a phone that is powered by a virus? I must confess thatI’m already a borderline germaphobe as it is. Maybe the recent swine flu outbreakis feeding my fear a little bit too much right now to accept this development withopen arms.

• “Socially interactive devices” — A recent article in ABB Review asks, “Haveyou talked to your device lately?” Apparently, the company is “developing a collaborativedevice community that will be able to personify a piece of equipment orsystem (device), thus enabling it to interact with end-users and technical expertsthrough collaborative chat sessions.” The company indicates “the time is ripe forbuilding excellent relationships between devices and their human counterparts,”which is why they’re studying how to leverage the value of Web 2.0 technologies toimprove asset reliability. Maybe it’s because I’m not a member of the Net Generation,but I can’t stop asking myself, “Do I really want to become this intimate withmy electrical equipment?” I mean, what if our relationship ends on a sour note?Will the device start posting disparaging comments and unflattering photos of meon its DeviceSpace page?Hopefully, these two news items will make you stop and think how differentyour life would be if it weren’t for the talents of researchers, scientists, inventors,and engineers. They really are the leaders of any industry. I, for one, am glad I’mon the front lines, listening and learning every step of the way.