When someone is named as one of the top "49 Female Entrepreneurs Who Are Reshaping the Business World" (Entrepreneurs Magazine, 2019) and " World's 50 Most Fascinating People in the World of Technology" (Network, 2014), you know that you have someone that is changing the world. Meet Lisa Seacat DeLuca, Director & Distinguished Engineer at IBM. Lisa is leading the incubation and incorporation of the digital twin across IBM's IoT offering suite and driving the digital transformation of IoT solutions.
Q. Your work is in the area of the Internet of Things (IoT), with a focus on digital twin technology. How is this technology affecting our lives and work today? How will it affect us in the future?
A. IoT is a really fun space to be working in these days because the adoption of IoT devices into most of our homes is only growing. We are consumers. We have experience with personal assistants, security cameras and wearables like Fitbits® that improve our everyday lives, put information at our fingertips and help us to be more aware of our health and wellness. It also means we have pain points and ideas for where this technology can go. These same smart, connected technologies and concepts we experience in our personal lives are making asset-intensive industries more intelligent. The growing adoption of IoT allows technicians, engineers, owners and operators to more effectively operate their businesses. And the future is automating further, which can be done through the help of artificial intelligence. I believe you can’t have AI without a digital twin. A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical thing. However, with the increased adoption of IoT, these digital twins come alive – now they can mimic all of the experiences of their physical asset counterparts. Digital twins are the source of truth, record and connectivity to actuate on a business need related to their physical assets.
Q. What can we do to embrace and better prepare for it?
A. Digital twins are not a new concept, the term has been around for over a decade. Most companies who haven’t embraced digital twins are just overwhelmed with where to begin. One way we can embrace and prepare for digital twins and the benefits of IoT is the digitization of our physical assets. Starting to put the bills of materials, parts lists, maintenance models and operational plans in a format that is easy to consume and build upon. One issue is there isn’t necessarily a single agreed upon format for many of these file types. So coming together as companies to create these standards will benefit us all.
Q. You have talked about how, as a young girl, you were always thinking of ways to enhance your life. How did you take that passion and turn it into a career?
A. I love problem-solving. Any time something takes a little too much time or feels more difficult than it should be, that’s when the light bulb goes off that there may be a really valuable solution somewhere that others can benefit from as well.
Q. What led you to IBM®?
A. I got an internship when I was an undergrad at Carnegie Mellon University. Then, I got another internship the following summer with the IBM Extreme Blue program. I was impressed with the knowledge of my coworkers and the challenges we got to solve with technology that actually mattered to the world. I knew I wanted to join IBM full time.
Q. As the most prolific female inventor in IBM history and the only one to ever reach the 100th Invention Plateau Achievement Award (an IBM internal patent award system), you have over 600 patent applications filed with 400 granted. How do you stay creative and know what innovations to pursue?
A. Inventing is like any other skill, once you’ve done it enough, you start to get really good at recognizing when something might be patentable. I can see a product or pain point and turn it into a handful of ideas. As far as which ones to pursue, I typically align my inventions to the products I’m bringing to market that can create societal and economic value. That way, I know I’m adding value to IBM and protecting our competitive differentiation while future proofing our solutions.
Q. Named Innovator of the Year from Innovation & Tech Today magazine (2018) and one of MIT’s 35 Innovators Under 35 (2015), what advice do you have for the younger generation following a similar path as yours?
A. Sometimes you have to give it some time before it becomes your passion. Keep playing with technologies and learning as much as you can based on your personal interests. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to overlap those learned skills with your day job, which will help you develop a unique skill set that sets you apart.
Q. To be an innovator, you need to be creative and sometimes, to be creative, you need to take risks. What gives you the courage and determination to move forward with your ideas?
A. As my father always said to me growing up, “You can’t turn it down until it’s offered.” I live by those words, pushing for what I believe in and optimistically taking risks while being grounded by reality. Part of being prolific is having a lot of ideas in the works. Not all of them are going to work out, but the stronger ones typically find their way.
Q. Who influenced you the most and had the biggest impact on your career?
A. I’ve been really lucky with my IBM mentors. I give advice to my mentees to collect mentors because it’s a great way to network and everyone has a different and unique perspective to share. However, the person who has had the biggest influence on my career is Ginni Rometty, IBM’s CEO. She inspires me! She’s a female in tech who grew up through IBM, serving as a reminder that I can do it too.
Q. What is your favorite invention you created? What is your favorite technology that someone else created? Why?
A. My favorite inventions of mine are absolutely the newly filed ones around digital twin. Bringing inventions to life through our new products is exciting. It takes about 18 months from filing until the inventions are searchable online, so stay tuned for some links. My favorite inventions from someone else are A/C, cars and refrigerators. Most inventions build off of some existing technology, so my favorite part of inventing is the collaborative nature of diverse thoughts sharing ideas for future generations to improve upon.