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Microsoft files patents for sensor-based security, wind energy design

Microsoft files patents for sensor-based security, wind energy design

Posting in Design

Servers in a wind turbine? Biometric security authorization for the web? Microsoft's new patents offer a peek into the company's latest R&D efforts.

We all know Microsoft as the tech giant responsible for the Windows operating system, Office productivity suite and Xbox gaming console but what you might not know is that the company is also a research and development powerhouse.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company filed an array of new U.S. patent applications recently. Among them are inventions for sensor-based access to the Internet and a design for a wind-powered datacenter.

The former, officially "sensor-based authentication to a computer network-based service," stipulates that a person's mobile device -- smartphone, tablet computer, you name it -- can access a web-based service without requiring the user to type in a conventional textual password of letters and numbers.

Instead, "physiological biometric traits of a user" are used, such as a person's voice (via a microphone), face (using a camera), fingerprint (camera again) or even movement -- e.g. if a user moves his or her device in a certain way to gain access, through the use of accelerometers.

The idea: make passwords more human, and leave the random numbers and letters to the computer.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's "wind-powered data center" patent describes various techniques for powering a computer datacenter through the use of a wind-powered generator.

That sounds relatively pedestrian until you read the document, which suggests that servers be installed in the hollow tower of the wind turbine itself.

From there, it functions as you'd expect: wind blows, the turbine blades rotate, power is generated, network-connected servers are powered. Excess power is off-loaded to alternate power sources and, when the wind doesn't blow, the servers are throttled or powered down.

It's an interesting approach. Datacenters are big, loud, sprawling energy hogs. Is there a better way to integrate them? There might just be. One hiccup: do we really need datacenters where we need wind turbines? And are existing transmission lines robust enough to handle this concept?

[via Microsoft News]

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure