How she’d describe her job to a 10-year-old: “I am working on making factories smarter. … [We] are working on adding computer smartness to all factories no matter where they are. Can a computer watch a human and guide them while sewing a shirt? Or can a computer predict that a robot is going to make a mistake on a car chassis which might make it less safe and correct it in time?”
Improving factories, maps and Netflix queues: In her role as a principal engineer in the Internet of Things Group, Rita Wouhaybi helps make factories more efficient. One example: She merges machine learning and factory automation technologies to ensure a German automaker produces spot welds that are good and safe – an especially important chore since every car has more than 12,000 of them.
Patents across technologies: Wouhaybi’s patents and the underlying inventions they protect cover a wide range of technologies: from networking, to context-aware and mobile systems, to machine learning and health systems. Smart navigation systems work in part thanks to Wouhaybi: The map app that likely guides you across a city draws some of its routing smarts from her patent filings. And when Netflix suggests movies you may want to watch based on your previous viewing, Wouhaybi’s inventions help under the hood.
Filling the patent pipeline: With 82 U.S. patents issued and 171 more patents filed, Wouhaybi is one of Intel’s single most prolific female inventors. In February, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ranked Intel among the top-five U.S. companies for women inventors. So, what’s her next patent? “I always have a few in the pipeline,” she says grinning, but offering no specifics.
‘I can invent things!’: Wouhaybi still recalls the day when, at age 17 in her native Lebanon, she visited a math professor for some career counseling. She told him of her dreams to become a civil engineer — so she could build things like roads and bridges. The professor showed her a photo of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Built in 2500 BC, it remained Earth’s tallest man-made structure for 3,800 years. She says he asked: “Can you beat that?” And then recommended she become a computer engineer, telling her: “You can become an inventor.” Wouhaybi says she still remembers walking out of that professor’s office and thinking just one thing: “I can invent things!”