For you”bottom line” types, here’s the news: The Brainstorm phase of the Cisco I-Prize will now conclude on February 13, 2008, approximately 30 days past the original deadline of January 15. For those of you interested in why, read on-.When we launched the Cisco I-Prize program, no one knew what would happen- How many people would enter? Would the ideas be good enough to meet our business goals? Would participants really work together to improve and refine their ideas?Now two and a half months later we know that more than 1600 people have entered from almost 90 countries. There are many, many high-quality ideas worth considering as semifinalists. And the level of community discussion and interaction has been unbelievably high. Global collaboration is really working. Feedback from everyone has been extremely positive.As the team here at Cisco sat down to discuss the closing of the first phase, and moving into the semi-final phase, there was a bit of melancholy in the air. So much exciting action was still taking place on the Cisco I-Prize site. In fact we’re continuing to see strong growth in ideas, participants, comments, and votes. Community behavior is emerging strongly.All good things must come to an end, but based on participant feedback and our own observations that the momentum is still in full gear, we decided to extend Phase I. This is a one-time extension so this won’t happen again. The new dates for the full program are posted on the Contest Overview.For those of you already participating, this is an opportunity to think about team formation for the semifinals and to continue to collaborate on the ideas with which you are engaged. For those of you who haven’t yet started participating, it’s not too late. And for the casual observers among you, you are watching one of the most interesting and dynamic examples of how global collaboration fosters accelerated innovation!
The Brainstorm phase of the Cisco I-Prize is rapidly approaching its conclusion. Starting January 16th 2008 new entries on the I-Prize site will not be eligible for the competition.What will happen next? Read More »
One of the challenges we face is that we frequently get really interesting solutions in search of a problem. Or put it another way, there is some cool technology but we don’t know how to put it to use in a productive way. This is a common problem with invention. Thomas Edison invented the phonograph (at the time, a wax cylinder capable of recording sound). He thought that the target market for this idea was for terminally ill people who could record their last will and testament. (you can tell he was an engineer and not a marketing person: not much of a repeat customer base here). Sometimes you just need to come up with the better problem (e.g. people want to listen to music on-demand).Here are some others that we’ve come across. Any ideas on what problems they’d solve?Home automation: I can turn off appliances, measure their energy consumption, automate certain activities (e.g. turn off all the lights at night). But given that it’s often much more effective to add insulation, buy double-glazed windows, or replace an old appliance with a newer one (more energy efficient)-why bother with automation when I can do the things I just mentioned and can turn things off when I’m done?Thin client computing: Not that the problem of complexity and data loss on PCs aren’t real, it’s just that as the PC keeps getting cheaper all the time, are people really willing to give up on a fully-featured PC vs a terminal?RFID: Bar codes work pretty well in controlled environments (like warehouses), and RFID read accuracy is not (yet) good enough to make it in noisy places. Active RFID (with batteries) works better--but batteries wear out so then the tags go dark.I’m not trying to appear as a doom-and-gloom naysayer--I’m by nature a technology optimist and believe that sooner or later some (or all) of these will ‘pop’. Feel free to ask my opinion on any of your favorite ‘unloved’ technologies!
Here are some interesting categories of ideas that are emerging in I-Prize:1. Energy (Green-save)2. Healthcare (aging of the workforce)3. Wireless Connectivity (unwire the world)4. Automotive (connect my car)These are areas we’ve already started to look at inside Cisco. I thought I’d share some of our early thinking on these themes. Hopefully this will spark some additional insights!Energy:If the electricity grid could be made intelligent (i.e. know what is connected to it as well as potentially turn things down/off) this could result in huge cost savings in terms of generating just enough electricity. Pricing signals could also be built in to the grid so that consumers can elect to buy appliances or plug-in hybrid cars that could benefit from lower rates. The electricity utility companies are busy putting in more intelligent electricity meters outside your home, which could form the backbone of this. A related area is Broadband over Power, which is all about turning the electricity companies into internet service providers. Despite much early enthusiasm, there are few working deployments today, primarily because power transformers (which are used to convert high-voltage to lower voltage for use in the home) act as filters, blocking high-frequency signals that encode the IP traffic.HealthcareYou’re not getting any younger so sooner or later you’re going to need medical care. Healthcare costs are over 12% of GDP in Western Europe (16% in the USA). Delivering some form of remote care to aging patients is a great way to cut costs and move healthcare towards more preventative care. In the emerging world, telemedicine may be the only way to provide medical expertise to outlying areas. The challenge in emerging countries is that unfortunately they not only lack doctors, but they also lack connectivity, electricity, and technical expertise that would also be required to deliver telemedicine. So any ideas in this space will require insights on solving the entire value chain problem. In the more developed economies, the biggest barrier in this area is not technological but regulatory: many rules and regulations prevent innovations in delivery of healthcare (e.g. rules requiring doctors to be physicall present on the premises).Wireless ConnectivityWiFi in its latest release (802.11n) is delivering multi-hundred megabits per second over the air over short distances. WiMax technologies promise multi-megabit connections over longer distances. 3G LTE (Long Term Evolution) promises similar benefits as an extension to current 3G mobile technologies. Inside the home, Ultrawideband promises higher speeds for next-generation HD video (cameras, displays). For low-power mesh networking inside the home, Zigbee and Z-Wave are looking to connect your future consumer electronics. Clearly there’s a lot of innovation happening in the wireless area. You can assume that connectivity will get faster/cheaper/better. So what new capabilities would be enabled by all of this connectivity?AutomotiveThe average car has over 50 microprocessors embedded in it. Most of the major car makers are looking to provide Internet access to your car by 2010. The current thinking is to create a WiFi hotspot inside the car and then to connect that to the Internet via 3G and/or WiMax. The key applications are in three areas: entertainment, safety, and telematics (monitoring the insides of your car). There are some creative ideas for car-to-car networking too, but it appears to be much simpler (and more reliable) to connect to existing 3G or WiMax uplinks. An interesting idea is to use the data being gathered by cars for the benefit of others: accident info, traffic congestion, road conditions, temperature can all be gathered in real-time and fed back to a central website.The best ideas are the combination of a particular technology that solves a real (and often painful) customer problem. Any takers?