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Cisco Live to Spotlight Innovation

It’s that time of year again. Cisco Live, the company’s foremost training event for IT and communication professionals, kicks off this week at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. This year’s event is expected to draw some 18,000 people, one-third of them virtual attendees. It also crosses paths with two separate contests – the X PRIZE and Cisco I-Prize.

Running June 27-July 1, the conference offers hundreds of training sessions in all Cisco technologies as well as keynotes and “super sessions” with top Cisco brass and visiting experts such as Ben Mezrich, author of “The Accidental Billionaires” and “Bringing Down the House.” And it’s a great chance to network with Cisco experts, industry peers and a smorgasbord of Cisco partners.

Can’t make it in person? Sign up for the concurrent virtual component, Cisco Live and Networkers Virtual, which runs June 29-July 1, or simply tune into the broadcast on the Cisco Systems Facebook page. Either way, you’ll be able to watch keynotes and super sessions live, attend panel discussions and technical sessions, and chat with Cisco executives and partners as well as interact with virtual exhibitors, network with peers and take part in games to win prizes. Here’s the full Cisco Live broadcast schedule.

One Cisco Live “exhibit” you won’t have seen in previous years is a futuristic-looking car dubbed the ZAP 2. The vehicle is one of nearly 30 vying for the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, a $10 million-plus award that in September will go to the winners of a rigorous competition for clean, production-capable vehicles that can exceed the equivalent of 100 miles to the gallon (MPGe).

No, Cisco isn’t getting into the automotive business. It’s sponsoring the contest’s Energy & Environment category (though not putting down the prize money) in an effort to promote green innovation and create the next generation of highly efficient cars, Cisco’s Guido Jouret says.

“If the market had an answer to this problem we wouldn’t need to create a prize,” says Jouret, who is vice president and chief technology officer of Cisco’s Emerging Technologies Group. “But what the prize can do is overcome a hurdle where the market itself is inefficient or not able to come up with good innovation. It spurs a lot of people to invest in this area.”

X PRIZE contestants strive to achieve specific goals set by the nonprofit X PRIZE Foundation that have the potential to benefit humanity. The contest is perhaps best known for the Ansari X PRIZE of 2004, which aimed to spur development of low-cost spaceflight by challenging non-governmental organizations to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. Other contest categories include Exploration, Life Sciences, Education and Global Development.

Also at this year’s Cisco Live – and not to be confused with the X PRIZE – Cisco CEO John Chambers and SVP Emerging Technologies Group Marthin De Beer will be announcing the winners of the Cisco I-Prize on June 29. An open, global competition in which entrepreneurs submit proposals and collaborate to help Cisco find its next billion-dollar business idea, the I-Prize awards $250,000 to the winning team in a field that has already been whittled down to eight finalists.

“The I-Prize is specifically trying to identify an emerging technology business opportunity for Cisco, while the X PRIZE is a bit more philanthropic,” Jouret says, comparing the two contests.

He also says this year’s I-Prize contestants are using an “ideation platform” to communicate their ideas using Cisco technologies like Show and Share, Cisco Pulse, TelePresence and WebEx.

“It’s really been exciting to see how our collaboration technologies have helped these guys improve their ideas further by interacting and sharing and getting together,” he says.

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