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Spotting the next innovation that could bring benefits to customers, or that could challenge the continued success of existing products, is a challenge that is front-of-mind for every company.

But keeping a finger on the pulse of every innovation that could bring such a disruption is a daunting prospect. That’s certainly true for Cisco. We are a leader in more than a dozen industry segments. As a result, we have to keep our ear close to the ground in more markets than most.

So how on earth do we do that? In a nutshell: the wisdom of a (very expert) crowd.

Experience suggests that relying on the same people who build products or services to also keep a watchful eye on disruptive innovations that could displace those self-same products can be counterproductive. Accordingly, Cisco assembled a self-nominated team of enthusiasts unaffiliated with any particular function or business unit to take up the challenge of identifying technology developments worldwide.

We call that team and the process that unearths those emerging innovations The Technology Radar.

The Technology Radar is based on the insights of 70+ globally-positioned ‘scouts’.  These volunteer scouts (all of them have other full-time jobs at Cisco) have become fundamental to Cisco’s intelligence gathering initiatives. By channeling their passion for emerging technologies, Cisco is identifying opportunities and threats that could impact our business in five, ten or even twenty-five years time.

Because of their insights, our Technology Radar now tracks approximately 90 technologies that help Cisco’s senior engineering and business leaders make informed strategic decisions on everything from product development to acquisitions.  For example, it was our Technology Radar scouts who spotted the “Internet of Everything” trend that Dave Evans has been blogging about recently, and “Power-over-Ethernet”, a technology that enables more efficient management and power consumption of electronic devices, long before they became common topics of discussion in the industry.

In capturing the wisdom of the crowd to inform company strategy, the Technology Radar joins other programs like Cisco iPrize, the company’s global innovation contest, and its iZone internal employee ideation site, as examples of Cisco’s ongoing commitment to fostering open and crowd-sourced innovation at the company.

So what are our ingenious Technology Radar scouts talking about right now? We talked to Stephan Monterde, who runs the Cisco Technology Radar program out of Switzerland, to hear about what new developments are bubbling up.

Check out this video interview with Stephan to hear more about emerging technologies, such as the Human Machine Interface.

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