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Sci-Fi Turned Real Life: 5 ‘Spooky’ Innovations in Science and Technology

Happy Halloween from all of us at Cisco!

To celebrate, here’s a fun list of the top 5 ‘spookiest’ tech innovations –those inspired by sci-fi, made real life through incredible advances in STEM research and the growing connections in the Internet of Everything:

1. The Bionic Man:  Not quite Steve Austin, Roboticists at Shadow Robot Co. in England have created the world’s first robot human made entirely of prosthetic parts. He can walk, talk, and even has a beating heart and circulatory system. We have the technology…

2. Invisibility Cloak: While Hogwarts might not be accessible to us muggles, scientists at HyperStealth Biotechnology have been working on the best camouflage fabric yet- it makes you invisible. Now if we just had a time-turner for some of those incredibly busy days!

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Scouting the Next Big Thing: Cisco’s Technology Radar

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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Why partner with Russia?

Last month I attended the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Russia, along with our CEO John Chambers. Together we participated in the Skolkovo Foundation Council Meeting (held quarterly) where we discussed strategies for increased momentum for Skolkovo. During the forum, John reiterated Cisco’s long-term approach to the country and highlighted the growth and potential of Russia within the context of tough economic times elsewhere in the world – a tremendous opportunity both for Cisco and for Russia.

Two years ago we made a commitment to support the Russian Government’s modernization agenda. Since then we have achieved visible progress in promoting a close partnership with the Russian Government by:

  • Aligning our activities in Russia with the country’s government course
  • Supporting Russia’s intention to modernize its economy and infrastructure, building upon the legacy of innovation that is a part of Cisco’s DNA
  • Offering technology and knowledge to help Russia achieve its national goals
  • Putting our positive stance on public-private partnerships and collaboration into action

A global company like Cisco is involved in public-private partnerships in innovating and renewing communities in many countries of the world. In Paredes, Portugal, Cisco is collaborating with Living PlanIT to develop PlanIT Valley, a sustainable community built on technology that transforms the area into a connected community running on next generation technology. Another example is Cisco’s work with McCaffery Interests in redeveloping the Chicago waterfront to revitalize the area.

I often get asked though, why partner with Russia? I wanted to share some of our thinking with you.

At Cisco, we view Skolkovo as a platform for future growth and innovation of new and emerging technologies. Russia is home to world-class talent in basic and applied sciences, offers a great education system that creates a workforce that has the ability to think differently, and a tenacious and persistent work ethic. These qualities in addition to Russia’s rich history and tradition of discoveries in science and research that has extended for centuries, makes it a perfect choice for Cisco’s innovation incubation efforts.

Cisco is invested in the success of Skolkovo. Earlier this year we outlined our Research and Development plans with the Skolkovo Foundation and are already executing on them. We are now beginning to hire our first engineering team in Russia focused on developing new emerging technologies.

Our plans at Skolkovo don’t stop at software development. As a key partner of the Foundation, we are actively involved in many important areas. For innovation to thrive, the right creative environment is required for the free flow of ideas and capital. Later this year, Cisco will support startups with funding through the launch of our second Skolkovo Innovation Award, focused on discovering and rewarding new promising startups in the areas of Healthcare and Education. We will provide technology and tools to all participants and reward the best startups with seed funding. The support for entrepreneurs through venture capital funding is in line with Cisco’s strategy to nurture innovation from talented people all over the world, as our work with the Almaz/Cisco Venture Capital Fund shows. To date, the Almaz/Cisco Fund has invested in 12 companies, of which 2 have residency in Skolkovo, and another 3 are in the process of applying for residency.

In the area of education, we will launch Cisco’s Entrepreneur Institute at Skolkovo Technopark, which will train Skolkovo Residents on how to develop and grow successful IT businesses. Beyond Skolkovo, we plan to partner with Russian educational institutions on joint technology development and research projects for emerging technologies. This will allow graduate students and researchers to co-develop technologies with Cisco engineers and validate their research against the needs of the marketplace. This extends our education investment in Cisco. Another example is our Networking Academy program in Russia, which was refined a year ago when Cisco announced its intention to triple the number of academies in this country, from 217 to 650, enabling 16,000 Russians to be trained each year by 2015. We are well on our way to meeting this goal.

In closing, we believe there is tremendous opportunity in Russia and we applaud the country for investing in its future and its people by spurring innovation, job creation and economic growth.

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At the Peak of Inflated Expectations, is AR OK?

October 19, 2010 at 11:45 am PST

I am sure you readers are familiar with the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. On October 7 Gartner released the latest rev and here were my key takeaways after reviewing all the dots in depth. 

“The Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies features technologies that are the focus of attention in the IT industry because of particularly high levels of hype, or those that may not be broadly acknowledged but which we believe have the potential for significant impact,” said Jackie Fenn, vice president and Gartner Fellow. 

FIRST I am happy to see 3D flat panel TVs and displays in the 2-5 year mainstream adoption category, even if they were at the peak of inflated expectations portion of the graph. 

“High-impact technologies at the Peak of Inflated Expectations during 2010 include private cloud computing, augmented reality, media tablets (such as the iPad), wireless power, 3D flat-panel TVs and displays, and activity streams, while cloud computing and cloud/Web platforms have tipped over the peak and will soon experience disillusionment among enterprise users,” Ms. Fenn said. 

SECOND I was bummed to see AR tracking in the 5-10 year mainstream adoption category. Anyone who has read this blog previously knows that AR is something I am passionate about. I just see endless use cases for this technology that would definitely affect the way we live, work and play. I thought some of the recent buzz around AR might enable the technology to leap frog a few years and land in the 2-5 year category along with 3D. I mean seriously I have read about a half dozen articles on AR in the past month or so and from what I see everyone reporting was still in the ‘we heart AR’ camp. A few weeks ago I read an article about a couple of recent AR marketing efforts showing strong results. For example:  Read More »

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