The world is faced with overwhelming social issues, from climate change to poverty. Students and young entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the growing number of devices connected to the Internet, turning them into products that will one day solve these global problems.
A competition developed by Cisco France employees in 2014 aims to harnesses this innovative spirit. Now in its second year, Le Defi Cisco (The Cisco Challenge) invites university students and young entrepreneurs to develop solutions to social and environmental challenges using the Internet of Everything – the connection of people, processes, data, and things
Last year, a team of Cisco Networking Academy students from the University of Lorraine in France won the competition with their networked walking stick, which can improve life for visually impaired people.
Cities are beginning to incorporate tagging systems into traffic lights and crosswalks, connecting citizens to data that can be used to solve everyday inconveniences.
Their device a uses ultrasonic waves and GPS technology to gather this data and help users move safely and independently around the world’s “smart cities.”
Since winning the 2014 competition, the students have used their prize money to form their own company, Handisco. With the support of investors, they’ve developed a sustainable production model and are preparing to release their connected walking stick to the public.
This year, the competition was expanded to two prize categories: student teams and young entrepreneurs who have just begun developing their products. The first-place team in each category will receive €15,000, equipment to create their business, 6 months of coaching from Cisco employees, and incubation by SenseCube, a start-up accelerator dedicated to social entrepreneurs.
From November to early January, Cisco employees and representatives from competition partner MakeSense visited 8 French cities, where they taught students about the Internet of Everything and how Cisco technologies can be used to speed the pace of social change. In January, a judging panel reduced the entries down to 6 finalists: 4 student teams and 2 entrepreneur teams. The student teams all consist of students from Cisco Networking Academy, which has trained more than 110,000 students in France since 1997.
The student finalist teams are:
- Team Connect’o is developing Internet-enabled tabs that will measure water quality and control consumption, directly addressing the global water crisis.
- Hexo Tech, a group of students from the academy at ECE Paris, proposed a smart bin to sort waste and reward environmentally friendly citizens.
- Team Mygly wants to improve health care for diabetes patients – their intelligent bracelet will measure blood sugar levels in real-time to make insulin injections more efficient.
- Team Squirrel’s mobile alert system will combat the global hunger crisis by alerting users to cook food before it expires.
The other 2 teams will compete for the entrepreneurship prize. Team Wair is combining fashion and technology to improve the health of people around the world. Their smart scarf, fitted with air filtering sensors, will measure air quality and map out a city’s most polluted areas. The second group of young entrepreneurs, Team Insideware, is developing a mobile application to connect people suffering from chronic illnesses to a community of health professionals.
During the final round of competition, Cisco employees will mentor the students, providing the equipment, technological skills, and business advice to turn their concepts into realities. They’ll work side-by side with students, helping them to build the perfect prototype, develop a business plan, and create a winning sales pitch.
The student and entrepreneur award winners will be announced on April 9, and you can read about them here on the Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility blog.
Good luck to all of the 2015 finalist teams! Your connected devices and products may change the world someday.