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Some interesting sources for potential innovation

- December 3, 2007 - 3 Comments

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?

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  1. I live in Mexico City and since traffic is really a huge problem over here, for the last 2 years I´ve been thinking about a way to create an Internet-based solution that could provide real time (or close to real time) information to users so they can know in advance which of the pre-defined routes is faster. The difference between the already operating solutions where you can take a general overview of traffic situation, is the intelligence to provide B-Plan when something goes wrong or simply there is a better way get to final destination.

  2. I keep hearing about telemdicine for 7 years now as beeing just arround the corner but it is just not happening. But it sounds good and maybe it is good for our image to show ourselves as a promoter of technology in order to improve the human condition. Is Cisco able to move beyond nice slogans and PR. Right now I am skeptical.

  3. There are three driving themes to be addressed before widespread adoption of telemedicine technology is possible. First, any successful technology must be simple enough that a doctor and patient, regardless of past computer experience, can use the system. Second, access to communication must be available from anywhere at any time. Finally, solutions must be made available at a fraction of the cost of current options.Until these three areas are addressed, adoption of telemedicine technologies will continue to be slow at best.Z