As part of our work to positively impact one billion people by 2025, Cisco seeks to inspire and empower a generation of global problem solvers to thrive in the digital economy.

Through the first-ever Cisco Global Problem Solver (GPS) Challenge, we are able to recognize the vision and accomplishments of social entrepreneurs who are students and recent grads.

Ten winners were awarded a total of US$300,000 in funding to promote and accelerate breakthrough technologies. Their ideas leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) to help benefit our economy, society, and the planet, as well as promote inclusion.

The 1st annual GPS Challenge was an intense competition that began with more than 1100 registrants from 450+ schools around the globe. I’m inspired by their work and excited to announce our inaugural winners:

Grand Prize (US$100,000): Project Vive from Pennsylvania State University

This team aims to provide significantly better and more affordable tools for people with communication disabilities. Their wearable sensors enable communication via finger, elbow, knee, foot, and movements to give a voice to the voiceless.

First Runner Up (US$75,000): DOT LEARN from Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This team is architecting a video-based online learning platform that works reliably on inexpensive smartphones and even 2G connections to extend educational access to a greater cross-section of the population, including a pilot in Ghana and Nigeria aiming to reach 100,000 end users across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Second Runners Up (US$25,000 each)

  • PathVis from Purdue University is developing a smartphone-based disease detection platform that quantitatively measures the level of pathogens in patient samples and the environment with real-time location data.
  • Solistice Energy Solutions Inc. from Stanford University is designing SHYFT, a hardware/software platform enabling the next generation of distributed energy management.
  • Smart Bandage from University of Waterloo (Canada) is creating patented inkjet-printed IoT sensors that provide real-time data to monitor early warning signs of chronic wounds.

Third Runners Up: (US$10,000 each) 

  • BYU Village Pump from Brigham Young University is improving water pump design and integrating sensors to monitor operations and trigger alerts when maintenance is needed.
  • Forest Devices Inc. from Carnegie Mellon is designing a first stroke screening device that can be used by all medical personnel in any environment.
  • myBalanceSens from Temple University is developing smart glasses to enable users to improve their balance and reduce the risk of falling.
  • Baby Bloom from Columbia University is designing an IoT-based lactation tool that automatically tracks pumped milk production and uses machine learning to personalize lactation plans.

People’s Choice Award (US$10,000): ODA Systems from Instituto Technológico de Costa Rica 

This team captured the hearts and imagination of the general public with their service that efficiently measures lubricant oil quality in machines to decrease pollution and reduce economic waste while concurrently boosting productivity.

Additional Finalists

Lastly, I’d like to recognize these five finalists for their outstanding work. Simply making it to the finalist pool signifies that a team has been singled out during a rigorous review and evaluation process for its merit, novelty, and potential to benefit society:

  • Pass.ng from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology in Nigeria is helping students learn and prepare ahead of time for required exams.
  • OneMedical Global Inc. from John Hopkins/Emory is customizing existing medical record management technology to meet the particular needs of the African market.
  • InSight Imaging Mobile Retinal Imaging from Washington University in St. Louis is designing low-cost, portable, and noninvasive retinal imaging using a smartphone attachment to enable accessible ophthalmological screening.
  • VITA from University of Campinas in Brazil is using image processing and information communications technology to enable fast and reliable pap tests.
  • Centree Technologies from Georgia Tech is building smart city solutions that use microphones to detect emergencies and automatically report them.

Congratulations to all of our winners and finalists. I’m already looking forward to our next competition and seeing the amazing ideas and work taking place around the world.

To learn more about our efforts to accelerate global problem solving, please sign up to receive our email updates.


Tae Yoo

No Longer with Cisco