05/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Guest Blogger, Marthin de Beer: Innovation From Around the World

Leading up to the incentive2innovate conference on June 8 + 9 at the United Nations in New York, Peter Diamandis and X PRIZE Foundation will feature guest bloggers that will be presenting at i2i. For more information on the i2i program and for registration, visit

I've often said that the "wisdom of crowds" will allow us to look beyond our own walls and borders, and enable us to harness new ideas and innovation that we may not have known existed in our own backyard. And that's just the approach we took and how we found our winners of the Cisco I-Prize contest.  

When we decided to externalize our I-Zone Wiki, and run the I-Prize contest back in October 2007.  I don't think any of us would have guessed that within the first 3 months of the announcement, we would witness thousands of entrepreneurs and innovators from over 104 countries brainstorming online, sharing their ideas, forming new teams and collaborating in a global forum. The ideas we received ranged from telemedicine and energy management to new forms of communication and automotive networking.

Our winning team, Team AKS,  comprised of husband and wife, Anna and Niels Gossen out of Germany and Anna's brother, Sergey Bessonnitsyn, located in Russia. They proposed a new approach to using the network as the platform to help enable "Smart Grids" that will provide visibility, manageability and, ultimately, optimized control of energy consuming systems to drive energy efficiencies.  Their business plan was notable for its combination of technology and business model innovation.

As they were located in two different countries, the team relied on Cisco's Collaboration portfolio, consisting of Cisco TelePresence,  Unified Communications Suite and   WebEx Connect, to brainstorm their initial idea, collaborate on the business plan, and then virtually present their idea to Cisco.

Team AKS is proof that distance and borders did not inhibit their ability to collaborate and innovate. As with their idea and many others, innovation can be done on an old idea or even business process, but we must keep in mind that innovation will always be required to keep pace with change and stay ahead or even drive market transition.

Just as energy is the basis of life and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement and progress.  

Marthin de Beer is the Senior Vice President of Cisco's Emerging Technologies Group (ETG) as well as a member of the Cisco Development Council. He is also executive co-chair on Cisco Video and Smart Grid initiatives and an executive member of the Cisco Sports and Entertainment Board.