CeBIT: Four U.S. Companies Among 50 Finalists in Innovation Contest

 
 
By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-03-05 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Then there's Sustainable Reference from San Francisco, which attempts to promote energy-saving and sustainability through the use of a platform where companies and individuals can trade sustainability ideas. The idea behind the Sure! Service from Sustainable Reference is that you can somehow accumulate sustainability points that you can use to make people like you, get discounts on products and promote sustainable products so people can buy them. This idea isn't, as far as I can tell, actually operating beyond the what-if stage.

With the exception of Spindrift Energy, which has developed a device that is truly innovative, and could someday actually become a useful and effective means of recovering energy from ocean waves, one has to wonder how these companies and the products and services they espouse could become winners in a global innovation contest.

Bicycles with batteries and electric motors have been around for decades. All that's happened with the Elf is to put a solar cell on the roof. Is that really innovative? People have been using solar cells in similar applications for years. During my time running a lab in Hawaii, I saw many examples of boats with solar cells that were used to power electric motors that drove the boats. How is this different (other than the type of conveyance) than an electric tricycle? Where is the innovation?

Take a look at PICOwatt for a similar example. Power monitors have been around for years. They have communicated with management stations for years. The main argument the company makes is that by using the product you can save money by turning off electronic equipment that otherwise uses power. But it doesn't answer the significant question of deciding what electronic equipment you can turn off (phone chargers that aren't charging anything, for example) and those that should not be turned off even if they do draw power (Wake-on-LAN computers, for example).

And then there's Sure! From Sustainable Reference, which says that, "Cities put a lot of money into sustainable programs or certifications that are boring or old-fashioned." But even a conversation with founder Andy Backer failed to explain how he would actually put his idea into practice, except through a wholesale revision of the national economy.

Is one actual innovative product or concept of a product out of four U.S. entries a good record? In one sense, it is. As has always been the case, there are a lot more would-be innovators than actual innovations. On the other hand, getting people to hand you large amounts of money for ideas that aren't new—or are so vague that it's hard to tell if they're innovative—is an unpleasant echo of the 1990s. Isn't this why we had the tech bust back in the early 2000s?



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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