“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all what the world needs most are dreamers that do.”
Sarah Ban Breathnach
Innovation in my thoughts is nothing but thinking about the unthinkable, its the realization of a dream and making it possible, it is simplification using science, AI and creativity. It’s great to have an innovative mindset but more important to commercialize these ideas for the generations to come. Once the art of commercialization is mastered it leads to entrepreneurship. The best way to conceptualize this is through ‘fast works’ or ‘startup’ platforms. My belief is such a project should start with minimum or no investment using crowd funding, starting with a pilot or a prototype, testing the market adaptability and acceptance, one step at a time but with speed to achieve clear measurable goals of progress leading to the final launch! Innovation which defines our need identifying the gap unfulfilled is essential to success.
I have the privilege of living in the UAE and work for GE (the industrial icon founded by Thomas Edison the inventor of the light bulb”), both the land & the company encourage an innovative mindset, in GE it’s called ‘imagination at work’! The Middle East for example is looking for palatable water and some thoughts are to transfer a glacier from the Arctic ocean, another is to build a subsea tunnel between Pakistan and UAE to canalize river water from Satluj & Ravi rivers! Sounds unrealistic but work is underway to explore the possibility already.
My initial exposure to innovation was in my younger years. I was born to a sugar specialist who for the first-time pioneered production of sugar from beat root in India. He was awarded by the Government of India and I was witness to his hall of fame! In Nagaland, where my Dad was posted as a project officer by Government of India to set up a sugar mill. My Dad wanted to do something for the cane growers (farmers), other than supplying them seeds free of cost, so he developed a simple machine which could shred the long leaves of a cactus grown to protect the sugarcane fields from stray animals as a fence – Aloe Vera. The leaves of this medicinal plant when shredded led to strands which looked like jute and could be woven like a rope while the left-out pulp could be used for medicinal purposes. The leaves of this plant contain a thick gel that is quite bitter but contains a protein that has 18 of the 20 amino acids found in the body, as well as Vitamins A, B, C and E and a complex carbohydrate known as Acemannan that delivers nutrition to cells and detoxifies them.
As an engineer I was employed in a chemical factory “Sriram Food & Fertilizer Industries” SFFI or DCM Chemicals as it was called commonly in Delhi (India). This factory generated zero effluent and waste. The campus had multiple small manufacturing works (Bleaching powder, Hydrogenated oil, Caustic Soda, Superphosphate Fertilizer, Washing Soap etc.) where byproduct of one became raw material for the other. For example, the industry waste was used to make soap, hydrogen a biproduct of an electrolyte plant was used in manufacture of hydrogenated oil, another bi product was Sulphuric acid which was used to manufacture fertilizer called superphosphate by mixing it with rock phosphate. This was innovation in the 1980’s!
I grew up in India in the era of telex machines and truck calls, fax was a great innovation and phones (land lines) had just come in, television was rare and very expensive, you had to buy records to play in turntables or gramophones. We were overwhelmed by the surge of technological changes, with the advent of transistors, audio cassette recorders or Walkmans, cell phones and paperless communication through emails, texts, Facebook, ‘Whats App’ within a matter of a few years. Those who could not cope up with the fast changing environment were left behind, those who did adapt to change, like me, survived!
Kodak is a good example of organizations which did not keep up with the change and destroyed themselves. Kodak went into bankruptcy, a victim of shift away from the film that needed to be bought & processed to the change that was brought about by digital photography, which was free, and the results could be printed at home on laser printers making it affordable. All my childhood memories were captured by my Dad who was an ardent photographer using box (Yashika) cameras and 8 mm movie projectors had to be converted to digital CD’s to preserve the memories for my grandchildren!! All this in 5 decades! Our generation perhaps has seen a transition equal to none in the past. The pace of technology revolution has been amazingly fast, it’s the next industrial revolution!
Today we are in the dot-matrix equivalent of 3 D printers. The dot matrix printers from 1980’s were noisy monochrome with pins hitting a black ink ribbon, today we have cheap silent inkjets and laser printers that print in full colour with resolution almost indistinguishable from professional printing. Similarly, the 3 D printers a decade later shall be fast and silent able to print a wide range of materials, from metal, plastics to wood pulp and even food.
GE is leading the 3-D technology at an unbelievable pace. We are now able to print bone implants, spare parts of aircrafts, heart valve implants etc. It’s already a reality, for small components, that equipment manufacturers no longer have to export spare parts to the customer across the globe, cutting through the entire delivery cycle and logistics nightmare of air freighting the material, custom clearing and inculcating costs and time in inland transport to deliver to a power plant waiting for the repair to be completed. The emerging scenario would be the original equipment manufacturer will only have to electronically send the drawings with tolerances etc. to a freelance 3-D printing facility in the country or city of the customer and specify the material of construction and finishing specifications. The freelancer would produce the component using the 3-D printer in days and send it to the asset owner in minimum timeframe at almost perhaps 1/10th the cost!
We moved from real money in form of coins to currency notes and now to digital money. We have all heard about cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrency is a new type of digital money used to exchange agreed-upon values. It is just like regular currency, except it uses cryptography to secure transactions and control the creation of its native currency. Bitcoin pioneered the field as the first decentralized cryptocurrency back in 2009 and the decentralized control is by use of Bitcoin’s distributed ledger, called the blockchain. Bitcoin is by far the most popular digital currency and it has tens of thousands of programmers and entrepreneurs around the world developing new services and apps. Like most other cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin is not controlled by any single government or central bank, and no one can decide who can send or receive money. Bitcoin transactions are censorship resistant. This means that no one, including banks, or governments, can block you from sending or receiving bitcoins.
Bitcoin was created by an anonymous person or group who called themselves Satoshi Nakamoto. Nakamoto published the invention on October 31, 2008, to the Cryptography Mailing list called metzdowd.com. The research paper was called “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”. It was implemented in its first client and released to the open source community in January 2009. The Bitcoin network came into existence on January 3, 2009, with the release of the first Bitcoin software and the issuance of the first bitcoins.
At first, the initial exchange rates for Bitcoin were set by individuals on online forums. The first transaction was the infamous 10,000 bitcoin pizza purchase, worth around 20 million USD eight years later. Today, however, most bitcoin exchanges are made through online trading platforms. In 2013, several mainstream websites began accepting bitcoin. WordPress started in November 2012, followed by OKCupid in 2013. In 2014 several major vendors started to accept bitcoin, including TigerDirect, Overstock.com, Expedia, Dell, and Microsoft. We’ve probably only scratched the surface of what Bitcoin can do. Today there are hundreds of such digital currencies trading in the market, governments of nations are coming out with their own versions.
I was trying to book a taxi on an uber app on my phone recently and I found another option of air taxis which could be hired through the app. Uber Elevate is Uber’s all-encompassing term for its initiative to launch uberAIR, which is its aerial electric ride-hailing service, as well as any other initiatives (think food delivery) that may benefit from air transport. Initially, uberAIR will cost $5.73 per passenger mile. In the near-term, Uber says it will get the cost down to $1.86 per passenger mile before ideally getting to $0.44 per passenger mile. Mattar Al Tayer, the chief of Dubai’s roads & transportation agency, has announced that various kinds of drone taxis will be operational in Dubai from July this year to serve the travelers. The Ehang 184, ‘Made in China’ autopilot drone can carry a passenger safely for 30 minutes weighing over 220 pounds.
Amazing stuff is happening in transportation, whether it is Hyperloop or Skyway’s latest forms of rapid transportation systems. Hyperloop is a new form of ground transport currently in development by several companies, which could see passengers travelling at 700 miles an hour in floating pods within low-pressure tubes. There are two big differences between Hyperloop and tradition rail. The pods carrying passengers travel through tubes or tunnels from which most of the air has been removed to reduce friction. This should allow the pods to travel at up to 750 miles per hour.
The ‘SkyWay’ project is a suspended transit system that would link vital spots such as the Dubai Financial Centre, Downtown and Business Bay through 21 stations. Passing through the Happiness Street and running up to City Walk, the Skypods can transport 8,400 riders per hour per direction. The package of future projects, which will be developed by the Roads and Transport Authority, includes a ‘Sky Garden’, two promenades and a bicycle pool project.
Thanks to the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Dubai is fast emerging out to be the most innovative country in the world where some of the best innovations are taking shape.
It is important to keep track of the fast-moving innovative environment and match the pace or be left behind. The new generation needs to adapt the new way and align themselves with the new emerging world of innovators. Innovation should start at home, in schools and colleges and at work, sparking a passion to think differently and adapt to change quickly. We should strive to, every day, do something which is out of ordinary and is creative to promote a habit of innovation!
My journey of experiments with innovation continues in my pursuit to be an innovator and a start-up entrepreneur. I will end my note by quoting Steve jobs
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
Disclaimer: I have tried to take you through the journey of innovation as I saw from the time I was born till today and my experiences in India and Dubai, I don’t claim to own the facts or their originality, It is borrowed knowledge from multiple sources to ensure the facts are true and correct as much as possible.