Are we truly innovating?

By: Rima Qureshi

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Innovation” is an ambiguous word that is used a lot in the tech industry. We routinely refer to new devices and products as “innovations,” and are quick to slap the label on any design, feature, or business model that we seek to differentiate from the pack – regardless of whether it constitutes an innovation in the truest sense of the word.

But real innovation takes audacity – a willingness to take bold risks; challenge established ways of working; and have the courage of one’s convictions. Audacity took us to the moon and brought us smartphones. It gave us content streaming; the many iterations of the automobile; and several other life-changing and history-making inventions that have made our way of life everything it is today.

My philosophy on innovation is to be audacious because it can actually change our world. Change doesn’t happen without being intellectually curious and challenging the status quo. We humans and technologists need to rediscover this true heart of innovation. It calls upon us to be open to trying new things, look at problems and solutions through a different lens, and to not be afraid of disrupting ourselves. This flexible mindset is what will allow us to learn from mistakes and develop businesses, products, and solutions that will actually make a difference.

It’s this way of approaching innovation that is going to help us solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, like those outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Environmental and societal challenges like climate change, a quality education for all, and a changing landscape of worker prosperity all require us to think beyond what we already know, and to ask the tough questions.

This is the ethos guiding our work with the EDISON Alliance, a coalition of public-private partnerships dedicated to closing the digital divide. Critical questions about equity, access, and affordability need to be raised and debated if we’re going to provide broadband for all, so that everyone can participate successfully in the world we’re creating.

This is imperative, because the 5G network we’ve built is going to fundamentally change the way we live. Its immense capacity, unparalleled speed, and ultra-low latency is what will make it possible for true innovations to be born.

And while traditionally we have paved the way for others to innovate on top of our network, we at Verizon have come to realize that we have world-class engineers, technologists, and developers who are also capable of generating audacious, market-ready applications for the network. And why not – after all, they’re the ones who created the network in the first place!

Our innovative capabilities are why we’re focusing part of our efforts on exploring robotics technologies and what they can do for businesses. We’re already seeing transformative use cases across multiple sectors involving 5G-enabled robots and drones, like Digital Space Orchestration – a connected solution that brings together digital twins, location intelligence and contextual awareness to seamlessly manage spaces, and we’re excited to see how such breakthroughs can expand possibilities in one industry after another.

That’s what this new avenue is all about for us – expanding possibilities. The spirit of innovation invites us to look at this technology from a wholly new perspective and consider the vast potential that robotics could bring to humanity, rather than the dystopian discourse that has dominated the topic for well over a generation.

For example, think about the innumerable dangerous jobs humans have traditionally performed. Tasks like disarming a bomb, inspecting cell phone towers and gas pipelines, and mining have long posed serious risk to workers’ lives and health, but this technology allows us to send a robot into these dangerous places instead to perform the necessary task. Robots can also take samples and measure things like chemicals, temperature, and air quality to assess the safety of a situation. With their help, we can increase worker safety and keep humans out of harm’s way.

The possibilities of what 5G can do for industries – and the world at large – are endless. To know what’s truly capable though, we need others to be intellectually curious with us; to challenge the status quo; to think beyond what they know is possible today. We’re ready to show how our 5G network - and the connected solutions on top - can transform businesses, cities, entire industries, and society at large. And we’re inviting innovators across all sectors to come see what it can do for them.

In the spirit of true innovation, let’s be audacious; let’s change the world together.

About the author:

Rima Qureshi is executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Verizon. She is responsible for development and implementation of Verizon's overall corporate strategy, business development, partnerships, strategic investments and acquisitions.


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