Looking Toward the Future at Innovation Forecast 2017

NJ Spotlight News | February 27, 2017 | Science & Technology

By Michael Hill

Rey Montalvo is shopping for partners at the New Jersey Tech Council’s Innovation Forecast 2017.

“Because I don’t think that any one person has a monopoly on all the good ideas,” he said.

Montalvo is the president and CEO of Consolidated Energy Design. He says America’s energy grid is decades old and originally made to power three major appliances per household when today the average has 20. Montalvo says his company helps clients — including utilities and corporate property owners — lower energy costs through artificial intelligence and predictability technology.

“We figured out a way to keep the people in the space comfortable while at the same time helping the grid reduce that excess energy,” he said.

The NJ Tech Council invited small and big business to Bell Works to present at this year’s forecast.

“Historically, or in the past few years, the startups got all the buzz and all the attention when the reality is that some of the best inventions and innovations are coming form mature, large, medium-sized companies,” said NJ Tech Council President and CEO James Barrood.

“There’s nothing magical about what we do,” said Marcus Weldon, president of Bell Labs and chief technology officer of Nokia.

Bell Labs has won eight Nobel Prizes for its inventions in nearly 100 years of its existence. Weldon says Bell Labs’ mission today is the same as it was decades ago.

“In most cases, a development is undertaken to meet a recognized need,” Weldon said.

Weldon offered a view into Bell Labs’ secret to success.

“If you solve real human needs problems that exist in the market, you have to think further forward, but if you’re in contact with the market, you solve the right problems,” he said.

The future, according to Weldon: electronic skin, automation and neural networks. Weldon says Facebook’s AI research director developed at Bell Labs the technology that mimics the eye. It can recognize faces and what’s in the background of every uploaded photo.

“Why do you think they do that? To sell you stuff. If you’re at the beach, they know,” he said.

Among the startups showing their products, a robot you can program to grocery shop. Even the best ideas need investment. One venture capitalist says he looks for startups trying to create a brand.

“There’s a very famous story in Silicon Valley where Google went with 20, 30 VCs [venture capitalists] and they said no to them. Except a client that said yes to them just because they’re like, this is a big vision and if it’s successful, it’ll be huge. It’s the type of bet we want to make. Whereas everyone else said you’re building a portal where everyone’s leaving your page immediately when they find the result versus Yahoo which everyone wants to stay on to,” said Jay Bhatti, co-founder and CTO of BrandProject.

A giant of a lesson in envisioning a company’s mission to innovate.