Tagged: Illinois Institute of Technology

Chicago Innovation Challenge 2016

“The Contest is a four-stage competition designed to (1) encourage and inspire students to think about creating physical things, applications and applications that control physical things by encouraging them to seek to solve a real-world consumer and/or business need or problem that they have identified, (2) to demonstrate their creativity and inventiveness at solving this problem, (3) to provide an opportunity to earn a monetary prize and, for the noted limited time, free rent at a maker’s co-working space in recognition of their accomplishment.” – Illinois Institute of Technology, Jules F. Knapp Entrepreneurship Center’s Chicago Innovation Challenge.


imageI would first like to thank Donna Rockin, Executive Director at IIT’s Jules F. Knapp Entrepreneurship Center, for the opportunity to participate in this year’s Chicago Innovation Challenge as a judge in the Semi Finals.

This happens to be my eight engagement of this kind, having served twice as a judge at MIT Enterprise Forum and the Illinois Math & Science Academy’s Power Pitch, and five times at the Chicago Science Fair for Computer Science and Behavioral Science projects.

Competitions can be designed to deliver a systematic approach to producing high-potential innovations as pointed out by Wharton’s Christian Terwiesch and Karl T. Ulrich in their book on Innovation Tournaments.

I am fortunate to have experienced that outcome from three different perspectives as (a) an award winning contestant, (b) team coach and (c) in a judge capacity once again. My earliest involvement as a contestant started as an Industrial Design student competing at two EPSON’s research paper tournaments in Spain, and then General Electric Plastics’ product design competition and Honeywell’s Be Brilliant Scholar in Europe, which provided the scholarships funding my undergrad, post-grad and graduate degrees. Career wise, I am also proud of my three Bell Labs Entrepreneurial Boot Camps in the United States.

Innovation tournaments usually take several rounds of screening. The filtering process leverages check-lists structured under a well understood criteria. Some competitions are centered on identifying and developing talent, though most are looking for specific projects worthy of investment. The Chicago Innovation Challenge serves both objectives and leverages Startup Compete’s platform as an online process tool.

When judging, my most immediate task is identifying whether I am reviewing an invention or an innovation. Projects focusing on technical matters are typically discussing inventions. Those going further to address what it takes to put things in the hands of users, to seek to understand human factors and to look at what it takes to foster adoption become far more likely to qualify as innovations.

So, my probing questions are what is the project’s “signature experience;” why would that and any implied changes mean anything to stakeholders? moreover, what’s the expected impact for end users? and what specific paths lead to early adoption and customer engagements?

Beyond that point, I look for what’s clearly new and differentiated so that we can properly assess degrees of innovativeness and game changing capabilities ranging from incremental innovation to disruptive innovation. And while looking at the reasoning and working assumptions behind use and business cases is of the essence, it turns out that “human factors” such as individual talent, decision making style and the collective quality of the team are typically decisive when pondering success chances, which drives my rankings and prioritization.

I firmly believe that individuals should feel and be empowered to make a decisive difference, but it is teams, partners and collaborative workstyles what make things happen. So, it makes sense to ask if them all understand and agree on the project’s “soul.” Let me be precise, can the startup’s founders and any team members clearly articulate and passionately embrace the project’s essence and guiding spirit? Can they succinctly outline credible grounds to convincingly rally resources and make things happen… or are they just lost in space or drinking doomed Kool-Aid.

By the way, judges should understand that iterative advancements and even pivoting are common innovation management practices. Think Lean’s Kaizen, also known as Continuous Improvement . Therefore, providing balanced feedback on pros-and-cons matters most because going through several screening rounds means that most projects don’t obviously bubble up to the top, and yet, they should not be denied the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that doesn’t take a “no” or a “defeat” for an answer.

So, there is no room for putting down any project unless human rights and anyone’s quality of life were purposely compromised, e.g. don’t be evil. Regarding the winners, congratulations are in order, jointly with expectations on making the best use of any recognition, visibility and awards. No pressure there : )

”Ultimately, there’s only one way to learn to swim, you have to get wet. No amount of poolside calisthenics or video study can substitute for plunging in.”Innovation Tournaments.

imageThis year’s Chicago Innovation Challenge is my last activity as a Member of the Advisory Board at the Entrepreneurship Center, which I joined in 2014.

It’s been a pleasure to experience the dedication and commitment of everyone involved, and the positive and growing impact in our community.

I have also been lucky enough to be involved in IIT’s Real Time Communications Conference as a Chair of the Cloud Computing track in 2014 and 2015, which I have Professor Carol Davids of the School of Applied Technology and Conference Chair to thank for.

Last but not least, I need to express my gratitude to Dr. Moises Goldman, Serial Entrepreneur and Investor, and Nik Rokop, Coleman Foundation Clinical Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Stuart School of Business.

Hope to cross paths with IIT’s community again I take this chance to convey my best.


I’m now gearing up for Informa’s Innovation Conference in New Orleans where I will be speaking on Thursday, November 15. See you there.


Alcatel-Lucent @ IIT Real Time Comms.


Alcatel-Lucent’s Naperville team fostered our partnership with Illinois Tech (the Illinois Institute of Technology) by joining an impressive list of sponsors and contributing with speakers to the Real-Time Communications Conference’s 10th Anniversary. As in past editions, Carol Davids, Conference Chair, and her team managed to deliver one of the best regarded technical events in this fast evolving space.

imageI took these pictures at Ted East’s keynote. Ted is the Vice President of Alcatel-Lucent’s CIC (Cloud Innovation Center).

His presentation was centered around a live demonstration illustrating a step-by-step deployment of a sophisticated end-to-end solution comprised of an EPC (Evolved Packet Core) and IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) with both being onboarded in real time as VNFs (Virtual Network Functions) on a CloudBand Node.

The node performed as a multi-app-tenancy environment and is equipped to be set up in a highly distributed architecture. CloudBand is also well known by its Management System, this is the common platform orchestrating and automating the VNFs’ life cycle. I will refer you to ETSI NFV Use Case #5 on the Virtualization of the Mobile Core and IMS if interested in more background information about the demo’s purpose.

The end result was a live VoLTE (Voice over Long Term Evolution) service that network operators can now deploy and right scale at a fraction of the time when compared to conventional architectures. Ted was then able to browse the internet and make a voice call using 4G’s mobile broadband capabilities and IP (Internet Protocol) on the spot.

This demonstration also illustrated NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) and SDN (Software Defined Networking) working together as other applications were added, such as Anti-Virus and Parental Controls to name two examples. Traffic was dynamically routed to best manage network capacity.


Ted’s talk was one of the highlights of the Cloud Track, which I co-chaired with Alan Quayle and greatly benefited from Warren Bent’s tireless support, the conference’s Content Director.

Ed Elkin, Anne Lee and myself delivered talks in break out sessions covering VoLTE, WebRTC and NFV respectively.

Vijay Gurbany and I also joined well followed panel discussions.Vijay spoke at the Cloud/SDN/Big Data session and I participated in the one moderated by Light Reading’s Elizabeth Coyne with:

  • AT&T’s Mike Paradise
  • Vonage’s Alan Bugos
  • Allianza’s Ryan Higgings

Our panel was preceded by three 15 minute context setting presentations and the actual discussion dealt with the following 15 items:

  • Are telcos right to be concerned about performance in a virtualized world?
  • What can be, or is being, done to mitigate those concerns?
  • What technologies are in the pipeline that will help address performance concerns?
  • Can open platforms provide the requisite security for a telco environment?
  • Does their open nature make them more vulnerable? What are the implications of openness?
  • In a virtualized world, is the reliability of software more important than the underlying hardware’s reliability?
  • How does open source help the cause?
  • How are scalability issues being addressed?
  • Is it more of a hardware or a software issue?
  • How will the evolution of NFV colliding with movement towards the cloud play out?
  • What are the most critical implementation issues when deploying VNFs?
  • Will network PoP be easily transformed into data centers?
  • How can data center operators ensure the feedback loop to support service guarantees?
  • Do telcos have the skill set to be able to support NFV?
  • Do you think that NFV, along with SDN, is an opportunity for architects to think about networking differently?


Here is a quick note to share that Elizabeth recently launched The New IP. Light Reading’s new site focuses on the business of managing and orchestrating state-of-the-art virtualized IP networks. The blogging team includes other well known industry analysts such as Ari Banerjee, Caroline Chappell, Tom Nolle, Carol Wilson and Ray Le Maistre to name some.

By the way, a big thank you to those of you who followed my session on NFV Economics after having to reschedule from Tuesday’s “prime time lineup” to Thursday’s “last talk of the conference” due to a last minute scheduling conflict on my side.

I would also like to thank Nokia Network’s Andrew N. Rollins most sincerely for his very kind introduction, which I am humbled by, and for allowing this business case talk to take 60 minutes given the attendees’ interest (instead of just using the 30 minute slot set for this session).

Post event feedback was very positive given the speakers’ credentials and, most importantly, the high quality of the talks and follow up discussions throughout this three day professional gathering at IIT’s facility. This conference was a source of insights worth sharing and deserving blogging some more, which I am hoping to do in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’d like to refer you to:

I also need to thank Tom Costello, who is in charge of the conference’s Public Relations, for his support, understanding and patience as well as congratulate peer conference chairs for what turned out to be successful event raising the bar and expectations for next year’s XI edition : )

  • Mobile Networks, Platforms and Applications – Maureen Stillman, Mission Critical Wireless, and Chris Mayer, Solstice Technical Consulting.
  • Web & Emerging Technologies – Alan Johnston, Avaya.
  • Next Gen 9-1-1 and Regulatory Policy – Bernard Adoba, Microsoft.
  • Internet of Things – Sateesh Adepally, Cisco.

I’m posting this without further delay and will get back to add some more hyperlinks later on.

IIT Real Time Communications 2014: Cloud Track Outreach.

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In addition to what’s going on at the event’s home site,  I am experimenting with a variety of online communication tools such as innovarista (my blog), an event calendar on Built-in-Chicago and a new group on meetup.  Admittedly, I am curious to see how this effort works out, as well as any learning on best practices moving forward.  In case you wondered, ongoing twitter, facebook and LinkedIn updates are also part of this mix.

Being this a communication technologies conference, it just makes sense to take advantage of cloud based engagement services.  Additionally, I have spent sometime on meetup looking into other groups whose members might be interested in what we are doing.  So, I have forwarded an individual request to the various meetup organizers to help spread the word with the following:


“The Chicago Cloud Computing Meetup Group is an informal professional group focused on developing relationships, exchanging ideas, and fostering cloud computing innovation.”

“We provide an open, comfortable environment for fellow cloud computers and newcomers alike to meet and discuss related news, best practices, tips and anything else that might arise in this exciting and rapidly evolving technology niche. We welcome people from all backgrounds, not just IT, to come learn and network in the community.”

“This group will try to meet on the third Wednesday of every month. The location will vary, but it will always be in the Downtown Chicago area, the loop.”


“CloudCamp is an ‘unconference’ where early adopters of Cloud Computing technologies exchange ideas. Come share your cloud experiences, challenges and solutions.”

“At CloudCamp, attendees are encouraged to share thoughts in open discussions and short talks. End users, IT professionals and the cloud curious are all encouraged to come! As always, the unconference provides vendor-neutral and unbiased opinions. As a community, we try to answer questions and discuss issues in a fun and educational way.”

“The events are both educational and an opportunity to network with fellow cloud users. We keep vendor sales pitches to a minimum by giving the audience ‘red cards’ – if you don’t like what the speakers are saying send them off! CloudCamp Chicago is part of the global network of CloudCamp events. CloudCamp Chicago is curated and organized by Margaret at CohesiveFT. Look for events every 2 months or so, and suggestions via email / twitter / linkedin always welcome! @CloudCamp_Chi”


“Let’s Collaborate about Collaboration Have you ever gone to a User Group Meeting just to be sold to? Be part of a new UC User Group that you will name, create topics of discussion, have your peers be your SME’s.”

“It doesn’t matter what UC platform you have deployed or are thinking of deploying (or kicking the tires of many). What matters is that you have a successful communications infrastructure strategy that gains employee adoption and provides good ROI. Come prepared to SHARE your challenges and Brainstorm about topics that keep you up at night. Here are some ideas to spark the discussion:  Mobility and At Home workforce solution, Defining your workforce needs, Has video redefined your collaboration strategy, Changing workspace, Aha moment, UC as a Service (Cloud) Vs. On-prem, Scalability…”


“Initiated by the Illinois Institute of Technology Real-Time Communications Lab http://voip.itm.iit.edu/ , we are interested in WebRTC API’s, protocols, and applications that support browser-based, real-time, P2P communications.”

“This includes the standarization work underway at the IETF (RTCWeb) and the W3C (WebRTC), as well as the resulting disruptive new use cases, and business models it is creating. If you believe WebRTC is the future of real-time communications, collaborate with us as we create a thriving local community around this emerging technology!






“The Chicago Mobile Meetup Group is an informal professional group focused on developing relationships, exchanging ideas, and fostering mobile technology innovation.”

“We provide an open, comfortable environment for application development enthusiasts to meet and discuss related news, best practices, tips and anything else that might arise in this exciting and rapidly evolving technology niche.”

“We welcome people from all backgrounds, not just IT, to come learn and network in the community.”

“This group will meet on the last Thursday of every month. The location will vary, but it will always be in the Downtown Chicago area, the ‘loop’.



“Join us if you would like to hear about upcoming Tech Talks hosted by Morningstar, Inc. in Chicago, IL.”

“We’re about: Tech Talks, Internet & Technology, Open Source, New Technology, Cloud Computing, Web Services, Mashup Programming, Platform as a Service, Programmable Web, DevOps, Software Craftsmanchip, Mobile Technology, High Scalability Computing.”