How to craft an award-winning innovation?

CATV networks are a solid part of telecommunication infrastructure and evolve much slower than e.g. software based web applications. There is, however, a constant stream of innovations in CATV network equipment, but rolling these innovations out in the network takes time and money, which in turn limits the applicability of innovations.

End-customer requirements (high-speed data) and technological advances in component technology are the key drivers for innovations, together with the constant need to reduce operators total cost of ownership. Every vendor needs to develop products with new features to maintain competitiveness.

One good example of a way to develop innovations within the industry is Adaptive Power Challenge. The open innovation contest from major players of the industry was certainly attractive for product vendors with a very topical theme, and it was amazing to see, how many good proposals from various perspectives were received in the contest.

Now, once achieving a recognition in the challenge, it is a good moment to look back and figure out the key actions leading to success. How was it that we crafted our award-winning innovation?

DECISION TO ATTEND

Receiving invitation to a competition set on by the major players in the industry [Comcast, LGI, CableLabs] was certainly a tempting opportunity for a company trying to get a foothold in the US. Taking part to the competition also gave us an opportunity to improve our product offering, increase our IPR and in best case to bring us lots of positive visibility.

SEARCH FOR THE IDEAS

Although there are hundreds of different brainstorming methods available, our search for the ideas was pretty old fashioned: we picked up a number of well-known innovators from our experienced R&D staff, set a goal to come up with ideas how to minimize power consumption in the CATV network devices, and reserved time to collaborate on the topic. These carefully selected individuals all have tens of years of experience on the CATV devices, customer requirements and technical solutions, and a very practical way to approach problems. They are also all familiar with each other and some of them have been working together for over 30 years now, so there was no need to use any fancy brainstorming method or facilitation. This team would reach the desired outcome through discussion.

It’s a truly mind blowing experience to see such a professional group throwing ideas in the air, discussing them and reaching even better ideas.  Afterwards, the road to our core innovation appears very clear step-by-step:

  1. Which features use most of the energy in the CATV network devices? Hybrid amplifier circuits use about 70-80% of the energy. Let’s focus there!
  2. Is there any way we can cut the energy consumption of the hybrid amplifier circuits? There is a dedicated pin in the component for that, but using it degrades the performance of the circuit.
  3. Is full performance always needed? Actually the full performance is needed very seldom (if ever), especially with 1.2GHz devices, since the channel load varies.
  4. So we could adjust the required performance based on channel load? Yes, if we/operator (or the device) would know the channel load.
  5. And finally; how can this be achieved? Well, there are several ways of doing that…

THE OUTCOME

After reaching the core idea of making compromise between hybrid amplifier performance and channel load, figuring out the ways of actually doing that was rather straightforward for this team of R&D experts. Eventually we ended up with about 10 different ways of implementing the core idea to CATV network devices. All with different cost, performance and energy saving features.

In the spirit of open innovation and involving everybody, we also asked all R&D staff to come up with ideas how to lower the power consumption in our devices. We also got number of ideas from there as well and some of those ideas are already been implemented in our products!

So the originators of the innovation contest seem to reach one of their goals here: Teleste is investing more in product power saving features and implementing these features in new products.

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Toni Rumpunen

I'm responsible of the HW development team in Teleste R&D and I've been working in Teleste R&D from year 2000. In this position I have an excellent view over new technologies and new products. See my LinkedIn.

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