$5,000 Prize for Public Vote Goes to Rutgers Team
San Diego, May 17, 2012 -- The finalists of the InterDigital Innovation Challenge (I2C), a student wireless engineering competition organized by InterDigital (NASDAQ: IDCC) and the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) at the University of California, San Diego, were announced May 15. The finalists - 11 teams from across the United States and Canada - will now progress through the competition and vie for $170,000 in total prize money. An additional $5,000 "popular choice" prize went to the Rutgers-based DataMiser team, which logged 574 votes during the public-voting stage of the contest. DataMiser is a data optimizing solution to reduce cellular data and thereby save consumers on their wireless bills.
"The InterDigital Innovation Challenge has been a tremendous success so far, with technically advanced submissions from a number of high-profile universities. All the teams in the competition distinguished themselves with the high technical level of their proposals, and the finalists represent the best of a very strong field," said Mr. Soni.
The teams now proceed to the incubation period of the competition, where they will make further submissions in support of their proposals in the form of code, analysis, simulations models, prototypes and/or platforms, as requested by the judging panel. Finalists will have until September 1, 2012 to complete their submissions. The finalists of the InterDigital Innovation Challenge will be featured on September 21, 2012 at GigaOM's Mobilize conference in San Francisco, with the final winners to be announced soon after.
Calit2’s director at UC San Diego, Ramesh Rao, believes that the Innovation Challenge offers a new impetus for wireless researchers to collaborate on projects of value to society. "Because of the competition," said Rao, "I am expecting that many silos will get busted in the process of coming up with something that is a winning proposal."
Rao and InterDigital’s Soni sit on the nine-member judging panel, along with top researchers from Brown, Rutgers, Stanford, and University of California campuses at Irvine and Santa Barbara. The private-sector judges include San Diego serial technology entrepreneurs Michael Robertson and Martha Dennis:
"I wouldn’t be surprised if among the contestants of this contest, we find the next Qualcomm or the next Entropic or the next ViaSat," said Dennis, who runs CommNexus's NexStage program, which helps early-stage wireless companies get off the ground.
Calit2 developed a new software platform to underpin the Innovation Challenge. "The platform was pretty innovative," noted Soni. "It had a few elements that were interesting: the social element, the openness, and the ability for people to vote on these different proposals, and people being able to see what these proposals are."
Calit2 software developer Arindam Ganguly built the contest platform to reflect what is essentially a new approach to funding academic research. The challenge itself was entirely Web-based, with online submissions visible to the public. It also enabled public voting for 15 semi-finalists – mimicking the early bootstrap phase of technology startups through self promotion.
Calit2 also took an innovative approach to publicizing the contest, directly contacting all principal investigators on NSF-funded projects in the wireless field.
"We wanted to reach out and touch people through non-traditional channels, from publicizing it through Google ad-words, and even Gmail, placing ads in select locations, to engaging the larger audience," said Calit2's Rao.
InterDigital® develops fundamental wireless technologies that are at the core of mobile devices, networks, and services worldwide. It has licenses and strategic relationships with many of the world's leading wireless companies.InterDigital has been around for more than 30 years, and its more than 300 engineers have developed some of the core technologies that defined 2G, 3G and LTE wireless standards:
"In addition to doing our own research and development, we also form partnerships with other companies in the ecosystem," said InterDigital's Soni. "We cannot do it on our own, so that includes universities and industries."
As more wireless researchers become aware of it, the InterDigital Innovation Challenge could offer a new vehicle for launching wireless companies, partly because they don’t relinquish intellectual property right to the contest. Already, the high-tech trade organization CommNexus San Diego has agreed to award free space to the winning team in its EvoNexus business incubator in downtown San Diego. EvoNexus bills itself as the nation’s only no-strings-attached incubator. There is added incentive to build a company because teams don’t relinquish intellectual property rights to the contest.
According to Martha Dennis, "having a competition like the one that InterDigital and Calit2 are sponsoring is just the right kind of stimulus that really fuels young wireless entrepreneurs to continue this tradition of wireless innovation."
Calit2's Rao believes that even teams that do not win prize money because they don't place in the top three could benefit from the process by which they competed in the InterDigital Innovation Challenge. "I would like to imagine," he said, "that some of these teams who have submitted an entry will go on to do something together, whether it's on that particular topic or not."
Doug Ramsey, 858-822-5825, firstname.lastname@example.org