This year's top global innovations: 'portable grid,' retrofit hybrids, real-time intelligence

Entrepreneurial energy helps tackle a variety of global challenges, from spotty electricity supplies to video piracy. Knowledge@Wharton and Wipro Technologies identified several forward-looking companies with fresh new approaches.

Entrepreneurial energy is helping to tackle a variety of global challenges, from spotty electricity supplies to video piracy. Knowledge@Wharton and Wipro Technologies identified several forward-looking companies with fresh new approaches, the winners of the latest global innovation competition, featuring entries from 160 teams across six continents.

Battery on a bike: transportation for the 'portable grid'

The winning entry was from EGG-energy, for a battery-swapping service in Tanzania. The service offers clean, rechargeable batteries that households in the country -- 90% of which have no electricity -- can rent for an annual subscription fee. "We're like the Netflix of batteries," Rhonda Jordan, the company's U.S. representative, is quoted as saying. EGG, which stands for Engineering Global Growth, oversees the installation of the clean batteries in homes -- a cheaper and safer alternative to the jury-rigged methods many households to employ to power lights or charge cell phones. The company also refers to its service as "the portable grid."

Runners-up include video encryption technology, a process for converting old cars into hybrids, and real-time business intelligence technology.

The video encryption technology, from L3, is designed to enable a video producer to encrypt a video, but then also include instructions about how it can be viewed and how much it will cost. To unlock the video and watch it, a customer would either have to pay a fee or watch the video with ads. "Our innovation will allow anyone to publish, distribute and monetize their video from anyone to anyone, from anywhere to anywhere, and most importantly, on any medium" according to Anil Gupte. The mechanism is intended to protect small producers from Internet piracy. Fees from videos go directly back to the content producer, minus a small transaction fee to L3.

The process for converting old cars into hybrids, called Revolo from KPIT Cummins, is a parallel plug-in hybrid solution that converts old gas guzzlers into quasi-hybrid vehicles. Older cars are retrofitted by adding an electric engine and rechargeable battery pack, cutting emissions and boosting performance. Revolo can be used on cars with standard batteries and simple motors and does not interfere with the existing engine, according to Rajeev Kulkarni, KPIT's associate vice president. "It takes from four to six hours to retrofit the car," he says. And, as another observer put it: "Everybody is talking about hybrid vehicles that will be launched in the future, but what do we do with all these cars now?"

Another innovation recognized in the competition is Mass Opinion Business Intelligence (MOBI) from WiseWindow, for a data service that collects, sorts and displays customized business intelligence in real time. The data service "culls information from online public comments, sorts it into categories, analyzes the sentiment behind it and delivers it to a company in real time."  The product "begins with industry-specific sites and moves outward, scanning online articles, conversations, blogs, tweets and other online comments to learn what the product is, what type of vocabulary is used to describe it and how people are feeling about it." Such information is made available immediately, versus having decision makers wait days or weeks for standard market research reports to be made available.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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