What is innovation? You would be surprised at how controversial a topic innovation can be. No dictionary definition quite captures it. Is innovation the sole domain of that which can be patented? It seems a ham sandwich can be patented so that couldn’t be it. Perhaps innovation is an invention that did not exist before. Maybe it is taking pre-existing ingredients and putting them together in a new way. Different people mean different things by innovation.
This article will not end that debate. You will still have your own idea of what is and isn’t innovative. In some ways, first-order innovation is impossible because there are no new ideas. When someone figures out teleportation, others will say that idea has been around since the earliest sci-fi. That said, there are plenty of old ideas waiting for new and innovative methods of implementation. An indie developer might come up with something innovative that takes a bigger company to implement in a way that makes it available to the masses. In that sense, innovation is a collaborative affair. With that in mind, here are a few of the most innovative companies to watch:
Any company that can make exoskeletons a real thing that industries can use to help augment worker strength and reduce workplace injury due to repetitive heavy-lifting deserves to be called an innovator. Sarcos Robotics is such a company. They describe their forward-looking tech in the following manner:
The Guardian® XO® full-body exoskeleton is the world’s first battery-powered industrial robot to combine human intelligence, instinct, and judgment with the power, endurance, and precision of machines.
Set to transform the way work gets done, the Guardian XO industrial exoskeleton augments operator strength without restricting freedom of movement to boost productivity while dramatically reducing injuries.
Words like ‘world’s first” and “transform” are at the heart of innovation. It is doing what hasn’t been done before. It is transformative in that it changes the way we do a certain thing. Right now, moving a heavy, bulky object in a factory or warehouse setting can require two or more people being taken off of other assignments to hoist and relocate one item. One person in a powered exoskeleton suit transforms that activity. Sarcos is a company full of interesting ideas and is certainly worth watching.
We don’t tend to think about the technology stack when considering public safety and utilities. But technology and innovation infuse every aspect of our lives. Some of the most innovative thinking underpins the products and services not readily visible to the average person.
Itron is not just one of those innovators. Itron wins’ public safety innovation of the year” IoT Breakthrough Award for the third, consecutive year. The company is giving a boost to critical infrastructure as it has to do with waste water. One wonders who the competition is in that space. There can’t be much glory in what they do. But they keep bringing us innovations year after year. They are not just a one and done company. That is the mark of a company that has innovation at their core.
There are many reasons to dislike Zoom: the software that has taken teleconferencing by storm. Love them or hate them, they should not be denied their status as innovators. They were far from the first on the teleconferencing scene and there is nothing new about their business model. Speaking of which, they are not the least expensive option. There is almost nothing they do that they did first.
Despite all that, Zoom swooped in and made teleconferencing more available and accessible than any of the incumbents. They do things behind the scene to make the video look better, the audio sounds better, the recordings are outstanding even on less than great hardware. The exciting thing about the company is their story is far from over. One type of innovation is doing a thing everyone else is doing, only significantly and obviously better to the point that you seem like the only horse in the race. That’s Zoom.
Who is on your innovation watch list? Just be sure to save a few slots for Sarcos, Itron, and Zoom.