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Villanova University Presents an Update on World-Changing Innovations

The world is being rapidly transformed by a host of emerging technologies, including Star Trek style tricorders, nanoinnovations, aerial drones, wearable computers and the Internet of Things.

On December 5, more than 80 industry managers received an update on these and other innovations at Villanova University’s first annual Innovation Update Day, which was entitled “Radical Innovations That Are Transforming the World.” The event was organized and hosted by II Luscri, Director of the ICE Center at Villanova, and Michael Tomczyk, Villanova’s Innovator in Residence.

Technology experts told the audience that the world is changing rapidly and many companies and industries will need to change their strategies to remain competitive. 

Chris Frangione, VP Prize Development at the XPrize Foundation, described how tens of millions of dollars in prize money is making it possible for innovators from many walks of life to develop solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems, from space travel and oil cleanup, to medicine and improving the environment. He said the winners of the XPrize Qualcomm challenge to develop a Star Trek style tricorder will be announced in 2015. The tricorders will be able to diagnose more than a dozen medical conditions.

Tomczyk presented examples of innovations featured in his new book, “NanoInnovation: What Every Manager Needs to Know” (Wiley, 2014). He discussed 2D materials that are only one atom thick, ingestible computers embedded in pills that can communicate data after being swallowed, invisibility cloaks that use metamaterials to bend light, and dry adhesives based on nanostructures that allow gecko lizards to walk on glass. Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Gang Feng described nanotechnology research at Villanova that makes ultrathin films and coatings more robust and scratch resistant.

SAP’s Michael Lynch, Global Head, Internet of Things, explained how the convergence of sensors and big data is making transportation systems, warehouses—even rest rooms—more efficient and economical. “This is one of the largest computing trends we’ve seen in a long time,” he said, “The amount of productivity gain will be enormous. Imagine in the next 10 years, everything is connected to the Internet all the time, which means the whole world gets effectively tracked. 75 billion devices will be connected. For example, we can sensor everything in a production plant to make sure the plant keeps running and doesn’t go down.” Lynch showed several videos of SAP customers using the Internet of Things. For example, Pirelli tires have sensors that can help predict when a tire will fail. Sensors and data monitoring are helping to avoid collisions of heavy equipment used in construction. Businesses that used to restock supplies on a regular weekly or monthly schedule can now monitor supplies and restock them as needed, which can significantly cut costs.   

The conference also featured presentations by student entrepreneurs. Villanova graduate Charlie Dolan described his award-winning venture, Sequoia Waste Solutions and discussed how smart bins, trash sensors and data management are beginning to improve the logistics of waste management.

Ed Dougherty, director of Villanova’s Engineering Entrepreneurship Program, described how he is working with student engineers to develop the next generation of virtual reality systems and video systems that continue the evolution of the Emmy-award winning Skycam, which Doughtery helped develop and engineer. 

Google Development Expert and software developer Allen Firstenberg described how the Internet of Things is connecting things to people through wearable computers and headsup displays like Google Glass. Firstenberg was one of the first people to use and develop applications for Google Glass technology, which provides a headsup computer display in wearable eyeglasses. He is the author of a new book, “Designing and Developing for Google Glass” (O’Reilly, 2014). 

“A smart phone tries to draw you into its world; Google Glass helps you connect to your own world instead of isolating you,” Firstenberg said.  He explained that Glass technology keeps your hands free to allow you to do whatever you’re doing and increases your productivity and access to information. It also lets you photograph or record anything you’re looking at.

Luscri said the Villanova Innovation Day was attended by innovation managers from companies as diverse as Comcast, Pfizer and Bristol Myers. “This is a terrific opportunity for managers to learn about innovations they may not be familiar with,” Luscri said. “We’re making this an annual conference because there are always emerging technologies appearing in industries and markets that we need to be aware of.”

Tomczyk added that “The Villanova Innovation Update Day is like an intravenous injection of innovation. It gives industry managers an update on innovations that need to be on their radar screen.”

The ICE Center, housed within the Villanova University School of Business (VSB), is an innovative driver of scholastic, educational, and professional development opportunities in the related areas of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship within the Villanova community. A main principle of the ICE Center is the belief that students from Liberal Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Nursing, Business, and Law can all learn from one another how to become more well-rounded innovative and creative thinkers. The ICE Center fosters opportunities for this cross-disciplinary learning to occur. Click here to find out more about ICE Center programs and initiatives.