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Bell Labs reverts to 'game-changing research' model

Posted: 21 May 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Bell Labs? research? Big Bang? research?

So far, Weldon has come up with 10 big industry problems which he calls the "FutureX" (the X standing for 10), which include forward-looking endeavors such as "how will people communicate 10 years from now." Weldon cites Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and "all those types" of communications as having merit, but none of those, in his opinion, will be dominant 10 years from now.

None of those are the end state. They are all transients on the way to what will become the future communications methodology. So we're taking all the best parts of all those ideas and looking at the intersectionit's when different ideas come together that something unique and magical happens. That is the power of Bell Labs, finding a unified way to communicate with people, things, objects, buildings, your car, friends, and colleagues. How can that be done in a unified way? It's a control plane problem more than a processing problem.

Once Bell Labs decides on what will be the unified way to communicate in 10 years, it plans to build prototypes for testing, then decide whether to manufacture, market, or license the technology.

"If it's truly a revolutionary new way, we will want to commercialise it ourselves, but we don't want to constrain the problem by saying it must be something Alcatel-Lucent can commercialise directly or license to others," Weldon told us.

Marcus Weldon

Weldon: The thing to realise is that Bell Labs has always been at its greatest when it solves big industry challengesof which the Big Bang is a classic example.

Weldon has already defined 10 FutureX projects, including the future of communications, the future of wireless, the future of the datacenter, the future of communities, the future of physical objects and associating digital identities with those objects, and five more FutureX projects he declined to identify.

To realise that dream, Alcatel-Lucent plans to open satellite Bell Labs around the world in areas where engineers are plentiful, with three planned for 2014, the first to be located in Tel Aviv.

And to bring in researchers outside of Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent is also announcing today an annual Bell Labs Prizea competition among researchers anywhere in the world who have the most innovative ideas to increase a parameter in information communications and networking for their vision of the future in 10 years.

The first phase, starting today, will be for researchers to describe their proposals and submit them to the Bell Labs Prize site by July 15, 2014. Judges will pick 10 to 100 from among these proposals and match them up with Bell Labs researchers who work in those areas, and with whom the contestants will work to refine their ideas for the final award on December 2, 2014. Prizes will include the grand prize of $100,000; second place will be $50,000; and third place will be $25,000. Each will include a possible offer of employment at Bell Labs to perhaps develop the idea into a prototype.

- R. Colin Johnson
??EE Times

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