Reflections on The Atlantic’s Innovation Summit

by, Sophie Vandebroek, Chief Technology Officer and president of Xerox Innovation Group

I participated in a The Atlantic’s Innovation Summit in Washington DC earlier this week. My professional colleagues and I discussed how to best nurture talent and fuel breakthroughs that create a competitive American future.

Sophie Vandebroek, Xerox CTO at The Atlantic’s Innovation Summit

It was exciting to hear what others had to say about this important challenge. We feel a shared responsibility to keep America a strong global player and an innovative nation. A nation that is able to attract the best and brightest from around the globe and enables them to create thriving companies here.

As Alan Kay, a researcher at PARC in the 70s, used to say: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it”. Indeed, the future technologies and capabilities are being created right now, including in the Xerox research labs around the globe. In my job leading Xerox research, I have the privilege to collaborate with researchers and partners across the globe to envision the future and then create it such that our clients and Xerox will thrive. Many uncertainties remain. How will individuals get knowledge work done a decade from now? Where will they be working? How do these trends affect how business will be conducted in America… in Asia…. in Africa?

No matter where you have this dialogue about our future, and I had it not only in Washington this week, but also in India and Belgium recently, it all comes down to two trends:

1. Businesses in the future will consist of a small core workforce, surrounded by a crowd of free agents. Individuals will form flexible value-chains to bring innovative products and services to the world.

2. The exponential computer processing power increase combined with the huge information explosion allows individuals, companies and governments to harvest new knowledge rapidly. Mining the abundance of information and analyzing it offers many opportunities to better our lives, our cities, our country and the world.

Since our acquisition of Affiliated Computer Services two years ago, Xerox researchers have been transferring knowledge in imaging, color science, sensing, natural language processing and analytics to new industries and customers. It’s is an exciting time for Xerox innovators as we seek to solve new and difficult problems. We are solving these problems applying analytics and mining data to help companies and our government become ‘smarter” and “simplify” the way they do business.

Let me give you a few examples. Researchers are applying imaging algorithms that currently enable our fastest printers to consistently print high-quality images, to monitor infant heart rates in a hospital in India. In France we are mining unstructured patient records to detect hospital acquired infections much earlier than ever before. We are helping companies track and anticipate consumer satisfaction and buying behavior. We are creating greener cities by mining traffic data and adjusting mass transit schedules and parking pricing to minimize unnecessary driving. We are enabling justice faster by detecting and preventing fraud and by enabling lawyers to mine huge amounts of unstructured documents without human intervention.

Doctors, lawyers, mayors and police chiefs and indeed all of us have huge amounts of data available at our fingertips. In addition, the means of easily analyzing this data is now affordable and available. As a result, the impact Xerox researchers and the services professionals, in collaboration with customers, can make to the world is larger now then it has been in many decades.

It was exciting to hear that we are not the only optimists. Other companies, including IBM and Google, shared at the Atlantic’s Innovation Summit this week how we must continue to innovate and apply this innovation to create a better and prosperous society.

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One Comment

  1. Nithya May 21, 2012 - Reply

    Hello Sophie,

    I happened to view an ad on TV by a software major about how they have created incubators for infants and ensured their longevity. I was quite impressed with the way they used the ’emotional tug’ and innovation to garner maximum viewer eyeballs.

    I have been with Xerox for the past 1.5 years and have always wondered why a brand like Xerox does not promote itself so much; especially in the Asian (read Indian) markets? I have never seen an ad for a Xerox printer or any innovation. Owing to my curious nature, I knew a lot about Xerox’s innovations long before I joined, but am still saddened that many people still consider Xerox as merely a company that makes printers! How I would love to change that! Stand on the roof tops and educate people about the numerous ways in which Xerox touches lives.

    I am proud to be a Xerox-ian. : )

    Xerox Services, Chennai, India

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