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"Urban innovation" key for GE
NEW YORK: General Electric, the conglomerate, is focusing on "urban innovation" as it seeks to develop new technologies capable of driving growth over the long term.
in Fast Company
, Beth Comstock, the firm's chief marketing officer, argued that the fact greater numbers of people are moving into cities meant the revenue opportunities will also rise.
"The world's future is in cities – more and bigger," she said, adding that this trend has been observable everywhere from Las Vegas in the US to Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso.
"At the end of 2011, for the first time ever, the majority of Chinese lived in cities, a milestone in the most massive, and still ongoing, rural-to-urban migration in history," Comstock continued.
In delineating the "socially networked" future, she outlined a vision of substantial metropolitan centres that are increasingly reliant on tools and services from brand owners.
"[It will be] a world of bigger cities with smaller footprints, of people and machines hyper-connected, in real time, and powered by sustainable, innovative technology," Comstock said.
General Electric was a sponsor of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and Comstock suggested that the competition constituted one of the "best laboratories we have for testing new ideas".
As an example, she cited EDF Energy, another of the event's sponsors, enabling web users to monitor power usage at Olympic venues online, while GE provided individuals living in the Athletes Village with Smart Metres to track their own consumption.
"The recent epic blackouts in India show what can happen when electricity demand far outstrips supply, one consequence of urbanisation and economic growth," she said.
"And while innovative tech like uninterruptible power supply units can provide back-up ... we must encourage longer-term behavior change by both institutions and individuals to help tame increasing energy demand."
Elsewhere, GE has allied with MIT, the US university, to work on a range of urban tools like EyeStop, a digital screen for bus stops containing real time updates and consumer-generated information.
Another new offering, the "Copenhagen Wheel", lets any bicycle use hybrid power by storing energy from pedalling and breaking, while its Flyfire "micro helicopters", all equipped with LEDs, allow for the ad hoc creation of engaging display surfaces.
Data sourced from Fast Company; additional content by Warc staff, 21 August 2012
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