This Is What Real Disruption Looks Like (a Must-Read for Startups)

These days, we’ve come to think of the term “disruption” as somewhat cliché. But it was not long ago that “disruption” referred to technologies that were –well, disruptive. These were technologies that disrupted existing markets to create new ones; technologies with an impact so unbridled, it could not have been forecasted or planned.

Names like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg garnered worldwide recognition and unwittingly inspired the mainstream glorification of entrepreneurship. Simply put, innovation has never been “cooler” before, and at the top of the chain were the mobilizers of disruptive innovation.

… Which is why I was surprised to learn about a company called CrowdOptic the way I did.

This feature began like every other feature we’ve had so far in this series: I would contact select startup founders, ask questions, and receive answers. With CrowdOptic’s co-founder and CEO Jon Fisher, I did the same. Yet it was only after layers of individual research and analysis that I was able to appreciate the significance of CrowdOptic’s work. Here was a company that was disrupting multiple different verticals at the same time. Here was a company that was truly being disruptive.

Founded in 2011 by three Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, CrowdOptic provides an enterprise platform that enables intelligent video live-streaming from mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. CrowdOptic’s algorithms can detect what direction cameras are being pointed to identify targets of common interest, both moving and fixed.

If you’re having trouble understanding the implications of this technology, it’s because nothing like it has ever existed. This technology has applications that range from the “readily understood” to the “radically transformative.” It would appear that with every new partnership the company undertakes, more applications of its technology arise.

CrowdOptic’s latest partnership is with Hewlett Packard Enterprises (HPE). The image above shows in-vehicle HPE Edgeline computers with CrowdOptic algorithms analyzing video streams and spotting anomalies in the environment.

Police, fire, and rescue vehicles are rigged with CrowdOptic servers to stream on-site data to give command centers the ability to contribute support and forensic analysis in real-time. This enhanced feedback loop makes it possible for first responders to tend to emergencies faster and with more precision, saving more civilian lives.

CrowdOptic makes hands-on medical learning more accessible.

The medical community now has a high-level and cost-effective means of connecting remotely to live medical procedures. By streaming video and IoT data from devices across multiple locations onto a single web page, CrowdOptic eliminates the need for costly integrated systems.

CrowdOptic’s technology coupled with the HPE Server is a cost-effective means of connecting live procedures to remote colleagues and students.

Eye™ is CrowdOptic’s first standalone hardware product for instantaneous, professional-grade live streaming. The latest iteration of the Eye™, the AquaEye™ also happens to be the world’s first underwater, wireless, live-streaming camera. The product has many applications, whether to help swimmers optimize their fitness regimes, or aid a Naval operation in an oceanic accident or disaster.

CrowdOptic and its developing impact on civil society:

The dichotomy between public security and privacy protection is a growing topic of public discourse, especially as technology continues to outpace its governing legislation. Generally, we see the heightening of public security as a good thing, as is the protection of individual privacy. The problem is, security and privacy are often depicted as competing values on a continuum. We can aspire for both, but not for both in their entirety. A tradeoff is always required.

Or… is it?

Last year, CrowdOptic partnered with IT firms Suspect Technologies and SICdrone to produce unmanned aerial vehicles (“drones”) with military-grade surveillance technology and “selective facial recognition.” Drones that are installed with CrowdOptic’s FieldApp can triangulate on an area of interest and broadcast geo-positioning data with live video verification. “Selective facial recognition” enables an operation’s scope of surveillance to be narrowed to only individuals of interest. As a result, first responders and public safety organizations can react more quickly and accurately to emergency situations, while protecting the privacy of bystanders.

Application in emergency management is just the beginning. Imagine a world in which a sharing economy is supported by intelligent drones or a fifth estate is empowered to hold authority to account. Don’t fret if this is going over your head. After all, the impact of disruptive innovation cannot be forecasted or planned.

After selling his second startup Bharosa to Oracle in 2007, Fisher bought an oceanfront home in the cliffs of Tiburon, California. One day, while gazing at moving sailboats from his deck, it occurred to Fisher: wouldn’t it be nice if I could get more information about these boats by simply aiming my phone at them? He then assembled his longtime team and CrowdOptic was born.

There you have it. Here is a startup beginning to take the media by storm, despite not having set out to do so. Here is a startup whose technology is saving lives, despite not having set out to do so. Here is a startup whose work is transforming the fiber of how we operate, engage, and associate… despite not having set out to do so.

Perhaps more startups should take a page from the story of CrowdOptic. Prioritize people before money. Begin with problems, not solutions. Seek to innovate, not disrupt; for true disruption begins with quiet innovation –innovation so advantageous, it practically markets itself.

When asked for one piece of advice he would offer aspiring entrepreneurs, Fisher kept it simple.

“Do something innovative,” he said.

In other words, seek not to be an entrepreneur, but an inventor.

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Originally published on The Incubator Marketing Blog.

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