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Office of Innovation
Using Emergent Strategies to Explore New Ideas

Rapid development of space vehicles, three-dimensional sensing systems, and homeland defense systems are just three of hundreds of ideas that have been arriving in Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems' (SAS) Office of Innovation. Each shows how employees with good ideas relate to customer needs to create growth using the SAS innovation tools.

We use an emergent strategy to explore ideas. Unlike business practices that start with the customer-stated need, in our innovation process all ideas are welcome, no matter how unusual. Innovation centers allow for idea assessment, while full-time innovation advocates help the idea's originator expand the idea to create valuable solutions.

In June 2006, we held our first disruptive technology workshop, looking beyond our normal business methods for ideas that solve customer needs. Three ideas from that workshop are described below; following the emergent strategy approach, their content continues to be refined today.

Responsive Space
The term "responsive space" means rapid development of small, inexpensive satellites that can be controlled by the people who use the sensor data. Key innovations are needed in the business model, development process, and product technology. The value proposition is gathering the right information at the right time for the right cost. It expands the market with new customers who can afford their own space assets. This is potentially highly disruptive to conventional satellite acquisitions. To explore this market, two satellite payloads have been built using novel practices.

In 2008, the plug-and-play satellite team demonstrated the ability to rapidly develop a payload with a beam steering mirror. Development began in February, and the payload was ready for delivery to the U.S. Air Force by May — in just four months. Needing to respond quickly to customer needs, the team extensively used the innovation centers for rapid prototyping and rapid procurement of supplies. With equipment and supplies readily available, plus 24x7 access, the innovators developed their envisioned product.

Another team developed a full hyper spectral imager payload, ARTEMIS, in just 15 months. This team showed the ability to quickly and economically create complex sensing systems, while pioneering new processes for design, procurement and integration — all done with a skeleton team.

R3-D Surveillance in Dense Urban Environments
Persistent, covert, urban surveillance is needed in the urban battlefield. Viewing distances are short due to many obstructions (buildings, vehicles, etc). Key innovations must be very low-cost and be able to see around the corner or down alleys into urban canyons. At the initial innovation workshop, ultra low power and packaging were identified as key enablers for creating a disposable, self-forming surveillance grid.

Initial exploration of this idea evaluated existing sensor and wireless mote technologies. A prototype sensing and tracking system was built. New transmitter designs at W-band were explored. Then this idea dramatically changed direction. Instead of using many disposable sensors, the plan changed to using sophisticated signal processing of a few small, low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) airborne sensors, to create stabilized images and provide a rich 3D view of the urban battlefield. With the ability to fly up and down streets, UAVs could detect obstructions, collect relevant imagery, and use low-bandwidth links for real-time data.

As often occurs during emergent innovation, the team discovered limitations in the initial approach and found a better approach. Now, novel algorithms in a prototype computing architecture are showing a visualization system that may be as dramatic as the shift from commercial black-and-white to color TV — the viewer is no longer bound to where the sensor is, but can view the scene from any perspective. We call this technique automated landscape visualization.

SilenTrack – Homeland Defense Protection
This emergent strategy innovation started with one possible U.S. Department of Defense need and evolved into a general security solution, performing video analytics in a billion-dollar annual market.

During the workshop, a need was hypothesized for our soldiers to know when they are being watched or attacked by small (model-airplane sized) UAVs. Many possible solutions to identify the UAV and to provide defense were considered.

A small team was formed. They interacted with customers and went to field demonstrations and threat evaluations. They did market analyses. They went to trade shows looking for possible solutions. They explored existing Raytheon technologies. They discovered a large market, growing rapidly but with major holes in the available solutions.

Enter SilenTrack, the team's solution. SilenTrack uses low-cost video or infrared cameras with sophisticated, proprietary algorithms in a unique architecture to reliably detect small UAVs and provide accurate three-dimensional tracks. The passionate team conducted initial work in the innovation centers and in neighborhood parks.

The team's work was so successful that we created an Innovation Challenge to engage SAS engineers on how to prevent the detected UAV from completing its mission without creating collateral damage in an urban environment. Thirty-nine teams competed. Potential solutions were discovered and funded to develop prototypes.

Most exciting is that the initial work has expanded to four other adjacent uses of SilenTrack technology — showing how an unconstrained team with ideas can grow many customer solutions. SilenTrack is being widely demonstrated for protecting airports, plants, ports and even cruise ships.

People – The Source for Innovative Ideas
At SAS the focus of our innovation is on our people — they are the source of ideas. We remove barriers to innovation and encourage everyone to bring all ideas forward. Employees with ideas can contact the SAS Office of Innovation.

We use targeted and originator-assisted nnovation systems. We strive not to pre-filter ideas — no one can tell what the next truly disruptive idea will be. Our systems allow the idea's value to be explored through peer interaction, innovation center tinkering, and customer interactions. This not only helps us find new market options; it invigorates our engineering staff.

Mike Vahey