Top 3 Takeaways from Chris Anderson’s Keynote at the Rock Stars of Innovation in San Diego

By Guest 

Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics, and former editor-in-chief of Wired, opened the “Rock Stars of Innovation” conference in San Diego on Friday before an enthusiastic audience of several hundred who were already grooving to the Hard Rock Hotel’s soundtracks of Beatles music.

Anderson’s speech set the context for his company’s growth and defined the growing San Diego/Tijuana technology corridor. He said the rapid technology development we see taking place now has happened only a few times in history. In his speech, he outlined the reasons for recent rapid changes, as well as the societal and technological context of his company’s success. Anderson also spoke at length about San Diego’s positioning as a leader in the next epoch in innovation. Conceptually, Anderson encapsulated and essentially “summed up” San Diego’s innovation scene. Here are several of Anderson’s key thoughts:

1. The smartphone revolution has accelerated Moore’s Law and overall technology development.

Anderson explained that the chips and sensors we have available now–compliments of cell phone companies like San Diego’s own Qualcomm–have gone mass market and are now available at low costs for home-brew developers. He showed an image of the inside of a cell phone and explained that five years ago, these kind of chips were unaffordable but now regular people can access and build things like autopilots for personal drones.

Paying tribute to San Diego’s renowned health science/biotech cluster, Anderson pointed out how consumers are benefitting from medical devices with sensors that would have only been available a few years ago in military grade technology. The health science innovators are integrating chips directly out of the smartphone revolution into consumer-oriented technologies and have created futuristic consumer devices such as fertility sensors (that now can be purchased off-the-shelf in Europe).

2. The open source community is the key to future technology development.

Anderson referenced the interdisciplinary online community that has built 3D Robotics into the largest robotics community in the world. The disciplines represented in his community include robotics, computer science, aerodynamics, optics, and GPS. He commented, “They all found us on the web” and he predicts other industries will also see this kind of Internet-driven, collaborative development.

Anderson cited these statistics for his company:
2M page views per month
6,000 blog posts
8,000 discussion threads
80,000 comments per year

3. The San Diego/Tijuana region challenges China’s manufacturing prowess by offering a time-to-market advantage.

Anderson also admitted how very surprised he was initially to find world-class designers, engineers and assembly plants in Tijuana. But he explained that Tijuana has been manufacturing under strict international quality standards for the world’s multi-giants for the past 20 years of NAFTA. The result is a low cost, but quality workforce, especially in electronics. In one of the most-tweeted comments of the day, Anderson pointed out the cost savings of having a factory only one mile away in Mexico versus 9,000 miles away in China. The only drawback is the lengthy wait at the borders, and he called on the Obama administration to “fix the border,” a statement which garnered the second highest number of tweets for the day.


Sandra Kay Helsel, the writer of this story, is the editor of Mediabistro’s