“Make it a habit to keep on the lookout for novel and interesting ideas that others have used successfully. Your idea needs to be original only in its adaption to the problem you are working on.”
This was the advice Thomas Edison left for a future generation of innovators. In 1999, Pierre van der Hoven must have had a similar ‘light-bulb’ moment of its own when he launched TBM. After identifying gaps in the media market, the company set out to develop unique technology in visual communication and advertising applications.
“We took ideas from different disciplines within digital technology and combined these to revolutionise the process of visual communication,” he says. “The result was a media application that broke free of traditional boundaries.”
The innovation proved to be a world-first and state of the art. The result was that TBM’s ‘Out of Home TV’, also known as digital signage or Captive Audience Network’, has taken off worldwide. Today the company’s network uses Video over Internet Protocol (VoIP) for satellite delivery of large video files to over 1 000 individually controllable plasma or TV screens. If you have walked through any of the arrival or departure halls of South Africa’s three largest airports, chances are you have seen their cost-effective advertising at work.
TBM was the Grand Prix winner in 2003 for its innovation in the area of satellite-linked IP Multi Casting. It is also a founder member of the Proudly South African initiative and as CEO Van der Hoven is especially pleased that this technology was developed in South Africa, South Africans. Now the rest of the nation has also woken up to the birth of this new media and have decided to acknowledge it. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, minister of public service and administration, recently announced the appointments of four “Innovation Ambassadors” in both private and public sectors. What is remarkable is that Van der Hoven was the only ambassador chosen from the private sector, singled out for his contribution to sustainable innovation in South Africa.
The innovative cost-effective use of TBM’s information technology was critical in the roll out of government’s communication strategy. Van der Hoven has always believed that sustainability must be a crucial ingredient if an African Network is to be successful.
We see these ambassadors as living examples of successful innovators,” says Fraser-Moleketi. “We hope these role models will inspire others not to innovate but to enter their own innovative ideas into the Innovation and Sustainability Awards for 2005.”
The Innovation and Sustainability Awards were launched in 2000 to celebrate the entrepreneurial and creative spirit of South African organizations. The awards, a joint project between the government, Axius Publishing and the Da Vinci Institute, promote a series of sponsored private and public sector awards.
The awards are especially exciting for small and medium enterprises, as there is a specific category targeting the most outstanding SMME Innovation, which TBM is sponsoring. Like Thomas Edison, these innovation ambassadors will no doubt act as role models and an inspiration to current and future innovators. You cannot reinvent the light bulb, it seems, but you can throw new light on old subjects.

Source: Succeed Magazine