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AT&T Announces Palo Alto, Plano, Israel Innovation Centers

Cisco, Juniper Networks, Alcatel-Lucent, Amdocs and Ericsson were selected to participate in the centers, which will employ a "speed dating" approach to bring commercial products and services quickly to market.

AT&T has announced the creation of three innovation centers, employing a fast-paced approach aimed at bringing commercial products and services quickly to market.

AT&T said the new centers will be located in Plano, Texas, near the firm's headquarters as well as in Palo Alto and Ra'anana near Tel Aviv, Israel. Alcatel-Lucent, Amdocs and Ericsson were chosen to participate in the centers and Cisco and Juniper Networks have been selected to participate as infrastructure providers and collaborators.

The new centers are a far cry from the old AT&T's Bell Labs where scientists labored for years on individual projects and collected numerous Nobel Prizes along the way. AT&T said the new innovation centers will draw on the experience of venture capitalists and developers to quickly advance "ideas from inception to commercial applications."

AT&T also has a major R&D group, AT&T Labs, whose scientists conduct basic research and continue the innovation process at the company.

"Through the speed-dating format, AT&T plans to review as many as 400 proposals a year," the company's announcement stated. In speed dating, people in search of partners and dates typically spend several minutes in frantic table-hopping to find a suitable partner. AT&T didn't say developers and inventors will get just a few minutes, but the process will be fast.

"The new innovation centers announced this week will help us enhance collaboration and dramatically accelerate the velocity of innovation, taking ideas from concept to reality in mere months as opposed to years," said John Donovan, AT&T's chief technology officer, in a statement. "We're tapping into cutting-edge design expertise in Silicon Valley, prototyping industry applications -- from automotive to education services - in Plano and the deep skills in communications protocols and innovation that reside in Israel."

Each AT&T innovation partner brings something to the innovation picnic. Alcatel-Lucent, which still operates Bell Labs, is strong in a variety of networking and telecommunications applications, Amdocs is in the vanguard of telecom consumer provisioning and Ericsson is a leader in infrastructure, particular in LTE.

The company, which was created by Southwestern Bell cobbling together old Regional Bell Operating Companies and calling the combined company AT&T, choose the name of the company known as Ma Bell, the company that was broken up by the federal government more than two decades ago. The other company pieced together by old RBOCs is Verizon Communications. Several months ago, Verizon moved to establish its important LTE center in suburban Boston.

AT&T has already inaugurated some "fast-pitch" events in which developers and venture capitalists present their ideas to AT&T innovation center managers. The company has established a portal to assist developers. "The idea is to help innovators who have great ideas but lack the right resources by connecting them with the expertise and networks that AT&T has been developing for decades," said Peter Hill, vice president, ecosystems and innovation, in a statement.

AT&T said the physical facilities will open in early 2011, although one of them -- still unnamed -- will open this year.


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