Little innovations can pay big dividends

15 May 2012

Alistair Winning
Alistair Winning

Most people think of innovation as an entirely new technology or product…

However, innovative thinking can easily be applied to making a smaller change to an existing product to unlock additional benefits.

Coaxial cable is something everyone has in their house, as well as being used extensively in business facilities. It also seems to have been unchanged since it was first introduced, or at least in the 40 years that I can remember. What could change to give a reduction in price or weight, or even an increase in performance worth the effort?

Commscope has answered that question by developing a cheaper version of the typical shielded coaxial wire using aluminium shielding instead of copper. The result is FX smoothwall cable. The cable offers similar electrical properties to copper shielded cable, but is up to 25% cheaper. The cable may not be quite as flexible, but for antenna and rooftop installations, being too flexible can be a hindrance, especially if the copper braiding separates when bent and removes shielding from part of the cable.

Initially the new cable was developed for emerging countries. But high copper prices and economical conditions are starting to make its use popular in the west. In another example of innovation, some users have even taken to signposting installations that use the cable as ‘copper-free’ and gaining a secondary benefit of deterring thieves and saving money on maintenance and downtime.

I know this has not been one of the groundbreaking technology stories that readers will be used to from the column, but I think it’s a great example of how some lateral thinking can improve an already great product and demonstrate how innovation is not exclusive to the latest technologies.

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