Dean Kamen will join a keynote with Mike LaJoie.

SCTE's Mark DzubanDean Kamen is keynoting SCTE Cable-Tec Expo.

Let me say that again: Dean Kamen is keynoting SCTE Cable-Tec Expo.

There’s no way to say that without it sounding like a promotional announcement, but maybe that’s what it should be. Because no matter how innovative we are – and, trust me, my hat is off to the cable community when it comes to new approaches – no one exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation like Kamen.

Kamen’s can-do spirit has been responsible for making the impossible possible. He’s created portable devices that have transformed the lives of kidney patients and diabetics. He’s the genius behind the Segway Human Transporter. And in a nod to simpler times, he’s even reinventing the fountain soda.

At Expo, Kamen will join a keynote conversation with Mike LaJoie as part of our opening session. The official agenda says that they’ll discuss “entrepreneurship and innovation, helping the next-generation cable workforce to prepare for 21st-century jobs, and next-generation energy sources and thinking for modern broadband networks,” but anybody who knows Mike – and Dean, for that matter – knows that those are just guidelines.

For one thing, there’s a lot of ground to cover just within those areas. And for another, there’s no guarantee that Mike and Dean won’t go off the charts in pursuit of other topics of interest. I’d pay to hear either one of these guys talk to his shadow, but the idea of being in the room when they’re exchanging ideas – that’s priceless.

It’s indicative of how far cable engineering and operations have come that we’re sharing thoughts with one of the giants of our time. I’d like to talk a bit about what we hope to discuss, but first it’s important that we talk a bit about the rest of the cast we’ll have with us for the opening session Oct. 17 in Orlando.

In one of the most unique opening sessions to grace the Expo stage, we’ll be hearing from four women who are among the most highly regarded technologists in our industry, as well as from four engineering professionals who are setting the pace within the small- to mid-size operator community.

The women’s event will showcase viewpoints on where our industry is going and how it can get there from four thought leaders who are well-known to SCTE members: Nomi Bergman, president of Bright House Networks; Charlotte Field, senior vice president of infrastructure and operations for Comcast; Carol Hevey, executive vice president of Time Warner Cable; and Yvette Kanouff, executive vice president of engineering and technology for Cablevision Systems.

On the small- to mid-size operator panel, four innovators who work magic in local and regional markets – Michael Giobbi, CTO of Armstrong Communications; Wade Holmes, vice president of technology for BendBroadband; Joseph Jensen, CTO of Buckeye CableSystem; and Kelly Rehm, technical operations manager and general manager of Massillon Cable TV/Clear Picture – will discuss the challenges that face the Tier 2 and Tier 3 companies that are key to making cable’s footprint ubiquitous.

We’re expecting other guests for the opening session, but I’d like to come back to Kamen and why it’s so important that we listen to what he has to say. While it’s fabulous simply to have Kamen with us at Expo, what I’m most interested in is how we can foster greater innovation within our ranks, as well as how he sees advances in medicine and elsewhere aligning with cable for the greater good.

As evidenced by 440 U.S. and foreign patents, Kamen has been highly successful in transferring his passion for revolutionary thinking to his associates at DEKA Research & Development. As we drive new educational programs – both to bring more talent into cable and to advance the careers and knowledge of our current engineering and operations professionals – what can we learn from the way Kamen motivates his teams? And how can we emulate programs such as Kamen’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds to drive learning even at the scholastic level?

I’ll also be listening closely to hear more about medical innovation. As the creator of portable dialysis units, wearable insulin pumps and other devices that have freed patients to live more mainstream lifestyles, Kamen has plenty to offer. How does he view cable’s ability to partner with the medical field for telehealth and e-medicine solutions?

And finally, what can Kamen’s enthusiasm for an updated version of the Stirling Engine mean for cable’s energy management needs in the years to come? How can we incorporate an engine able to run efficiently on any fuel to ensure the availability of power anywhere in our networks?

I’m hoping we get the answers to these and other questions at the opening session of SCTE Cable-Tec Expo next month. But no matter what we learn, one thing’s for certain:  With Kamen and LaJoie sharing the stage, it will be something to see!