A space agency like NASA is one of the best places on Earth to find brilliant minds. So how does such an organization tackle the most thorny of the challenges it faces?

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 12.24.47 PMSurprisingly, by looking outside itself for help — via crowdsourcing.

Jason Crusan, NASA’s chief technology officer for space exploration, is joining us at CloudBeat 2013 — Sept. 9-Sept. 10 in San Francisco — to share the story of how NASA actually taps the wisdom and enthusiasm of the crowd to assist in designing and preparing some of its experiments in space. By providing its community with a framework to easily contribute to projects, the agency knows it can rely on a distributed organization that sometimes outwits its own Ph.D-studded staff (or at least complements it).

The agency outsources complex projects like robotic vision recognition or energy-use optimization to teams of aspiring NASA engineers or simple enthusiasts, who compete for cash prizes. NASA achieves better results, faster, and for a fraction of the cost of trying all the different approaches internally. Those who help can earn the prizes — plus obvious credibility for their contribution.

Collaboration, competition … or the best of both worlds?

NASA chose to engage its communities using contests instead of simply requesting outside help. The sting of competition keeps a healthy pressure on teams to deliver the best quality and on time. The results often end up influencing NASA’s experiments. The virtually unlimited size of the pool of talent doesn’t get in the way of its efficiency — it actually helps.

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 12.25.46 PMMike Lydon, the chief technology officer at TopCoder, will explain how his platform helps NASA and other customers run contests to make the best of competing teams of strangers. Not unlike the many technological innovations inspired by space exploration that since made their way to consumers, this type of cloud-powered collaboration may well be the latest example of how elegant solutions to complex scientific problems can be replicated and used to accelerate business.

How will my business be impacted by cloud technologies like this?

If you purchase, evaluate, develop, or invest in enterprise technology, CloudBeat 2013 is where you need to be.

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This year we’ve got brand-new case studies from Netflix, PayPal, General Electric, IBM, Linkedin, Salesforce, Pivotal, and Optimizely, to name a few. Plus, of course, this one from NASA.

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