Course Description

Many of us lead an “always-on” lifestyle – e.g. using smartphones to stay in touch with faraway friends. And under pressure from Covid companies have learned to use technologies to enable employees to work remotely. “Always-on” has indeed become ubiquitous: With Apps for people, data for companies, IoT for machines, AI for decision making, robotics for automation, and many, many more.

To be “always-on” means to be always connected. And technologies including 5G enable the real-time connecting of people, machines, and sensors, regardless of distance. These technologies empower entrepreneurs to solve previously unsolvable problems: A surgeon can now use technology to save the lives of patients on the other side of the world. And anyone can be automatically alerted if a faraway family member needs help. However, some questionable uses have also appeared: Off-the-shelf drones are used for real-time targeting of artillery fire in the war in Ukraine, and there is a constant battle to protect private data against illegal use for commercial, political, or criminal uses. And not everybody has equal access to this technology, putting them at a disadvantage in our increasingly connected world.

This class explores the use of technologies that are at the foundation of connectivity for people, communities, businesses, factories, and the environment. Each student will choose a team to join based on their own interests and knowledge. Each team will apply “always-on” connectivity to an area to develop and test possible solutions, build prototypes and develop a new business. The following are proposals for areas that teams may choose:

  • Connected me (personal use, food, hygiene, shopping)
  • Connected community (friends, family, and neighborhood use)
  • Connected health (health, health care, fitness, free time, aging)
  • Connected study (learning, both as students and as teachers)
  • Connected work (in-person and remote work, teamwork)
  • Connected factory (manufacturing, robotics, Industry 4.0, agriculture)
  • Connected planet (environment, climate change)

This class is open to anyone who wants to examine how technologies such as 5G, Mobile, IoT Internet of Things, or AI could be leveraged to improve our lives in private, at work, at play, for companies, for communities, and for our planet. The objective of this Challenge Lab is to plan new start-up companies with scalable business models. We are not working on non-profit business models. Students from all majors, both undergraduate and graduate are welcome. Preference will be given to masters-level students, seniors, and juniors with experience or demonstrated interest in technology businesses and startups.


About Challenge Labs

Challenge Labs are 4 unit courses for students of all academic backgrounds who seek a rigorous, interactive, team-based, and hands-on learning experience in entrepreneurship and technology. These courses use a unique pedagogy, The Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship, that involves the use of games, industry guest speakers, team exercises, videos and labs to cover the early part of the startup lifecycle. In these highly experiential courses, students form start-up teams to create technology solutions or services to address a broadly-defined problem posed by an industry partner or social challenge.


Gert Christen