The current administration has expressed interest in different kinds of "innovation prizes" for a while, so it's interesting to see the FTC offer up $50,000 to individuals or small companies
if they can come up with a good solution to dealing with robocalls (automated telemarketing recordings that call tons of people). There are a few things that are interesting about this. First, the language on the FTC site about this really suggests that the FTC itself is exasperated by their own inability to stop the problem. They specifically call out "shady" practices, and highlight how "annoying" the calls are:
Current technology still allows shady telemarketers to cheaply autodial thousands of phone calls every minute and display false or misleading caller ID information. Among these are the famously annoying calls from “Rachel From Cardholder Services.”
The other interesting bit is that the prize is only available to small companies (less than 10 people) or individuals. If you're a big company, they'll give you an award... but no cash. Of course, the FTC also notes that anyone who solves this problem will receive some other benefits as well:
“We think this will be an effective approach in the case of robocalls because the winner of our challenge will become a national hero.”
That might be a slight exaggeration, but I do imagine a successful solution will lead to at least 15 minutes of press fame.