Archive for the 'Innovative products' Category

Philips target non-consumption to create a market breakthrough

In an interesting example of targeting new product innovation at non-consumption as outlined in the Innovator’s solution by Clayton Christensen, I learnt from Putting People First that Philps have launched a low cost a series of new portable, compact patient monitors that provides a reliable, yet affordable means to observe and care for patients. Now available to healthcare providers in India, the new Philips SureSigns VM3 is the first Philips patient monitor designed for emerging markets.

The Philips SureSigns VM3 offers ECG, respiration and pulse oximetry in one user friendly, compact monitor that helps provide quality care in almost any clinical setting. It offers vital signs measurement and monitoring in an easy-to-use system that can be used in various departments throughout the hospital, nursing homes, private practices and rural clinics, as well as ambulances and mobile facilities.

This product is a great example of taking a system which has been far too expensive for an emerging (non-consuming) market and using technology in a creative, and dare I say, targeted, way to provide real mutual benefit. I like it.

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Yet another petrolhead supercar – but this one’s electric

Following on from my post on the latest from Tesla, I’ve just come across details of a new electric supercar, due to be launched at the British International Motor Show. The Electric Lightning GT uses a bank of 30 rechargeable batteries based on a new “Nanosafe” technology providing power to four, wheel mounted, electric motors, generating a claimed 700bhp and propelling the car from 0 to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds. The car is equipped with full traction control and regenerative braking on all four wheels and lightweight carbon fibre/Kevlar composite¬†structure.¬†Of course, a silent electric supercar somehow seems wrong, at least to petrolheads, so this car comes equipped with a engine-sound generator that emulates an engine’s roar. It’s expected to cost ¬£150,000, is exempt from UK car tax and the London congestion charge. This is what it looks like..

Well it certainly looks shiny and the technology seems pretty clever, but something doesn’t quite add up. I remember reading that the main reason people buy the Prius is because it says something about them and the way they’re safeguarding the world, so what does an electric supercar which looks like and sounds like the ultimate eco hate-object, complete with an engine-noise generator,¬†say about it’s owner? Is it possible to have your cake and eat it too?

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Apple App Store – platform for co-creation

Following on nicely from¬†last week’s post on platforms for co-creation, Apple have just taken another step towards C K Prahalad’s vision of tomorrow’s innovation model. Alongside the launch of the new 3G iPhone, Apple have just snuck out a new business platform which could, in time be as big as iTunes is today. The Apple App store is a new online Apple store that will post and sell third party software applications. The plan is to split revenues between Apple and the 3rd party software developers in the ratio of 30/70. So far, hundreds of thousands of developers have downloaded iPhone’s software developer’s kit, and with predictions of hundreds of millions of iPhone users five years from now, the App store could be a very busy place indeed.

Third party software could enable the market itself to keep the innovation pipeline going. Steve¬†Jobs says that the new iPhone is about the things consumers have been asking for, and about delivering a whole bunch of stuff they didn’t even know they wanted.

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New biometric technology in the palm of your hand

July 11th, 2008 | Category: Innovative products,Targeted technology

Fujitsu have recently announced a new form of biometric device which uses a near-infrared camera that captures each person’s unique palm vein pattern, or template. First applications include patient identification in US healthcare and customer identification in Japanese Banks.

The device, resembling a small black cube uses a vascular pattern recognition system to accurately identify people while they hold their palm just above the cube. The scan, requiring less than a second, captures the unique branching pattern of blood veins and instantly converts key data points into a numerical code that can be compared with other palm scans to identify matches. The miniaturized device can plug into a laptop computer via a USB port, while an alternative version released last year incorporates the palm scanner into a computer mouse to facilitate secure logins.

Beyond security, the palm-reader and associated software boast another advantage: not having to remember multiple passwords for starting Windows sessions and password-protected applications. The new technology is said to have a low “false acceptance ratio” that yields less than one incorrect match per every million tries which is far better than fingerprint recognition techology. Although iris scanning is still seen as the most reliable biometric identification method, it is less convenient for the user and requires careful set up. This biometric technology could be one to watch and might well find a place as part of¬†many future “sweet spot” systems.

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James Dyson on Engineering, iPhones and Blackberries

July 05th, 2008 | Category: Consumer centred,Innovative products,Opinions

I’ve picked up some more from James Dyson on TechCruch. This time he seems to have fewer anger issues but in the video clip it’s a bit hard to hear him at times. I did make out that he is worried by the mismatch in engineering graduates in the West vs. the East. He said there are now 600,000 new engineering graduates in China and 400,000 in India¬†per year. Both these figures are on the increase while there are only 70,000 new engineering graduates in the US and the number is going down. James reckons we need engineers if we are going to stand any chance of increasing prosperity and solving some of the big issues we face such as global warming and energy shortages.

James was also interviewed about the iPhone and the Blackberry. He loved the look of the iPhone but disliked the screen functions and he hated the Blackberry look but loved it’s function. If you could somehow combine the two devices you might have a really good product.

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PC – TV convergence, searching for the “sweet spot”

I recently picked up an article on the knowledge at Wharton website about the topic of bridging the chasm between the computer and TV. There are a number of players targeting this transition and what is clear is that all three elements of the “sweet spot” strategy are being explored, business, market and technology. Companies such as Netfix and Amazon.com are looking at their current businesses and have realised that the need to start looking to the next generation of media format. They both see potential for increased revenues and profits through the switch from DVD rental by mail to digital media direct to consumers homes. Other players, such as HP,¬†are looking at the opportunity from the hardware and technology side. On June 10th Hewlett-Packard¬†unveiled a $349 digital receiver that brings video and audio content from the PC or Internet to any high-definition television set.

 

In May Netflix unveiled a $99 set-top box that directs movies and TV shows from the Internet to its subscribers’ TVs. Meanwhile, Apple has been building out the services connected to its Apple TV product,¬†signing a deal with HBO in May to bring shows like “The Sopranos” from its iTunes store to widescreen televisions. Companies such as Netflix, Disney, Amazon.com and Apple are expanding the digital distribution of media.

Right now there is some serious debate going on about the likelihood of convergence of the compute, on-lin digital media and the TV. David Hsu, a management professor at Wharton, says “Theoretically, it should be the case that there’s a lot of convergence between the PC and TV and content evolution. But on the demand side, it’s unclear what consumers want.” Hsu thinks the solution is to try many different business models. Wharton marketing professor Peter Fader says the digital living room analogy is off-base in many respects. “The whole digital living room idea misses the point. A nice analogy is, ‘What am I going to do for dinner tonight?’ I can go to a fancy restaurant. Or just get a burrito. It’s all about convenience and control. The microwave burrito is watching video on your PC. The fancy restaurant is the big screen in your living room and the immersive experience. You’ll do both.” There seems to be evidence of some serious techno-push as well. “Everyone is too beholden to their boxes,” Fader notes. “Companies are a little more fixated on the technology and gadgets than the services when they should instead be focusing on making it easier to consume content on any device.” At the moment a lot of the services being offered are closed, that is you buy the box and you only get one specific content. People seem to be following the Apple iPod/iTunes model. One reason these digital living room technologies are closed to each other is because companies are trying to reproduce Apple’s so-called “halo effect,” where one device or service stokes demand for other products from the same company. There is still a lot of experimentation going on in the area as the different companies focus on find the “sweet spot”.

“The value for companies will emerge when they come up with something that cannot be replicated by Comcasts in the world. Netflix has made some strides here by allowing subscribers to manage their movie queue online. But I would say it has to go beyond that,” says Hsu.

For now, however, companies targeting the digital living room are more often than not emulating what the cable companies already do. The more successful models are subscription based or pay-per-view and involve a set-top box. “The rationale for all these set-top boxes is that consumers want to interact with devices in a way they already know,” Hsu notes.

Indeed, one of the biggest hurdles for these new entertainment delivery business models is consumer behavior, he adds. Consumers are not used to combining the functions of a TV and PC and sharing content between them. Hsu expects more innovation and experimentation to come. “Technology is getting sophisticated and there will be some meld of the PC, TV and Internet. But what’s going to get people to switch over to interacting with these appliances and machines? There will have to be something that’s fundamentally different than what’s on TV.”

Of course there are other issues facing these innovators, on top of potential proliferation of set top boxes, the thorny issue of bandwidth rears it’s head. “Most of these set-top boxes use cable broadband as a separate distribution channel, but it’s not quite as separate as it seems because it’s all coming over a cable modem,” Faulhaber says. “This could become an issue if Internet TV really takes off. If streaming video over broadband networks becomes popular, there may be limitations placed on it because the networks may not be able to carry it all. Some accommodation will have to be made because there will be 20 pounds of content in a three-pound bag. When we start pushing TV down the broadband channel, there will be issues.”

Interesting article, demonstrating the struggle companies often have when a logical emerging technology theme (in this case very much in line with the TRIZ evolution law of transition to the super-system, following the mon-bi-poly line) is not sufficeintly rooted in business model of market value.

Personally I think it will come. In the UK we already have something called BBC iPlayer. This new free service provides on-line access to BBC programs from the last 7 days. It has been phenomenally successful, with more that 1 million downloads per day, so much so that the UK internet providers have started to restrict iPlayer bandwidth at certain times of the day. Although downloading can be a real pain, I’ll put up with it because I can get great content for free. The only remaining problem I have is that I have to watch it on the PC, when I’d really like to watch it on the TV. So the demand is already there. If the process could be made faster and easier I reckon it could even start to make a lot of money for the right company. In the UK, Sky television make an absolute fortune out of their Sky+ system already and¬†while that is good, a decent PC based system with context sensitive background information, could provide a far more involving multi-media service.¬†¬†¬†

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Breakthrough products which came from TRIZ

I am often asked to cite examples of where TRIZ has helped to identify Market Breakthrough Products. Obviously, even when TRIZ is used, it often only plays a small but critical part in the total implementation of the product. So with that caveat, here are a few examples where I’ve heard that TRIZ played a critical part in identifying the¬†final concept:

P&G White Strips

This is a revolutionary tooth whitening product. The non-dissolving strip format holds a whitening gel in close contact with the teeth throughout the recommended whitening time of 30 minutes. This one has been a major success for P&G

 

P&G Swiffer

This one is another big hit for P&G. This time it’s a floor cleaning product. The way it works is that as¬†you sweep it across the floor, an electrostatic charge develops on the cloth, attracting dirt to the cloth. The cloth is designed to retain the dirt until it removed and disposed of at the end of the cleaning. The basic principle has now spawned a whole host of variants

 

Sanyo detergent-free washing machine

This washing machine makes use of an ultrasonic field to remove dirt on clothing and an electrolytic action to create a short lived antibacterial and antifungal effect. This product has been very successful in Japan but has yet to transition into the west. With the increasing emphasis on the environment, there are signs that this or something similar will make inroads into the western market too, Look out Tide!

 

One factor which unites these products, apart from the use of TRIZ, is the profound nature of their impact in their respective markets. True Market Breakthrough.

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Innovation directions on Trendwatching.com

I’ve just received the latest from Trendwatching.com, my favourite trend site and this month it’s a doozie. The article, entitled “Innovation Avalanche” lists 41 innovative products, business models¬†and services, a number of which are enabled by new technology. What I love about Trendwatching is that they pick out some really interesting innovations and trend directions and they mix it with an insightful commentary. They have a network of upwards of 8000 spotters around who notify Trendwatching when the see something interesting. Incidentally, I had the privilage of¬†attending a day long seminar some time ago when Reiner Evers, the Trendwatching founder shared some upcoming trends and insights. It was a deep, inspiring¬†and powerful experience which I would recommend to other innovators. The article urges us to be less earnest about innovation, to have some fun with it. There are highs and lows in the featured innovations as you might expect, so, in the spirit of fun, here is my pick from the list with a “sweet spot” spin:

 

Ever fancied running your own brewery? Now you can with beerbankroll.com. For $50 you can buy a slice of the action in terms of voting rights on the¬†company name, logo, product design, product mix, marketing plan, advertising and sponsorship. They are looking for a minimum of 50,000 members. Assuming the concept goes well, profits will be divided three ways: one part to members in the form of reward points redeemable for products from the Beer Bankroll store; one part back to the company; and one part to charity. Interesting business model with a potentially captive audience (I own the company so I’ve got to drink the beer). Not sure that 50,000 people voting on what the product tastes like would work for me. It’s a different business model, but I’m not sure that 50,000 people can create a better beer than one talented brewer. Verdict: doesn’t work for me, I’d rather drink Leffe.

 

I reckon catwalkgenius might stand a better chance. Catwalkgenius has joined the crowdfunded fashion fray with its new Adopt a Designer program, featuring fashion and accessories from independent designers. Through Adopt a Designer, supporters of a participating designer can buy shares (or “elements”, as it calls them) in their work for EUR 14-plus a EUR 1 processing fee-in the hope of sharing in future profits. Once 5,000 such elements have been sold, the designer is given the resulting EUR 70,000 to create a new collection within 6 months. In the meantime, supporters receive a limited edition piece created exclusively for them by the designer. So far, the company has signed up 160 users, half of which are designers. Clearly this business is just starting out but the numbers look more achievable. There could be a niche.¬†

 

Blyk is a free mobile phone service aimed at 16-24 year olds. In exchange for¬†217 texts and 43 minutes free every month they get advertising-up to 6 messages sent to their phones each day. Britain’s youth don’t seem to mind-Blyk reached that 100,000-member target six months ahead of schedule. Blyk will launch in the Netherlands in the second half of 2008, followed by Germany, Spain and Belgium in 2009. This will definitely have some appeal for 16-24 year old without an excessive text habit.¬†

 

 

 Here is a definite example of the Premiumisation trend, meaning take something mainstream, find ways to make it very special and charge for it. Monavie is an ultra premium line of alcohol-free juices that could easily be confused with wine. Utah-based MonaVie offers both juices and concentrated gels made from 19 different fruits, all chosen for their healthful properties. First among them is the Brazilian acai berry-widely considered a health-promoting superfood-accompanied by apricot, aronia, acerola, lychee, wolfberry, bilberry and of course grape, to name just a few. Pricing is very high-end, indeed, at about USD 40 per 750 ml bottle of juice.

  

 

Here’s a winner right on line with the Individualisation trend.¬†Exploiting specialised printing technology allows personalisation of your M&Ms to an unprecedented degree. The new innovation takes the existing service which allows customers to pick colors and have texts and logos printed on M&M’s, a step further by enabling customers to have their own likeness printed on the candy. M&M’s Faces lets customers upload one or two photos, pick their colors and add up to two different texts to be printed on separate M&M’s. Using a simple interface, they can zoom in or out to select which part of a photo they want to use. The photo file is turned into a sketch-like rendition that looks good on small pieces of candy.

 

Finally an innovation on the Convenience trend direction. US based colorOn and Australian Eye Majic have both introduced press-on eyeshadow kits. The kits allow consumers to instantly apply professionally created eyeshadow designs without applicators or mess. Each single-use kit is applied to the eyelid using a pre-prepared strip that contains a variety of matched and blended colors. Pressing the strip to the eyelid transfers the colors onto the eyelid in just the right shades, creating a look much like one a professional make-up artist might have created. I’ve checked out the website, purely in the interest of research and the process of applying the make-up looks rather more complex than initially advertised. ÔŅĹ

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New mobile telecoms development – local twitter, hit or miss?

June 28th, 2008 | Category: Innovative products,Targeted technology

Just off TechCrunch is a new option for the iPhone, nrme (near me) provides a 9 block radius running update on things happening nearby. Users write in a short message about stuff they see happening and this is broadcast to other nrme users in the 9 block radius. While there is an option for chats ans instant messaging in nrme, what this package is about is getting the latest updates on stuff happening in walking distance. Maybe a bar is getting full or a new product has just come into the shops. The business model requires local based, time specific advertising on top of the feed.

Some issues still need ironing out, like browsing through random conversations between two people just because they are local to you. The system will probably require some further context sensitive adjustments before it really works, oh yes, and enough people using it.

If the issues can be resolved this could well be one more step towards an ambient intelligence future.

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How a new interface technology could transform your brand communication

I’ve just come across the latest on an emerging technology which I think has great potential to deliver major¬†improvements to the user experience for a broad range of products and usage situations. The technology in question is Multi-Touch Screens. If you have seen the movie, Minority Report or used an iPod Touch you will already have some insight about the new way this technology might engage your senses in future.

One company, Perceptive Pixel Inc. has seriously researched the way light interacts with with the users fingers when they touch an acrylic screen and can use this information to identify finger position and even detect different pressures exerted onto the screen.

To create a signal, LEDs bounce light through the acrylic sheet. No light escapes. But if a finger is placed against the face (below), light will scatter off it toward the sensors. Also, a pressure-sensitive coating flexes when pressed firmly or lightly, making the scattered fingertip signal appear slightly brighter or dimmer, which the computer interprets as more or less pressure.

This¬†technology is now being used by early adopters in information and interaction intensive activities such as intellence gathering and processing for the CIA and by news anchors at¬†CNN news to help explain detailed information on the Presidential primaries. Looking ahead, the¬†technology is expected to find a home in graphically intense businesses such as energy trading and medical imaging. Perceptive Pixel don’t seem to talk about price at this stage, which means the technology is currently still quite niche. Here is a demo video of the system in use. It does seem to be quite cool.

On the other hand, there is Microsoft Surface, a kind of interactive table. This system is being used in hotels and bar complexes to create in Microsoft’s words “uniquely personalized and engaging social experiences”. Their most ambitious is “flirt” which is all about¬†basically flirting and chatting up semi-remotely.¬†There are other applications, such as interactive games and a mixology package which helps you to design your own coctails. Customers will be able to order food and drink by using the interactive display. Other retail applications will allow customers in T-Mobile USA‚Äôs retail stores to compare different cell phone models by simply placing the phone¬†on top of¬†a surface screen; tags on the undersides of the phones will cue the system to display price, feature and phone plan details. Other Microsoft software will allow a wireless-enabled digital camera, when placed on a surface computer, to upload its photographic content to the computer without a cable.

First-generation surface systems are priced from $5,000 to $10,000. As with most electronic items, the company expects the price to decline as production volume increases. Microsoft says Surface computers should be available at consumer prices in three to five years. This means this sort of technology could be making regular appearances in people’s homes by then.

This is where things start to get interesting, as the price comes down, application and use of the system will inevitably become more widespread, in my view allowing consumers and users easy access to far more information than is possible now. This could have a profound impact on the retail and point of delivery experience for consumers and will really open up the way that brands communicate and interact.

This means that if your business has anything to do with creating consumer experiences, you need to start considering the impact this technology might have on your future business. Although in some ways this technology seems still to be a solution seeking a problem, I can already think of a number ways it could be used to enhance brand communication and I would seriously recommend prototyping potential applications now rather than later.

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