Archive for the 'Interesting stuff' Category

Technology Innovation at Philips Applied Technologies

Last week I visited Philips Applied Technologies in Eindhoven and I was given the inside line on a number of impressive new technology applications.¬†Philips Applied Technologies¬†are¬†well experienced in applying and integrating a wide range of technologies including software, electronics, robotics, precision motion and sensors. They act as a consultancy wing of Philips, helping to broaden the use of Philips technologies and applications for a very broad range of clients in areas as diverse as retail, healthcare, energy and semiconductor manufacture. While there, I had a look around “homelab”, a demonstrator for the home of the future, I saw a number of neat technology applications and I experienced the Philips 3D TV in 42″ LCD format. Watching the new TV, without any special glasses, is a seriously convincing visual and sensory treat – I watched a very realistic 3D film sequence from Journey to the Centre of the Earth and witnessed Pinnochio’s nose grow out of the screen. It works by having an extra lenticular layer in the screen which is designed to interact with the displayed image and special¬†processing chips to send the correct images in real time to your right and left eyes to create the 3D effect. It’s a bit like a super whizzy version of the lenticular display signs you sometimes see which give a moving image or a 3D image as you move your head. To view the screen, you need to position your head so you can’t see any ghosting and then enjoy. Apart from this the only limitation seems to be that the resolution of 2D images suffers so the display is effectively limited to 3D. Initial applications are in digital signage retailing at up to $13,000 for the 42″ version. I think it’s called WOWvx.

Heres a quick video about Philips 3D TV to give you some faint idea of how cool it is.

Other cool things being worked on are lab-on-a-chip devices, already being used to detect high alcohol or drug levels in drivers, a new Optical imaging mammography system, Near Field Comms technology to enable WiFi, low cost noise cancelling headphones, some amazing precise mechatronic systems (for use in future 22nm fab lines) and some clever ways to configure LED lighting systems.

I was really impressed by the capabilities and technologies that Philips Applied Technologies have on offer. I can imagine that when used with strong market and consumer insight, application of the technologies they have on offer could easily result in some true market breakthrough products.

From the Open Innovation perspective, the whole High Tech Campus in Eindhoven has been through something of an opening up process over the last few years and Philips is finding new ways to showcase and connect with customers through initiatives such as “Meet and Match” where technologies are demonstrated and explained and customer needs elaborated.

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Successful Sporting Innovation and, shock horror, it’s British

Back from my vacationing now and kicking the blog back into life. While on my hols, I’ve been avidly watching the Olympics and I have to say, from the Brit point of view there has been a beacon of innovation in the shape of the Great Britain Cycling Team. Just over 12 years ago in 1996, GB cycling was an international joke but now, after an admittedly large cash injection, some really strong strategic management, focused implementation efforts, inspired coaching and leading edge technology innovation (basically anything which could give a proven time saving), GB cycling is the force in world track cycling. UK Sport set various targets for British sporting teams going into the Beijing Olympics; the cycling team was¬†tasked with delivering a higher than average¬†6 medals. In the end the cyclists won 14 medals; eight golds, four silvers and two bronze medals. Not only that but there were some fantastic breakthrough performances from young riders such as Stephen Burke and Jason Kenny which shows the system is really working and gets me excited about things going even better in London 2012. There has been a lot in the press, questioning why other sporting teams such as the GB athletics team can’t deliver the same type of transformation, unfortunately these sports are still being run by paid amateurs for now. Anyway, regardless of this, I think Dave Brailsford and his team have really hit the sporting innovation sweet spot. What an inspiring innovation example!

Just as a reminder, here’s a picture of Bradley Wiggins winning the individual pursuit. Apologies to non-Brit (especially Australian) readers.

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Getting to Gemba – a day in the Cardiac Cath Lab

 

On Friday last week, I spent the day¬†at one of¬†the Cardiac Catheterisation Labs at St. Thomas’ hospital, London. Not as a patient, you understand, but as an observer. You might ask¬†why a moderately squeamish person like myself¬†would do this willingly? Well, my reason was a principled one. I firmly believe that it is impossible to innovate effectively without a¬†clear understanding of the context and usage of your final innovation. Ideally, I like to “go to gemba”,¬†otherwise known as¬†the place where the problem exists, so I can¬†dig for tacit knowledge and observe unconscious behaviours. In¬†this case, however, I’d rather got the cart before the horse because, due to the wonder of Open Innovation and Ideagoras, I answered an RFP (Request For Proposal) on Nine Sigma about improvements to catheter systems, used, for example, in cardiac pocedures, without ever seeing how such an item might be used. At the time it was a bit difficult to see the system in action because a) my foot was in plaster and b) I didn’t know any cardiologists. So, I went ahead and broke my rule and answered the RFP with what I hoped was a pretty creative and novel solution. The Nine Sigma clients at the other end thought so too for a while until they got frightened off by the potential development time. Meanwhile I found a willing cardiologist and he invited me into his cath lab for a day. It was quite an experience – I didn’t pass out and I learnt a lot! Here are a few observations:

There are a lot of people in the lab during a procedure. I’d imaginged just a cardiologist and maybe a radiologist before I went but actually there were two cardiologists present during all the procedures I witnessed (admittedly more complex than average), one radiologist, one catheter nurse, one nurse to look after the patient who is conscious throughout, one technician to monitor the vital signs and at least one further technician behind the scenes to record key image video sequences

Everyone has to wear heavy lead oversuits to protect them the from x-ray radiation from the imaging system. My feet really ached at the end of the day – so much for a sedentary lifestyle!

The x-ray dose and contrast fluid (used to show the artery size on the x-ray image) dose are strictly limited due to the exposure risk to the patient and capacity of the patient’s kidneys to process the contrast fluid from the blood stream.

You can do an awful¬†lot “percutaneously” – see, I’ve got the jargon going already¬†– it means through the skin, under local anaestetic. You can even fit a replacement atrial heart valve using a catheter!

It can be really tricky to find and unblock arteries sometimes, especially if the blockage is close to the intersection with a larger vessel. This can be a very frusutrating and fiddly procedure requiring super-human levels of patience. This illustrated how much the cardiologists rely on “feel” when using the catheter system.

There are already some very impressive technologies available to reduce the friction in catheter systems. One such solution is known as “crosswire”, a 0.014″ diameter hydrophillic coated guide wire often used to break through blockages (as part of a procedure known as Angioplasty). Aparently “a lot of people don’t use crosswire because although its easy to position, it doesn’t stay put”. This is because it can be pushed out by the patient’s blood pressure.

There is a tremendous array of different catheter systems in the lab store, with different end forms, from many different manufacturers. Each cardiologist has his or her personal favourites.

Anyway, I didn’t disgrace myself and I’ve been invited back for another day or so. What did I learn that I didn’t know before? The key things I learnt were:

  • the guide wire isn’t just a means of steering the catheter into place as I thought. It is a functional tool in it’s own right
  • Feel is really critical to the cardiologist
  • There is a huge benefit in speeding up procedures in terms of patient wellbeing and lab efficiency
  • Current catheter systems lack¬†the level of detection capability and controllability needed for some more complex PCIs (Percutaneous Cardiac Interventions)

The whole experience reminded me that in terms of innovation getting to gemba is critical. When was the last time you saw your products in use up-close and personal?

ÔŅĹ

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BMW GINA concept demonstrates TRIZ law of increasing flexibility

July 25th, 2008 | Category: Interesting stuff,TRIZ,TRIZ concepts,TRIZ tools

 

I’ve just come across the BMW GINA concept car, see this¬†video¬†and it made me wonder if it could be the next step on the line of increasing flexibility for the automobile body. According to the TRIZ laws of technological system evolution, you can predict potential next steps¬†for¬†technological system evolution. The line of increasing flexibility¬†for any technical¬†system¬†starts with a “stiff” system, then moves onto a one joint system, a multi-joint system, an elastomeric system, a fluid based system and finally to a system based on a field¬†interaction.¬†If you refer back to my example of¬†aircraft control surfaces, you can see many of these at play. In the case of the car body, originally the car had a rigid one-piece body. Very quickly this evolved into a segmented body with an opening to access the engine. Later further hinged sections were introduced for doors, truck, roof, windows and lights. The GINA appears to emply an elastomeric outer shell on a rigid skeletal structure. The full line of evolution can be show as follows:

ÔŅĹ

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Whats flying over my house take 2

July 19th, 2008 | Category: Interesting stuff

Following my earlier post from Fanborough Airshow. I now have some BBC¬†video of the F22 Raptor in action. Watch out for the tail flaps as the plane executes some very radical moves – it’s a good illustration of what modern fly-by-wire can do.

ÔŅĹ

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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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Boeing fuel cell aircraft at Farnborough airshow

July 14th, 2008 | Category: Interesting stuff,Targeted technology,The future

On the news today, I found out that there is an experimental hydrogen fuel cell powered aircraft on show at this years Farnborough Airshow. As you might imagine the Boeing FCDA (fuel cell demonstration aircraft) is not the most powerful of aircraft, but it has flown for over 20 minutes entirely under fuel cell power and it’s only emissions are water and heat. If you’d like to see it in action, here is some video from youtube. Although fuel cells are now commercially available (the fuel cells in this plane come from the UK), it will be a while before fuel cells will be used to power anything but the smallest aircraft. Even so, it does seem to be a pretty cool direction for¬†a more sustainable¬†future.

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What’s flying over my house right now

July 11th, 2008 | Category: Interesting stuff

Well, not exactly right now but, seen flying by just outside my window recently were the following:

F22A Raptor

The only flying Avro Vulcan in the world

A very large Airbus A380

 

Which must mean that it’s almost Farnborough Airshow time again.

ÔŅĹ

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Insights for better networking and knowledge research

July 07th, 2008 | Category: Interesting stuff,Networking

I’ve just come across a very interesting article on the MIT Sloan Review, looking at a study into¬†knowledge networking and searching for expertise. The study looked at how people who work in large companies seek out important knowledge that resides somewhere in the organization, perhaps in the mind of an expert who works in another department at a different geographic location. It turns out that contrary to the famous “six degrees of separation” statement which says that you should be able to connect with anyone in the world in less that six network steps, finding and accessing the right knowledge in your organisation can be a real challenge. In a paper prepared by Morten T. Hansen, Joel M. Podolny and Jasjit Singh of INSEAD,¬†an interesting experiment is outlined, in which they studied how employees of a large global organization went about finding information they needed. Specifically, the researchers tracked search chains: the paths of connections starting from the individuals who initiated the search all the way to the people who possessed the necessary knowledge. Each path might go through several intermediaries before the right person was found. The study was conducted at a large multinational consulting firm with more than 50 offices in 34 countries, the sort of organisation where individuals would be expected to seek out information regularly.

The field experiment conducted at the consulting firm first identified the company experts on four specific topics: transfer pricing, asset productivity, enterprise resource planning and advertising strategy. The consultants in the study then were asked to name those individuals. An interesting observation was that the experts were “hidden” within the organisation as they did not have anything in their titles to indicate their expertise.

Some consultants were able to identify the experts straight away, but most could only name intermediary contacts, and some of the searches took at least three or four rounds. The study found that three types of people tended to have longer search chains: employees who were relatively new, who resided at the periphery of the organization’s social network or who were female. So why is that? Partly it was because these groups were not well enough connected into the networks within the organisation. but this is where the results become intriguing. Not only did members of the three “out” groups have more trouble identifying the experts; they often compounded that difficulty by commencing their searches on the wrong foot. Typically, they started by turning to others who were like them. So, for example, new employees counted on others who were also recent arrivals. And therein lies the problem. When new employees ask for help from a colleague who is similar, they are essentially relying on someone who might, in effect, be similarly clueless. Obviously, the better approach for a newcomer would be to seek help from an old-timer.

It seems that people were inclined to connect with others in a similar situation because they were uneasy about exposing their lack of knowledge to other potentially judgemental colleagues. So a seemingly innocuous phenomenon, the tendency of people to seek help from those who are in the same boat, could well be reducing the ability of an organisation to access internal knowledge and make the right connections.

The key messages from this for innovation, where often making connections can be critical, are:

1. Think about where you are in your organisation, how well connected are you, i.e. might you be in one of the three groups mentioned above?

2. Make connections with people inside your organisation who are different from you, either in terms of their connections within the organisation, or their area of knowledge. Avoid just connecting with people who are in same boat as you.

3. Connect with connectors, who do you know who is really good at networking? Consider asking these people to act as network mentors for you and use them to challenge you to expand your networking space.

ÔŅĹ

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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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