Author Archives: Heather Andrus

Heather Andrus

Heather has worked in strategic, multi-industry innovation and product development for over 20 years and leads the Radius and Digital Prototype Lab teams in the innovation hub of Silicon Valley, CA.

The Connected Home is Here – Are You Ready?

“The vision of the connected home is finally beginning to come together.”

 

“Many consumers still do not understand connected device value propositions and early adopters face significant pain points that have yet to be addressed.”

 

“Connected devices are disrupting every nook of the home.”

 

“Despite the proliferation of devices, we’re still far from the vision of seamlessly connected homes.”

 

“Nearly half of the individuals in the connected-home market also own a wearable.”

This connected home food-for-thought comes from a recent McKinsey report titled, There’s No Place Like A Connected Home. In its 2017 report McKinsey surveyed over 3,000 homeowners asking them about their perspectives on connected and smart homes.

While those of us involved in cutting-edge technology and in envisioning the future are deeply immersed in connected homes, the reality is that the the technology is still not quite ready for mass adoption and use. We know the technology is here and that connected devices are a rapidly growing market. While some connected home devices have a well proved value proposition (like thermostats for instance) others are still struggling to find the reason someone would purchase and install the connected product in their home (think Juicero, the infamous connected juicer).

The majority of homeowners select connected devices based on the problem the device will solve for them. This makes the one-time purchase of a connected thermostat or smart lock very appealing – small learning curve, easy installation, simple configuration, and zero maintenance. The reward is immediate, leading homeowners to purchase more connected devices. This is where the lack of a coherent ecosystem that is easy to use and install comes in: without this, creating an entire connected home is frustrating and out of many consumer’s reach. After installing multiple stand-alone devices and their related sea of apps, the value proposition grows weaker.

Let’s talk about the first barrier: creating connected home products that provide a value to consumers that offsets the cost and complexity of connecting it.  There are some great product categories that have figured this out.  By looking at the products that have provided value, we can understand how new product categories might as well.

Home Security and Safety
It’s no surprise that home security is one of the largest growing domains in connected homes. Everyone has a desire to feel safe and secure in their own home. Our home is where we’re able to relax, be ourselves, and simply just be. Knowing that our home is secure when we’re sleeping, at the office, working out in the basement, or traveling is integral to our peace-of-mind.

From do-it-yourself home security systems to discreet cameras to smart doorbells, home security is a rapidly growing segment in connected homes.

In addition to home security, the idea of safeguarding our home, even when we can’t be there, is one that resonates with many consumers. Our home is typically our biggest investment, and many have a little worry that something will go wrong when we can’t be home, especially for longer periods of time like a vacation. Connected technology that monitors and informs us about carbon dioxide levels, water leaks, or  fire, eases that little worry that things are ok. Carry this one step further to the problems many homeowners suffer after a natural disaster – leaking pipes, fires, etc. – smart detectors can ease worry and benefit everyone from home owners to insurance companies to first responders.

Voice Controls
Speak up and speak clearly and presto, your front door is unlocked or your pressure cooker automatically turns on. Yes, voice control is here and it’s changing the way we’re living and talking in our homes. For early adopters, voice controls are the epitome of cool – giving them the latest in connected home technology. For seniors or people living with disabilities, voice controls gives them both freedom and security.

If there is one domain in which we’re excited to see what happens next, it’s with voice controls. Admittedly, voice assistants and control are nothing new, it’s only now that we’re realizing the power of “Open Sesame!”.

More and more technology companies are looking for ways to take advantage of the voice control powered by Google and Amazon. We’re seeing software and apps that power voice-controlled speakers, refrigerators that can send a voice-dictated grocery list to the grocery store (virtual or real), front door locks and garage doors that open on voice command, and light switches that respond to voice commands are just a few real-world examples.

The opportunities for voice control and better, safer, smarter connected homes is unprecedented. Imagine setting controls on your stove that make it impossible for your child to turn on the stove or to enable child-safety locks on your drawers and the door to the basement steps or to dispense food to your cat when you’re out-of-town overnight.

Top Trends in Connected Homes
Now, obviously we only touched on three of the most established types of smart and connected home technology – it would take a very long blog post to highlight all the areas in which we see opportunity. To keep you thinking and innovating, here are some of the latest connected home trends we saw at CES:

  • Samsung Family Hub fridge. This fridge functions as the smart home hub, enabling you to take advantage of Samsung’s SmartThings ecosystem.
  • Kohler Konnect. Includes a voice-controlled shower that remembers your temperature/pressure presets, a toilet that has foot warmers, a bath that fills itself, a mirror that is also an Alexa speaker, and more.
  • Homey smart home hub. This is the hub people are waiting for – control it with Google Assistant, Alexa, and Facebook and bring over 20,000 unique smart home devices together into one interface.

The common thread between these three applications: easier, safer, and more secure living. Know that the temperature in the tub won’t be too hot for your child or that your elderly parents can easily control their lights and door lock with one hub – this is the magic in connected home technology.

Connected Home Barriers
McKinsey highlighted key industry pain points that must be conquered in order for connected homes to become adopted by the mass market. Understanding these pain points and finding ways for connected technology and product features to solve them is how new and innovative products will become the next market successes:

  • Hardware manufacturers/consumer electronics. Need to create distinctive features to increase margins. Building brand loyalty in an immature market.
  • Telecom/cable providers. Connected homes are in direct competition with existing high margin products.
  • Retailers. Equipping the sales force with deep knowledge of connected homes. Ability to easily explain connected home benefits.
  • Software/ecosystem players. Monetization of data collection in the ecosystem. Where to best get invested in connected home technology.
  • Service providers. Utility and home security companies need to learn how to capitalize on connected home technology. Educating the sales team on connected home technology devices and benefits.

Contact us and we’ll discuss how to solve the barriers that are preventing consumers from benefitting from your connected home technology. This is the Radius effect in action. Innovation Realized. Outcomes Achieved. Together we can make all homes safer, more secure, more comfortable for us, and ease our worries.

Making More Good with Innovation

We are living in a remarkable time. The pace of innovation is overwhelming. Technologies and advances that were scenes in a science fiction movie five years ago, are now making a difference in how we live.

We’re experiencing huge advances in augmented reality, wearables, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, miniaturization, smart cities, smart manufacturing and more. This has created an augmented pace of invention and innovation.

At Radius we are privileged to be involved in the cutting edge of these technological advances.  As we do so, its important to us that we take a step back from all of the excitement and technology and remind ourselves that what we are really doing is  Using technology to solve real-world problems that make a tangible difference in the lives of others: creating innovation for the greater good.

The news cycle in recent months and days has been disheartening. With natural disasters, human conflict, social injustices, and the struggles of day-to-day living – it can feel as though there is more bad than good.

While we don’t have a measuring stick on the bad versus good – we do know that there is some very exciting thinking and creating happening right now. This thinking and creating is sparking change that can and will make more good in the world.

We want to spark a conversation on how we can do more good with our opportunities to innovate, lead, create, and develop. Those of us in the innovation community are fortunate to have these opportunities and it helps to remind ourselves of the good we’re helping to realize and create.

With all this being said, here’s a look at leading innovations and technologies that our team at Radius is excited about because of its positive impact on people and society. Share with us in the comments, Twitter or Facebook about the innovations you’re excited about.

Restoring Freedom of Movement
Imagine spending the entire day sitting with your legs crossed and sitting on your hands. You can’t move your legs. You can’t move your arms. You can’t move your hands. The drive to reverse paralysis and restoring freedom of movement is a real life-changer for anyone who cannot move freely. At Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, leading researchers and scientists are working to move neurotechnology forward so it can become a real difference maker. Neural bypass is key in giving anyone with paralysis the ability to move freely again. Neurotechnology can give people the power to control their limbs again – the same way able-bodied people move – by thinking about it. While the advancements in this technology are slow, there is real human drive to make neural bypass a reality. As John Donoghue, the head of the Swiss center says, “Ask someone if they would like to move their own arm. People would prefer to be restored to their everyday self. They want to be reanimated.”

Better, Safer Living
Wearables for newborns. Health tech startup Neopenda has created a wearable that monitors four key newborn vital signs. Using a battery-charged sensor and wireless communication, a special baby hat can monitor heart rate, respiration, blood oxygen saturation, and temperature. What makes this especially interesting is that the company wants to keep costs low ($75 per unit), ensuring that newborns in the developing world get the medical care they need.

Flashing lights to alert the distracted to danger. Too many people are walking along busy city streets looking down at their smartphones. So, engrossed in their phones, these people are unaware of traffic lights, people, and even the sounds of traffic. Stradtwerke Augsburg, a transportation company in Germany has developed traffic signals that are located in the ground. Those looking down while on their phones in the community of Augsburg, Germany are alerted to traffic signals. The lights blink green for safe and red when a tram or train is quickly arriving.

Harnessing Sunlight for Real Energy
Solar panels are no longer a novelty, in fact they’ve reached the level of ubiquity. This is a good thing, however the real power of these solar panels is slow to be realized. Solar panels remain expensive, bulky, and inefficient. However, a team of MIT researchers is developing a new type of solar power cell that could double the efficiency of today’s solar panels. Using technology that converts sunlight into heat and then using this to create energy, solar panels could be used to generate power when the sun has set. These hot solar cells are still in development and there are obstacles with component costs, however this research could spark more innovation that can help deliver affordable solar power – reducing the environmental impact and cost of energy.

Inspired? Ready to Make More Good?
Innovation and out-of-the-box thinking has got us here. Now we need to go further. Taking inspiration from the innovators, researchers, and thinkers who see problems as chances for problem-solving.

We know the feeling of being integral in the product development and production of cutting-edge – we want you to experience this. You’ve got an idea. You know there is a nagging problem that needs to be solved. You’ve got a sketch for a new product that can help. Now you need to take that extra step.

Put away the technology device. Turn off your newsfeed and alerts. Focus on the good and the opportunity. Contact us. We can work together to create more greatness. Let’s get people moving better, communicating more, and living better lives. This is true innovation. This is the Radius Effect. Innovation Realized. Outcomes Achieved.

Pumping Up the Volume on Hearables

Just take a moment and do something for us. Put your finger in your ear. Yes, in your ear. What did you find? We found a space that is the next frontier for personalized wearable technology. Taking human-centered design to the next level, innovators and forward-thinkers are moving from your wrist to your ear.

While your ear might be empty right now (please take your finger out), in a year or two, it’s very likely that you will no longer be able to stick your finger in your ear. Sure, we joke a bit here, but the next level of wearable technology really is in our ears.

Technology and out-of-the-box creatives have gifted us with new ways to communicate, learn, thrive, and adapt to our surroundings. And this next wave of change will be coming through our ears. The hearable space is still in a relatively new phase of development but all indicators are pointing to huge growth in sales and product development.

Hearables are the Cutting Edge of Wearables
In 2014, Nick Hunn, a leading wireless technology expert wrote:

Forget wristbands – The Ear is the new Wrist”.

These were heavy words in 2014, a time when wearable devices such as fitness trackers were struggling to thrive and people were still slightly skeptical of smartwatches. In fact, Hunn went even further in 2014 by coining the term that we all use so ubiquitously now: hearables.

Now in 2017, we’re busy reading reports, reviews, beta testing, and prototyping the latest innovations in hearables. What was just an idea in 2014 based on the hypothesis that consumers wanted more from their wearables: a simpler interface, less maintenance, the end of cables, real-life practicality, and useful data analysis – has morphed into an exciting space for product development.

In his 2016 report The Market for Hearable Devices 2016 – 2020, Hunn wrote that market indicators show that the predicted revenue for hearables is in excess of $40 billion in 2020.

This is why we want you to get excited about hearables. The opportunities for consumer, medical, and industrial innovation in hearable applications is unprecedented. Do us a favor and stick your finger in your ear again – now imagine what you can do with this space….

Hearables for the Everyday
Hearing aids. Earbuds. Personal Sound Amplifiers (PSAPs). Health monitors. Translators.

This is what the hearable space looks like today. Now think of where we can take this technology with a focus on human-centered design and harnessing the latest in technology advancements.

How are you going to be part of the $40 billion hearable market?

  • Artificial Intelligence. Will you be the leader in applying useful AI to hearables? Do consumers want hearables that can literally talk to them? An in-ear device that reminds patients to take medication or alerts healthcare providers when a patient’s heart rate and body temperature have exceeded acceptable levels. Or a hearable that encourages you to run faster or motivates you with personal messages during a marathon. How do you know if this is what consumers want?
  • Language translation. Gone are the days of language dictionaries – now we rely on our smartphones and smartwatches. But what if you could get instant language translation directly in your ear? You’re in a Belgian bakery but don’t speak Flemish, with a hearable translator you can easily purchase exactly what you want. For language learning, imagine the improvements with an in-ear language instructor that adjusts to the language needs specific to your environment.
  • Biometric monitoring. Gone are the days of restrictive heart rate monitor chest straps and inconsistent wrist monitors. With smart hearable technology, medical biometric monitoring reaches a new level. Wearers can get instant feedback on their heart rate, body temperature, and respiration. For healthcare experts monitoring patients remotely, they can deliver instant in-ear medical advice based on the data being transmitted by the medical hearable.
  • Communication for all. For people living with hearing loss, this can be a very isolating experience. Smaller and smarter hearing aids and PSAPs can make it easier to remove the barriers of not being able to hear and easily communicate. From design, materials, customized fit, personalized capabilities – the advancements in hearing aids and PSAPs truly will make a difference in day-to-day living for so many people.
  • Safety and confidence. An elderly person living alone can easily communicate with their family members with a nod of the head that signals the integrated hearable phone to place a phone call. Security personnel are no longer limited by distance and space when receiving instant updates regarding threats. Long-haul truckers and other heavy machinery operators can be discreetly monitored for signs of fatigue and receive updates of traffic slow-downs or other barriers. How can you be part of making a difference in workplace or home safety?
  • Entertainment. Music, movies, podcasts, VR – imagine how you can create a hearable that is customized sound signal quality and the shape of the consumer’s ear. Trying to listen to a critical call on a crowded subway platform gets easier with a hearable that can monitor sound frequency levels, dimming background sound for easier hearing. Music aficionados can take the advanced speaker technology and literally put in their ears. Add in the capabilities of new materials that can remember the unique shape of the ear along with the ability to provide customized sound – and you’ve got a revolution in listening and hearing.

The big question that remains is – what will you do? What do you think is the next big break-through in hearables? Will you sit back and wait to see what happens or will you be a leader in hearables? How will you realize the digital future?

Hearables Equals Innovation Realized Outcomes Achieved
We at Radius are keen to work with the leaders and innovators. This is what we’re all about.

We’ve got the best minds in discovery, design, development, and delivery. Take advantage of our expertise in consumer, medical, and industrial ideation to ensure you’re part of leading the next wave of hearable technology.

The choice is yours and we’re here to support you in discovering the true potential of your ideas.

Seven Ways To Make Your Wearable Stand Out

The wearables market is poised for a meteoric rise fueled by rapid technology advancements, a burgeoning Internet of Things ecosystem, and evolving consumer trends. According to IDC, 72 million wearable devices will be shipped this year, up more than 173 percent from 2014. Shipment volumes are expected to grow at at an annual rate of 43 percent over five years to reach 156 million by 2019.

As demand intensifies for consumer lifestyle and healthcare innovations, expect a wave of new products to flood the market. Will yours be one of them?

I believe the most successful vendors, app developers, and accessory makers are integrating one or more of the following attributes into their formulas for winning wearables.

An Emerging Ecosystem

Companies that take advantage of a hardware-software ecosystem to deliver end-to-end solutions are gaining momentum. Today, the Disney Magic Band shines in this category for its ability to connect visitors effortlessly with every part of their experience at Walt Disney World Resort. The all-in-one device can be used to enter the park, unlock your hotel room, as well as buy food and merchandise—even jump a ride line with FastPass+. This piece of Disney magic is enabled by an RF network and hardware connectivity grid that links visitors with the vacation itinerary selected online.

Look for similar applications on cruise ships and other resort destinations. We might also expect to see them in smart cities, as major municipalities, urban business centers, and retail shopping districts debut heightened ways to connect people, places, and things.

Data Analytics

Some of the most interesting wearables today analyze massive amounts of sensor-generated data using proprietary algorithms to generate meaningful, actionable insights. Such is the case with the Lumo Lift, which tracks, collects, and correlates data on your posture and then reminds you to stand up straight, so your mother doesn’t have to.

Data Visualization

With clear, concise data visualization, companies can turn data into valuable knowledge. Jawbone does a great job with its easy-to-understand dashboard of insights from activity, sleep, and food tracking. Additionally, Jawbone’s Smart Coach gives consumers personalized tips and advice that become more relevant and tailored over time as sensors gather more personalized information.

Data Community

Community is important, especially among users of fitness wearables. Sharing goals, milestones, and roadblocks with other users can motivate and inspire. Runtastic not only provides the prerequisite activity trackers, it connects consumers with an internal community and integrates with various social networks.

With fitness and healthcare wearables, community is proving to be a powerful catalyst for change. Fitness enthusiasts can cheer on each other and rally around those who are seeking to improve their health.

Sensor Convergence

The Apple Watch is probably the highest-profile converged wearable. So far, analysts have found what appear to be a minimum of 10 different sensors. What matters less than the number of sensors is how their data is blended together. Linking different kinds of sensors produces rich, contextual data and new associations among variables.

Peerbridge Health is developing the next generation of wearable wireless vital-sign monitoring technology. Sensor-generated data for monitoring ECG heart rate and rhythm is combined with respiratory rate data to draw correlations and associations. As more sensors come together, new insights are gained.

New Sensors, New Uses

You can drive innovation by adding new sensors. Or you can use existing sensors in new ways. For instance, BSX Insight is an athletic training device that measures lactate thresholds using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) sensors to measure oxygenation of the blood. This data then is mapped to lactate levels to look at a new type of data—lactate threshold—and how it factors into measuring an athlete’s performance and fitness levels.

Attachment Types and Locations

Why do wearables have to be on our wrists or our faces? Expect new places to attach wearables, and new ways. Athos, a pioneer in smart fitness apparel, has created workout shirts and shorts embedded with 22 EMG sensors to measure muscle activity, heart rate, and respiration—all in real time.

Traditionally, EMG machines were reserved for elite athletes as they cost upward of $15,000. Not only is Athos putting this technology within consumers’ reach; it is introducing a new caliber of “smart” workout clothes.

Don’t Just Think Different – Be Different

Companies that will emerge as frontrunners in the white-hot wearables market must be multitaskers. It won’t be enough to just innovate on one plane. As the race to market escalates, I’m confident that products embodying combinations of the aforementioned attributes will stand out in a sea of wearables.