Author Archives: Kevin Ko

Kevin Ko

Kevin joined the Radius team as leader of the Asian studios after successful careers at Microsoft and Flextronics, and has studied, lived, and worked both in the USA (Go Badgers!) and Asia.

Location, Location, Location – Why Proximity is so Important in Design

Radius has offices around the world connecting our customers and connecting the entire value chain for the products we work on. While we can use tools like augmented reality to operate from anywhere in the world, we believe our location in Hong Kong is key to delivering particularly successful outcomes for our customers.

There are many good reasons we find ourselves in Hong Kong, not least being the proximity to the huge manufacturing base just across the border in mainland China. Being just over the border enables us to work directly with Jabil, as well as many of the global and local vendors that have facilities there.

Sometimes the importance of location is apparent at the point of engagement, but often the benefit is realized further down the line. We work to a simple but unique process with four distinct steps: Discovery; Design; Develop; and Deliver. All four of these steps benefit from our location and proximity to services.

First, Discovery is the very essence of what allows us to make the right product for the consumer and for the brand that has engaged us. We identify the pain points of existing users and also explore the potential needs and challenges where they do not. The Discovery stage is there to extract the insight that will inform the whole process from research to realization, and it underpins our user-centric approach.

Many of the engagements we have are from customers outside of Asia who wish to explore the opportunity for their product in the Asia markets and who need to understand some of the unique needs of the local user. Our location and our team are both key to being able to provide this insight successfully. Other engagements may be from customers who want to take advantage of lower manufacturing costs in Asia and require back-end resources to allow them to do so without risk in terms of supply chain, local customs and languages or local teams.

Once the Discovery phase is complete we can create the right remit for phase two, the Design phase. In this phase, proximity again plays a role. Knowing where a product is going to be manufactured and being able to liaise closely with the vendors in the supply chain is invaluable. This ensures a robust supply chain and a secure handover to manufacturing when the time is right. Design to manufacturing is Radius’ true differentiator, and we set ourselves apart by working closely with our manufacturing partners to ensure that ideas seamless transition to outcomes. Innovation Realized!

The Design phase is where manufacturing knowledge becomes essential. Creating beautiful product designs is all well and good, but if they can’t be made at the right price and with the required quality and reliability, there is little point. Our job is to create successful products, not just ‘things of beauty’.

We design for manufacturing and our proximity to understand the capabilities and limitations of the production processes in real time and in person make a tremendous difference. This is often where we feel uniquely privileged, thanks in part to our location. Jabil has literally thousands of engineers with deep domain skills in numerous capabilities from RF to optics and from robotics to wearables and additive manufacturing.

The final two phases of our process are Develop and Deliver where Radius leverages all the elements that are already in place and uses the more than five decades of experience in the Jabil family to turn all that research and all those good ideas into something that will reach the consumer at the right price and hopefully take the market by storm.

Sometimes we are engaged specifically on the Develop phase, taking an existing solution and moving it to manufacturing in Asia, working with local vendors, and having our engineer on site to ensure quality and continuity. We are there so our customers don’t have to be.

Low Volume Build and Manufacturing is just one of those key value adds – particularly in an NPI setting when small batch production is required to meet pressing timelines or to support customization demands from the consumer. Radius Hong Kong supports rapid prototyping, build, test, and full assembly capabilities to address this unique and often urgent market need.

Even though the world feels like it’s getting smaller and smaller and work can be done from just about anywhere, sometimes it really does matter where you are. For us, development in Hong Kong for products that will be manufactured and/or consumed in Asia makes perfect sense.

Enhancing AC Units with Digital Smart Home Innovation

Smart home technologies are all about interconnecting devices to automatically work together, with as little intervention as possible. Ambi Labs, an IoT startup, unveiled its Ambi Climate device in October 2014 as a gateway between smartphones and the (dumb) air conditioner units at home. But it isn’t just about replacing the remote control; what makes Ambi Climate unique is its machine learning capabilities which over time learn a person’s or family’s preferences by way of various sensors, while also saving energy according to user feedback. Now, almost 2.5 years later, the company partnered with our Hong Kong studio to unveil the Ambi Climate 2. Learn more about this journey here.

Compared to the original Ambi Climate device, this new version sports a similar yet more minimalistic black-and-white design, which is topped off with a shinier finish plus a touch of wood at the bottom. The three LED indicators are now combined into one in the form of Ambi Labs’ logo: it blinks yellow rapidly when booting up, pulses yellow when ready for setup, glows teal when connected, and blinks when responding to a command. After some learning, the Ambi Climate 2 will be able to automatically adjust the air conditioner for the user, as opposed to the user having to find the remote control or tap the application every time.

Our work with Ambi Labs was very educational. We learned how people all over the world have different temperature thresholds that they consider as comfortable. For instance, users in New York have a wider range of preferred temperatures, compared to users in Singapore who peak at around 77 degrees Fahrenheit (about 25 degrees Celsius). On the “freezing” end of the spectrum, people in New York tend to peak at 67 degrees Fahrenheit (about 19 degrees Celsius), while those in Singapore reported to find a broad range of temperatures to be “freezing.”

On top of Comfort Mode, Ambi Climate 2 also offers a Temperature Mode, an Away Mode (it only turns on the air conditioner to suit your settings), and a Manual Mode, as well as timer and scheduling features.

For more information about our work with Ambi Labs and the Ambi Climate 2, please visit us here.