Category Archives: Insights

Connecting Innovation to Mass Production – Is Low Volume Build the Missing Link?

The key word here is ‘connecting’. If we don’t connect the whole process then we risk having to repeat steps, or worse still, missing key steps completely. Every part of an agile manufacturing strategy contributes to the success of any product lifecycle. We know it all starts with that lightbulb moment, that eureka in the bath, that sketch on the back of a napkin at a restaurant; but how does it reach the final consumer as a robust, volume produced product that serves the market and makes money for the innovator?

There are a whole lot of steps from ideation to fruition, from research to realization, but let’s focus here on that grey area between prototype and mass production. The area of low volume build, one of the most underestimated areas in terms of importance.

Clearly everything needs to be connected and when it isn’t, risk factors multiply very quickly. Passing ideas, designs, and manufacturing data from place to place can be like playing the telephone game. Things can go very wrong because of simple errors in data. What’s more, passing all of this data from person to person can be a slow process, as each party evaluates the data to ensure they get the best from their own systems and processes. Slow is not what is needed in new product introduction. Fast is the order of the day if you don’t want to risk losing your first-to-market advantage, or disappointing your crowdfunding customers.

The connection between each part of the process is the digital thread, a thread of data that connects every element with data that can be utilized up and down the value chain as well as throughout the supply chain. Digitization is disrupting every industry with design and manufacturing being no different. In fact, the whole process of bringing an idea to market is impacted by the digital revolution. Smarter design techniques that use Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are playing an increasingly important role. Additive Manufacturing (AM), and automation/robotics are finding their way into prototyping and manufacturing. And Smart Factory, or Industry 4.0 solutions, are bringing terms like digital twin into the everyday vocabulary of production engineers, all contributing to a more agile manufacturing ecosystem that provides the flexibility brands need.

As the process of bringing a product to market accelerates, so do we find cracks appearing in the old model of using one company to ideate and design, another to prototype and manufacture the first few batches, and a third to take the product to economic volume. The connection is no longer sufficiently robust or agile to deal with the complexity of the products or of the sophistication and demands of the consumer. What is needed is a low volume build solution that lives seamlessly between the design and volume manufacturing.

Low volume build should be connected seamlessly via the digital thread with every part of the product lifecycle. Once that eureka moment is taken from the paper napkin to the design company, it needs to be seamlessly connecting with development, prototyping, low volume build, supply chain, and mass production. All of these elements are part of a complex ecosystem that thrives on data and exists to benefit the final product. Every element is codependent. Designers must understand the impact of device selection on the supply chain, of material selection on the manufacturing process, of styling on the final packaging, and a whole lot more.

Beyond the connection of data, and equally important, is the connection of people. As well as many moving parts, this ecosystem is full of people and they need to be able to communicate with each other and share their domain expertise quickly and easily, looking back and forth through different iterations, sharing ideas to create the perfect solution. Having optics engineers, RF designers, additive manufacturing experts, automation gurus, packaging innovators, all working together is a powerful tool to ensure that the consumer gets the right solution.

All of this needs to occur concurrently. If we look at ideation, design, prototype, low volume build, and mass production as independent steps we are doing our idea and our consumers a disservice. A concurrent approach ensures that mass production and the supply chain are ready to ramp when needed and that none of the earlier steps get in the way of a smooth and successful product launch and high volume market adoption. A great idea, no matter how well marketed, can fail if the product lifecycle is not well managed and the manufacturing process is not sufficiently agile.

Yes, a great idea and product design is essential. And yes, the right volume production solution will deliver that to your eager user. But never underestimate the value of exceptional low volume build, connecting every part of the product lifecycle with a strong digital thread.

Learn more about our Low Volume Build & Manufacturing solution or connect with us to start talking about your project today!

2018: Technologies Redefining the Human Experience

Last week, like many others in our industry, I experienced the most gargantuan trade show on the planet: the Consumer Electronics Show 2018. As always, the show was held in Las Vegas and played host to thousands of companies, 170,000 humans, and several hundred robots. Putting aside the sore feet, the frustration of waiting in line for cabs for 45+ mins, and waiting at least 20 minutes for a coffee in the morning, I will tell you that the content, the people, the innovations, and the technology I discovered more than surpassed my expectations. It was all worth it.

This year my biggest “ah-ha” moment was not about the tech or cool gizmos. Instead, I was completely and pleasantly surprised with the overwhelming passion at the show. The passion oozing out of everyone — entrepreneurs and corporate executives from companies of all sizes, at all stages. And the passion centered on improving the human condition, and making life and the planet better in some way – safer, easier, healthier, cleaner,.. you name it.

So this year, instead of giving you my usual laundry listing of cool tech stuff I experienced, or my pitch about the business value metrics it creates for companies, I’m going to give you the human metrics and human empowerment the technology gives us! And I’ve made it super easy by capturing it in this spectacular video.

Please enjoy!

P.S. Humans: If you would like to learn more about an empowering career here at Jabil or perhaps with our innovation and development consultancy, Radius, please feel free to check out our career pages. I feel so empowered to make a difference here and help our customer’s change the world, I’m never leaving!

Thoughts from CES 2018

CES 2018 delivered on every level! We saw great innovation, insightful keynotes, accelerating trends, ingredient technologies, and a vision on tackling some of the major issues facing society, like healthcare and urbanization. Here are a few of our final thoughts on CES 2018.

Transformations Driven by Data and Speed
Data, data, and more data. Just about every product is generating huge amounts of data, and much of that data is actionable, immediate, and needed in real time. Every keynote or panel talked about data as the new currency. Someone described it as the new form of capital, a means to production. Any industry or company that doesn’t consider itself digital risks being left behind, even becoming irrelevant.

A digital strategy is essential. Industries are transforming at an alarming rate. The automotive industry is changing beyond recognition, as are the brands within it, as they morph into mobility providers or smart city vendors. Retail is becoming digital with virtual shopping assistants and the smart home is gaining momentum thanks to ambient voice recognition through Google Home or Amazon Alexa enabled devices.

The Potential of Conversational AI
Making sense of all this data and driving the demand for more data is AI. Referred to at the start of CES as an “ingredient technology,” AI, or artificial intelligence, is moving into our every-day life at an amazing pace. It seems that adoption will continue and other ingredient technologies like superfast 5G connectivity will only accelerate and facilitate its use.

AI has much to offer in almost every sector and is clearly part of the digital revolution occurring in the world today. It’s part of the disruption of industries like retail. Look at how much AI is being used by companies like Amazon who are using it to recommend products to us and to help them further develop their offering. AI also has the potential to help us combat and even cure diseases. It will change every industry, most products, and many lives.

Design Beyond Product
What we have seen at CES is less of a focus on product and more on ecosystem. It’s unusual to see companies like Ford talking about the systems, platforms, and concepts they are working on, over the products they are currently manufacturing and selling in volume. But ecosystems and platforms are enabling the future. Moving design and innovation to a level beyond product opens up enormous opportunity for companies to explore new ideas, new markets, and new business models.

Even the startup products viewed in Eureka Park are looking like part of a connected ecosystem with different players collaborating to drive value and of course a positive user experience or outcome.

No Shortage of Innovation
From the largest brands to the smallest startups, one message has been received loud and clear this week. Innovation is alive and well and living throughout the world. Eureka Park is where CES houses its startup exhibitors along with companies like Indiegogo and Kickstarter from the crowdfunding world and a whole lot of innovation groups and accelerators. There were more than 900 exhibitors in Eureka Park this year, a new record and they came from all corners of the world.

The CTA announced the expansion of their Innovation Scorecard on Tuesday. It was launched four years ago to rank states on their ability to nurture innovations, using 12 criteria. This year it went global, ranking 38 countries and the European Union. Finland topped the rankings, with the UK, Australia, and Sweden next, and the United States in fifth place. The CTA announced 13 Innovation Champions and a further 12 as Innovation Leaders. Check out the results and an interactive map here.

Codependence of Technologies and Industries
At CES it was clear that industry lines are blurred and often erased. Car companies are becoming connected mobility companies, healthcare companies are now wearables producers, and appliance companies are smart home AI providers. Industry and technology codependence is at an all-time high. To make a smart city work, we’re going to need all those ingredient technologies to work together, but perhaps more importantly we’re going to need people, companies, and even governments to work together. A connected world must be a collaborative world.

There are plenty of opportunities and challenges, but at the end of the day it all comes back to one thing; the user, us, the consumer. If innovation doesn’t deliver a good user experience and benefit all the stakeholders, it won’t be adopted.

Thanks for sharing our CES experience this week through our blogs and to all the people we met in Las Vegas. We return to our homes and offices exhausted but energized, excited about the future and what we can do to help empower our clients to innovate and build in the digital revolution.

Taking Healthcare Home – Thanks to Technology

There is so much good technology on show at CES this week it’s hard to pick a standout sector, but for me the digital revolution in healthcare is both rewarding and captivating. It offers so much potential to improve the outcome for patients, the experience of long term sufferers, and the efficacy of the practitioners.

The healthcare industry is under huge stress just about everywhere. We’re living longer, coupled with the fact that long term illnesses are impacting huge numbers of people (like diabetes) and are increasing that burden on already stretched systems. Technology is opening avenues in healthcare, with new opportunities to take healthcare home. In other words, shifting some of the day-to-day management of illnesses from the practitioner to the patient, driving cost saving and freeing up expert time for other activities.

Moving healthcare into the home has challenges of its own. If you are going to put medical devices into the hands of patients or caregivers, rather than that of professionals, systems and devices need to be simple and intuitive to use. We need to create experiences for lay people rather than professionals. When you change the user, you must change the user experience, not just of the product, but of the whole ecosystem. Experience lies at the core of everything we do at Radius Innovation & Development. Creating the experience is critically important to what we do as designers, but it’s not the only factor of course.

We’re really making the difference between whether a technology is adopted or not, and in healthcare that means a difference to someone’s health outcome. However, if we can’t deliver a cost-effective solution we’ve done no-one much good. So, we also help clients with the whole digital transformation process, the road to approvals, and of course the manufacturing and supply chain elements to which Jabil brings more than five decades of experience.

We can ideate, design, develop, manufacture, and deliver. And because we do all of that we have the engineering expertise and supply chain data at hand to know that we can make a product that is robust, fit for purpose, can be manufactured at an appropriate price point, and can be delivered anywhere in the world.

As well as moving healthcare into the home, there is a trend towards preventative care over the treatment of symptoms. This is good news but has been poorly supported in the past. Healthcare systems can use technology to embrace preventative care, with all of the benefits in outcome and cost reduction that it can bring. Medical and wellness technology needs to go further than telling me what’s wrong, it needs to coach me to make changes to improve my own outcome. That could be telling what to eat and what not to eat, reminding me to take medication, or to exercise.

It’s early days for digital health, everyone recognizes it’s transforming, but not everyone knows how to go about it. They know what behavior they want to create but they don’t know how to do it. How will gamification or applications and the entire ecosystem work together to help drive that change? That’s a big part of what we are leading customers through right now at Radius.

Our Human Factors team has worked on many healthcare products that are both traditional and digital. The process of researching how a product is used, stored, and even delivered needs to be carefully considered to get to the right solution. Human Factors, can, of course, also support FDA approval. User testing is an important step in the process.

The digital transformation process is one that challenges every industry. What’s more, it’s unique for each company. It will mean something quite different for a car maker and a healthcare provider. We’ve shared the journey with clients in many sectors and often it needs some real blue sky thinking to create new products, solutions, ecosystems and of course business models that deliver revenue growth as well as great customer or patient outcomes.

It’s an exciting journey and in this sector, and it’s an exceptionally important one. We all want healthcare that’s as accessible and inclusive as possible, and perhaps technology can go some way to making that possible.

My full interview at CES 2018 here:

Taking the Transformational Approach

As industries transform so must companies, and as they do so in turn will the way their customers see them. Brand transformation is as inevitable a part of the journey as the technology or the business model. In the automotive industry, many companies’ brands rest squarely on the driver experience, being connected to the road, through the sound of the engine, the tactile feel and feedback through the steering wheel, the connection to the drive train through the stick shift. Fast forward a few years to a world of autonomous vehicle and the relationship between the car and the user is an entirely different thing, that connection with the road has become a connection with the cloud. It will be far removed from the current driving experience and more akin to a space for entertainment, relaxation or work. The brand promise that is all about driving, the one that has served top car makers so well for decades, will be obsolete.

This means it’s back to the drawing board to define a new brand promise, and most importantly, a new brand experience. When I’m asked how important the user experience is, my response is always the same: what else is there? We don’t desire technology for its own sake, it’s not just to get us home on time or to help us cook great food, it’s more about the meal with the family when all that is done. Experience is everything!

So new driving experiences need to be created and they need to be experiences that customers can buy into and that reflect the values of the brand. For an established company with decades, and in some cases centuries, of history, pivoting their business model is one thing, but brand transformation is quite another.

We’ve seen a few industry disruptions and since we joined the Jabil family we’ve been exposed to even more. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the automotive, retail or service sector, change is hard and the journey from established brand to new brand is challenging. Maybe we’re strange, but we thrive on that journey. We love the blank canvas of a new business and the chance to use our skills to discover what customers are looking for in their experience. Take the world of autonomous driving, what do users want from autonomous vehicles? Perhaps an entertainment space, perhaps it’s all about productivity and they want a great work space, perhaps they want a dining space or a flexible space that can do all those things and more. We ask ourselves what the ultimate autonomous vehicle feels like when it’s at its best.

Brand experience isn’t so much about what a product does, it’s more about how it does it! And brand experience isn’t about technology, it’s about how the application of technology feels to the user. The automotive industry has companies with amazing brand equity, badges we associate with performance, with comfort, with power, with finesse. Transforming those brands into the digital age is going to be exciting and will need a transformative approach to design, preferably from a design company that has experience of transformation and is connected to world class manufacturing and all the engineering disciplines and rigor that go with that. To me Jabil is like an engineering candy store where I can pick up the phone and get deep domain expertise in fluid dynamics, optics, mobile connectivity and just about every other technology discipline.

It’s an exciting time to be in design and a fantastic time to be in technology. This week at CES has confirmed that transformation and disruption is the new norm. We are embracing that new norm and thriving on the journey we are sharing with the brands that will shape the future.

Watch my full interview at CES 2018:

It’s Time to Reinvent

Yesterday’s opening keynote from Ford President and CEO, Jim Hackett, shows how the world has changed, how industries have been hugely disrupted, and how even the largest corporations must change the way they think about their offering, their responsibilities, and their customers.

We talk a lot about innovation and ideation of products, services, ecosystems, and even business models, but sometimes the disruption by technology can be so great that it changes the foundation of an industry or a company. Add to this the challenges of the megatrends that affect society and suddenly everything a business was built upon decades ago has changed beyond recognition.

Jim Hackett spoke eloquently and sincerely about how Ford was changing from a vehicle manufacturer to a mobility company. About how, while their original goal to democratize transportation was still relevant and at their core, they had re-evaluated how they will go about it. About how they have explored and developed solutions for smart cities that would revolutionize the way people live, play, travel, and work.

Ford was not alone in this, and the automotive industry is just one industry going through a complete digital transformation. Much of Gary Shapiro’s, CTA President and CEO, opening remarks today were about the opportunities that innovation provides and how it is disrupting industries as well as creating new ones. And with all of this innovation and change comes the responsibility to create a better world where people are safer, happier, included, valued and healthier.

Smart Cities provide a wonderful example of reinvention. IoT and AI offer us the ability to connect an entire city, while also considering how urban life might look and how people really want to live. It’s a new industry that brings automotive makers, tech giants, software providers, systems builder, principalities, and governments together to collaborate in the creation of a new vision of a city. They are reinventing the vision of what a city should be, along with the ecosystem that supports it, the vehicles that move around it, and the services provided in it. They are reinventing how people live!

Around half of us live in cities right now, up from one third in 1960, and that number is predicted to be two thirds by 2050. As global population increases, the likely number of city dwellers by 2050 will be north of 6 billion. Our current city model won’t work with that number of people as congestion, pollution, and safety problems will only get worse. Reinvention is the only way forward and that means the reinvention of many of the companies and business models currently active in the ecosystem.

CES, like the technology industry, is littered with examples of disruption and reinvention, and like Ford, many companies have the foresight and agility to become something new, something more relevant, something better to deliver life changing solutions that make the world a better place.

Embrace the revolution. Be the disruptor!

It’s All About the Ecosystem

As we absorb the various press conferences from the world’s largest consumer technology brands, innovators, car makers, and the automotive OEMs that supply them, as well as the odd startup, we can’t help but notice there are few companies talking about product and many talking about platforms and ecosystems.

The day started with Bosch outlining its vision for Smart Cities, which is designed to answer some of the demands arising from an increase in urbanization, currently forecast to be 60% of the world’s population, or more than 6 billion people, living in cities by 2050. Bosch’s solution wasn’t a product, it was an ecosystem; a completely connected array of solutions that utilize the IoT and connect every part of our lives with a digital thread.

Further presentations from companies like Continental and Valeo from the automotive industry shared the same goal as many of the car makers presenting. They all plan to be an ecosystem provider in the connected vehicle world, with a focus on electrification, connectivity and autonomous driving. In fact, most of the car makers are busy redefining themselves as mobility solution companies.

This all comes from the same place, a good place: a desire to understand the consumer and deliver a seamless ecosystem that drives benefits for the individual and the community as a whole. Ok, it’s good business too.

We see innovation in the same terms and while clients might come to us looking for a product, they often leave with a much broader solution. It all starts with the user and their experience. In this case, it’s the driver or the inhabitant living in the smart city. The “discover” phase of innovation should always start with the user and what they need and expect. Only with this in place can you start to develop a solution. With solid data and understanding from the consumer, a design strategy can be developed to provide the right solution, be that hardware, software, services or the platform

As disruptive digital transformation grips industry after industry, the winners are the companies that take the holistic view, that rather than fear change embrace it, and are prepared to be the disruptor, rather than the disrupted.

The ecosystem is where all the cool ingredients, or enabling technologies come together. Today, just about every executive has used the acronyms AI and IoT. The use of these technologies is clearly a huge driver of innovation right now, but importantly these building blocks live within an aforementioned ecosystem and only operate when all the parties in that ecosystem are willing collaborators.

Collaboration is the order of the day in innovation in many sectors, with partnerships being regularly announced between vendors of traditional products, like cars, and high tech companies that help them see past their technology blind-spots. For some that’s an acquisition, for others it’s a simple partnership. Collaboration is another way to expand a company’s technology portfolio, but also business understanding and user understanding.

The last event of today was Intel CEO Brian Krzanich sharing his vision for the future by opening with an interactive experience called “Data Rocks the Park,” a performance in three acts: Algorithm & Blues, Data Drones and AI (Oh My) and Dancing in the Data. Cleary the keyword here, and throughout Brian’s presentation is data. Intel believes that data is transforming the world, driving a new wave of innovation and changing the fabric of society.

Insights are the fuel of the ecosystem, just as AI is the brains. Tomorrow, we’ll be exploring the innovations and ecosystems on offer at Eureka Park, where more than 900 startups from all over the world share their ideas and aspirations. We expect to see a lot of products driven by IoT, AI, Big Data, robotics and much more. Check in tomorrow to see the innovations that caught our eye.

My “CES Unveiled” Top Ten

Hot on the heels of CTA’s “CES 2018 Trends to Watch” presentation comes “CES Unveiled,” a chance for the media and a lucky few to get a glimpse of the newest products on display at CES this year. It’s great to see so much new hardware coming to the market, and with such a strong focus on the user experience and the needs of the consumer. Here are ten of the innovations that caught my eye, some for their creativity, some for their simplicity, and others because they are just very cool!

BrainCo started with a handful of distinguished research scientists and engineers from Harvard and MIT and have grown to more than 50 people in the USA and China. They have developed brain – machine interface hardware and software platform technologies that convert electrical signals from the brain to digital signals for use in various education, gaming, smart home applications as well as functioning prostheses. They have an impressive demo with a robot, controlled by brain waves, loading and unloading ping pong balls. This is one to watch for the future.

Electron claim to be able to turn any bike into an e-bike in 30 seconds, and their demo was proof for anyone that doubted them. The Electron Wheel fits most bikes with rim brakes, and doesn’t need any wires or throttles to operate. Just use your bike like you always have, but with the ease of a pedal assist experience. The wheel neutralizes most hills and allows you to commute without breaking a sweat. Of course, it comes with an app for your smartphone.

Kuri, from Mayfield Robotics, is the cutest robot and worthy of a mention because it heralds a new category of family friendly “companion robots” that use all the right enabling technologies of AI and voice and face recognition to drop seamlessly into our lives. Kuri is that friendly face that always greets members of the family, captures those special moments at home, learns its own way around your house, spotting obstacles like discarded toys. It can also play your favorite songs, podcasts or audio books. It’s a great example of good, friendly design that creates a unique user experience.

PostMii have connected the desire to post selfies with desire to send postcards to create an unusual interactive experience for tourists. Mounted on a bike and powered by solar panels, this interactive system allows tourists to take selfies, augment the image by adding glasses or a hat, plus images of the locations, then print it as a postcard. They can then write on the postcard and it is stamped and sent on site. A fun, simple product that uses augmented reality to create and print a unique postcard.

e-vone brought an innovative take on the shoe, this time with “falling technology”. Designed for elderly footwear, hikers and worker’s shoes or boots, this smart shoe can alert in the case of a fall. The shoes come in good designs and bring an extra dimension of support to the user.  A simple solution to a user experience where a panic button may not be the ideal product.

R-PUR is the first anti-pollution mask specifically designed for motorbike and bicycle users, and is designed and made in France. This mask allows you to breathe clean air by filtering toxic particles, fine particles / diesel, pollens as well as viruses and bacteria present in the air, all without compromising on comfort and style. This new generation filtering solution offers a protection greater than the highest European norm en149 – FFP3. Simple problem, simple solution and good design, and what’s more it’s connected and will tell you when the filter needs replacing.

AURASENS came with a great product, a great design and a great demo. Their literature asks you to go beyond music and immerse your senses through vibration. The AURASENS Lounger is described as your trans-sensory vessel to audio-haptic pleasure. It is indeed a thing of beauty and the three-minute demo, in which you relax in the chair wearing an eye mask and headphones, is impressive. You can feel the music through every part of your body that touches the chair. The team have specific compositions but this product will have a developer’s, or composer’s kit, and a strong content offering. They are also working with some automobile OEMs to bring this haptic technology into vehicles.

Spartan stood out from the crowd with their staff wearing their underpants on the outside. Not because they’re super heroes, but because high-tech boxer briefs that protect your health from wi-fi and cellphone radiation is what they are promoting at CES this week. They claim 99% of wireless radiation is blocked, protecting the valuable contents from what many major scientific institutes believe can be harmful, particularly to fertility.

Velco, another French innovator, had a simple well designed solution for bike navigation that could avoid the need to use your smartphone or headphone whilst cycling. The aptly named winkbar has two indicators that fit on the handlebars of the bike. They act as navigation when connected to the inevitable mobile app, illuminating the lights to signal turns or incoming calls. They also act as flashlights or headlights, turning on automatically when needed and lastly they allow you to track your bike in the event of theft. A deserving winner of a CES Innovation Award.

Caveasy is a connected wine rack with an app that provides an ecosystem which lets you know when to drink your wines before they pass their best. Simply take a photo of the label on the app and place the bottle in the connected rack and it will let you know where it is when you’re looking for it, highlight when it should be best enjoyed and even offer suggestions on the strength of your previous choices.

These products are all very diverse but share some common qualities. The designs come from a solid understanding of the user and their needs, they are not over complicated or technology for its own sake, and they all share solid design roots and a desire to improve or enhance the life of the user.

We’ll see many more great ideas and designs throughout our week at CES, stay connected to find out more from our team at CES 2018.

The Big Trends We’re Expecting at CES 2018

You gotta love CES – all that innovation crammed into one city and one week! For us at Radius Innovation & Development, the show is a chance to see if we have our fingers on the pulse of the industry, to explore new innovations, and to meet some of the more than 900 startups showing brand new ideas and solutions.

No doubt we’ll be surprised by a few things; we’ll certainly be inspired. Here are a few of the big trends we’re expecting at this year’s show:

Digital Transformation
We’re seeing a digital transformation occur in every industry, even those that didn’t consider themselves technology sectors. The level of disruption and innovation from the digital transformation of industries such as retail, automotive, healthcare and financial is both phenomenal and disruptive. Indeed, we’ve seen our own digital transformation within the Jabil family and we leverage all the advantages of a digital thread through ideation, rapid prototyping, low volume manufacturing, right into volume production and supply chain orchestration.

We are expecting the digital transformation of more industries, more companies, more ecosystems and more elements of our day-to-day lives. We’ve found ourselves working with several customers this year, assisting them in their digital transformation, acting as a guide through the disruption they are seeing in their sector, helping them to be the disruptors rather than the disrupted.

Internet of Things
I know we’ve been discussing this for a while now, but the number of “things” connected to the Internet is continuing to grow. There will be very few new products at CES that aren’t “Smart,” “Connected,” or most likely, both.

The ability to connect the things in our lives empowers new solutions, and along with those solutions, new business models, new companies and even new industries. When we look at the whole ideation process we like to focus on the human experience first and foremost, then develop an ecosystem before we start to zero in on specific products. In many ways that makes us unique, but we believe this is the way our customers can find a consumer-led solution, rather than a technology-led one.

Connected or Smart Homes
We’ve seen smart home products at CES for a few years, but this year it feels like the sector is coming of age, led by the adoption of personal assistants like Alexa and Siri. The Amazon Echo sold seven times more units this Prime Day over last year, and with Google and Apple in the market, this space will get more competitive and the products will develop even more skills.

These systems provide the focus or glue for smart home adoption and with voice recognition the smart home seems to have found an ecosystem solution that users like. I’m expecting to see a lot of cool smart and connected home products at this year’s show, some from startups, some from the big home product brands with domain expertise, but almost all connected to, and operated by, personal assistants.

Wearables
The wearables area at CES grows every year and smart fabrics and cheaper sensors are driving this sector forward faster than ever. These products are finding applications beyond smart fitness. According to statistics, there are around 500 Million connected wearable devices in use now and that number is set to more than double in the next four years. By far the largest two categories are smart watches and health/fitness trackers, occupying close to 90% of the market.

We think wearables success comes not just from getting the product right, but also the human experience, or user interface. We work closely with our clients to ensure we reach out to potential users to discover how they want to use a product and how it helps in their daily lives.

Smart Packaging
Just how smart can packaging be, and how important is packaging anyway? Very smart and very important as it turns out. With retail moving from bricks and mortar to online, the packaging of a product might be the first physical interaction a customer has with a brand.

What’s more, the ability to use smart packaging to drive loyalty opens a whole world of opportunity for brands. Smart packaging can be used to protect the consumer from damaged, mishandled or tampered shipments. They can also inform consumers of the need to replenish, connecting to smart apps that allow for convenient one button re-ordering. For the brand, smart packaging can also drive that all important digital transformation, generating data on product usage and consumer habits.

Our partnership with Jabil Packaging Solutions has led us to develop some great solutions in this area, particularly our Packaging Innovation Sprint, which helps brands quickly assess the potential of Smart Packaging in their market.

Humanizing Healthcare
The healthcare industry has many challenges, not least an aging and growing population. Technology may not be the silver bullet, but it is certainly developing solutions that have much to offer the industry. Key to success in Healthcare technology is Human Factors, part of what we do every day to make sure products meet the needs of patients, practitioners and of course the FDA. Once again this goes back to the significance of the user experience.

We think in 2018 the healthcare industry will connect more closely with patients, delivering diagnosis, information and care in the patient’s home as well as at the clinic or hospital. Technology has the capability to accelerate the healthcare process, driving down costs and bringing solutions to a growing population.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
There’s little doubt that AI will be the star of the show this year. Data is the rocket fuel for just about every one of these emerging technologies, and AI offers the chance to take that data, process it, learn from it, and apply it. Gartner believes that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human and as earlier as next year “customer digital assistants” will recognize customers by face and voice in a digital environment.

There are already some remarkable AI success stories. In October, Google’s AI subsidiary DeepMind unveiled the latest version of its Go-playing software, AlphaGo Zero. The program is entirely self-taught, playing itself over and over again to learn what is considered the most complex game in the world. After three days of self-play, Zero was strong enough to defeat the version of itself that beat 18-time world champion Lee Se-dol, winning 100 games to nil.

What’s interesting here is that this version was only programmed with the rules of Go, where the previous had more than 100,000 human games in its dataset. This underlines the amazing potential of AI to learn and develop at an amazing rate.

So, expect to see plenty of super smart technology at CES, plenty of amazing innovations, and of course a few things that will come out of left field and leave us all wondering why and how the idea even came up. We’re excited to be there and our team will be blogging throughout the show. Watch this space to see if our predictions are right and to see what wowed us at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show.

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.