CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 10
a product "smarter" doesn't mean you should. "You
don't want to just dump this technology on products,"
Prototypes on the Fly
says Rammohan of Compass Intelligence. "The first
thing you should think about is, 'How do I drive
exceptional user experience and do it better than the
Before developing an intelligent product, companies
need to be clear about their objectives, says Ensor
of Cambridge Consultants. "What's the marketing
message you want to deliver? What's the business
outcome you want to achieve? Is it product
differentiation? Is it back-office benefits? Is there a way
to do both?"
Big Ass Solutions, a manufacturer of fans, lights,
When it comes to developing a smart product,
traditional manufacturing methods don't cut
it during the R&D phases. Companies need to
develop their physical product as quickly as the
intelligent software they're building for it. "They
can have an awesome idea, but if it turns out they
can't manufacture it, all that time and money spent
developing it is wasted," says Lavanya Rammohan,
senior analyst with business strategy consultancy
Compass Intelligence. "They need to have the design
ready earlier so they can test the market strategy."
and controls, had already introduced sensor-rich
commercial products when it started to develop a
smart residential ceiling fan. "Our first goal is always
designing great products," says Landon Borders,
product development manager for Big Ass Solutions.
"Making them smart is the next step."
The company has recently launched its Haiku line
of fans. "We had the most energy efficient fan in the
market, and we said, 'Let's make it the smartest fan in
the market," Borders says. The company looked at the
biggest problems customers had with the fan-deciding
when to turn it on or off, having to reach the pull
chain to do so, and climbing on a ladder to change fan
direction-and solved them using sensor technology.
The new fans with SenseME technology turn on when
someone enters the room and turn off when the person
leaves, monitor temperature and humidity to adjust
fan speed as conditions change, and learn customers'
comfort preferences over time.
"Engineers have a tendency to want to solve all
problems for everyone. But we wanted to find that
sweet spot where the product was smart enough
without overcomplicating things," says Borders. "When
you start to think about the home, predicting how
customers will use the product is paramount."
Babolat had similar considerations when designing its
smart racket and customer-facing app. Not only did the
CTO Straight Talk | 10
That's why companies like Keen Home, developer of
the Smart Vent for home heating and cooling, turn
to 3D printing for their connected product prototypes.
"In traditional product development, you sketch out
the model, send it to engineers, start cutting tools,
then work on how the device operates," says Will
McLeod, cofounder and chief product officer for Keen
Home. But developing the software and firmware
behind the smart product is an iterative process.
"We've had to move product development to just-intime design. Having more physical products sooner
is helpful so we can experiment with them at the
same time as the app. It gives us more flexibility than
traditional mechanical design affords."
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2
CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2