CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 8

A New Product Category
Thanks to increasingly advanced embedded sensor
applications and robust, real-time analytics to
make sense of the tremendous amount of data that's
generated, manufacturers are producing an array of
smart, connected products, from toasters and TVs to
elevators and jet engines. "It's a whole new product
category," says Tim Ensor, associate director and head
of connected devices at product development and
engineering consultancy Cambridge Consultants.
"Benefit number one [of intelligent products] is survival.
As people find smart, connected products more
convenient, any vendor that doesn't offer them will go
out of business," says Irving Wladawsky-Berger, Visiting

"When you develop a sensor-free
product, the story ends when
you release it to the market.
With this range of products the
story starts when customers are
using them."
Jean-Marc Zimmermann
CIO, Babolat

Lecturer of Engineering Systems at MIT. "The second
benefit is that they deliver a lot of data about how the
product is used. In principle, companies can use that
data to have closer relationships with their customers."
Indeed, product intelligence has the potential to

customers and product performance for years. But

transform a number of business functions both internal

that data was always one step-or, more likely, several

and customer-facing, from product management

steps-removed. Connected products deliver that

to predictive maintenance to customer experience

intelligence directly from customer to manufacturer

and support to marketing and sales. But at the most

with nothing lost in translation. And sensors in

fundamental level, these smart products have the power

connected products can deliver data that could never

to revolutionize product development and enhancement.

have been captured before.

Intelligent products are in their infancy, and companies

Startup Keen Home wants to take ineffective devices

must work through several issues to take full advantage

in the home and make them smarter through

of the information these products generate-from

hardware and software solutions. Its first product, the

figuring out what data really has value, establishing a

Smart Vent, retrofits existing air vents and connects

faster and more flexible software development culture,

wirelessly to a home network to regulate airflow. The

and rethinking their product development approach. But

first goal of the connected venting system is to give

forward-looking CTOs and product development leaders

consumers a better heating and cooling experience

see a clear upside to overcoming those challenges.

by sensing temperature and duct pressure to make

"It's not a problem, but a growth opportunity," says

intelligent airflow decisions. But the information

Lavanya Rammohan, senior analyst with business

collected by the vents could help Keen Home with

strategy consultancy Compass Intelligence. "Companies

future product improvements and development.

are trying to figure out how to create a platform to

"There's a lot of anticipation that having real data

develop the new, innovative products of the future."

about how people use a product will make it easier to

A New Kind of Customer Data
Companies have been collecting information about their

CTO Straight Talk | 8

design features in the future," says Will McLeod, the
company's cofounder and chief product officer. "We
can find out which actions actually have the effect you


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2


CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2