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
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