CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 9

want. If someone wants the room to be cooler and they
take an action, you can close the loop to see if the device

Whose Data Is It Anyway?

actually makes it cooler or warmer. We can find out
how many vents a person needs to replace, how many
batteries they use. And we can learn about this in real
time instead of in the lab."
The new product also has the potential to transform
the relationship between the brand and the customer.

It's one thing to collect data about how customers
use your product through a survey or phone call.
Customers either choose to share or not. The lines
get more blurry with intelligent products that collect
that data automatically.

"Instead of a transactional relationship, in which
maybe in a couple of years they come to us for a piece of
hardware that has to be replaced, we have an ongoing
relationship that extends the life and usability of that
product," McLeod says.
The direct reports from products also help
manufacturers troubleshoot problems as products
are being used. In 2013, GE Lighting introduced its

"The interesting thing about big data is that nobody
really knows what it will be when it grows up," says
Will McLeod, cofounder and chief product officer
of Keen Home. "I think the biggest problems come
when people don't expect [that you're collecting the
data]. That's why we're very up front with an opt-in
rather than an opt-out policy."

LightGrid product, an outdoor, wireless-lighting
controls program that gives municipalities a more
accurate view of GPS-enabled streetlights in order to
implement smarter energy saving, asset management,
and maintenance processes. "Our customers were asking
for it," says Rick Freeman, CEO of GE's Intelligent
Cities and former global product manager for intelligent
devices. "They wanted fine-grained control of their
new LED fixtures, they wanted to make sure they knew
where everything was, and they wanted to be able to
measure the amount of energy the light used in order to
negotiate with utilities."
For GE Lighting, the smart streetlights are delivering
new intelligence about product performance in the field,
"It's all new," says Freeman. "In the nonconnected world,
sometimes you don't ever get [malfunctioning] gear

At GE Lighting, customers' comfort level with data
collection and analysis is varied. The cities who buy
the company's smart LightGrid system tend to be
very open, because they're already creating policies
to share that data with their citizens. "And if we're
already hosting some of that data for them, we
already have a trusted relationship with them," says
Rick Freeman, CEO of GE's Intelligent Cities. "We
find that in the market the customer wants to own
the data, but they're willing to license it back to us
as long as it brings value to them in the long term."
Utilities, however, consider data their crown jewels.
They may not want the company to store certain data
for long.

back. If something fails, it's most effective just to give
them a new product to get them up and running. The
equipment may take a long time to get back-if ever-to
figure out why it failed. Now we have data available to
our engineering team on a continual basis."

Smarter Smart-Product Design
With the price of sensors dropping and their capabilities
increasing, it can be tempting to jump on the connected
product bandwagon. But just because you can make

Tennis racket maker Babolat has found its
customers to be very open to sharing their usage
data. "But they're less comfortable sharing it
with other players," says Babolat CIO JeanMarc Zimmermann. "That could be very valuable
information for one of their opponents." So the
company gives users the option to make their app
profile private but still feed the data back to the
company for future product development.

CTO Straight Talk | 9


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


CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2