Innovation Perspectives – Predicting Innovations

by Drew Boyd

This is the third of several ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on ‘Thinking about the future: what big innovation do you expect within 10 years?’. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Drew Boyd

Innovation Perspectives - Predicting InnovationsMy crystal ball is no better than others. Rather than predict innovations, I predict what characteristics they will have and how they might be invented.

  1. Mobility: Future products will incorporate some degree of mobility and integration into the mobile lifestyle. Smart phones fuel this. But mobility is not all about communications. Future products will take advantage of the data created by people as they move through their day. The innovation templates, Task Unification and Attribute Dependency, are excellent tools for identifying these opportunities.

    An MIT team is researching the feasibility of using cell phones as a unique tool to identify any emerging disease outbreaks. The team, led by Anmol Madan, said that a disease changes the mobility pattern of a cell phone user and by developing a software that tracked movements, phone calls and text messages of 70 students who were also daily surveyed for their health, the software was able to identify those suffering from an ailment. Students who came down with a fever or full-blown flu tended to move around less and make fewer calls late at night and early in the morning. When Madan trained software to hunt for this signature in the cellphone data, a daily check correctly identified flu victims 90 per cent of the time. Public health officials could also use the technique to spot emerging outbreaks of illness ahead of conventional detection systems, which today rely on reports from doctors and virus-testing labs. Similar experiments in larger groups and in different communities will have to be done first though.
  2. Adaptiveness: Future products will adapt and morph depending on the situation of its use. They become “smart” by changing their characteristics in a way that is most beneficial to the user at that moment. The templates, Multiplication and Attribute Dependency, are useful for creating adaptive products.

    The Cybertecture mirror has an infographic display, measures 800 x 500 x 50mm, has stereo speakers, a WiFi connection and even fog-resistant glass. The mirror will connect with a cloud based digital profile so it can relate contextual information such as the local weather before you leave in the morning – or readings presented from a scale will help you monitor how your weight watching program is doing (via a display on the mirror or a web-based portal).
  3. Simplicity: People value simplicity. Products and services of the future will attract “more with less.” Simple means simply this: Would a child understand it and be able to explain it back to you? The innovation templates, Division and Subtraction, are great for simplifying products and services.

    Australian student designer Robert Dumaresq recently took Gold at the Australian International Design Awards, Dyson Student Category for his ‘Switch Commuter Bike‘. The bike which folds up to the size of a wheel in “one smooth motion,” was designed in response to the Victorian government’s move to ban bikes on public transport. Claiming to be one of the fastest folding bikes around, the Switch Commuter is both durable and light-weight, manufactured using carbon fibre and aluminum.
  4. Specificity: The most innovative products are those that look into the “Closed World” of the problem and take unique aspects of it to use as the basis for the solution. Parts of the problem become the solution. All five templates of the S.I.T. method can uncover these opportunities.

    Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology in Germany are creating a vehicle-based system called Eyetracker that monitors a drivers face for signs of drowsiness. When certain patterns in eye and facial movements that indicate a lack of awareness are detected, the system triggers warnings to keep the driver alert. Debuting at the VISON trade fair in Stuttgart next month, the system is driven by two separate, small cameras mounted in the car, linked to a small matchbook-sized processor.
  5. Ideality: Future products will be unique because their solution to a problem only appears when needed. When the problem arises, the solution is also there. Again, all five templates of the S.I.T. method can lead to products with this characteristic.

    Using a unique blend of augmented reality, app technology, and social media, Macy’s and LBi have re-invented the dressing room experience for New Yorkers visiting Macy’s Herald Square store through November of this year. Customers enter a dressing booth outfitted with with a 72-inch multi-touch mirror and an iPad. The customer then selects clothing from the iPad application and transfers the items on their body’s image on the mirror with a flick of the wrist. Naturally, photos of customers in various outfits can be shared on their social network using emails or SMS (with the purpose of getting live feedback from their friends). This innovation demonstrates how retail can be a primary driver in furthering the integration between digital and physical space.

Special thanks to psfk for the examples.

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You can check out all of the ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles from the different contributing authors on ‘Thinking about the future: what big innovation do you expect within 10 years?’ by clicking the link in this sentence.


Drew BoydDrew Boyd is Assistant Professor of Marketing and Innovation at the University of Cincinnati and Executive Director of the MS-Marketing program. Follow him at www.innovationinpractice.com and at https://twitter.com/drewboyd