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Digital Products for a digital Future

Toolkit 3: Innovation Room

Symon Oliver

31/05/19

5 MIN

Dispatches from the IUEC Innovation Room.

This past April we were contracted to demo our Spatial Tracking platform at Accenture’s 29th International Utilities and Energy Conference (IUEC) Half Moon Bay, California. The theme for this edition was “Innovating at Scale”. You can read more about our social experiment in our April Tennis Toolkit.

In our last Toolkit, we spoke specifically about some of the major disruption happening in the utility sector. Some of these disruptive technologies could be seen and discussed with the experts behind them. On site, there was an innovation room filled with patterns and prototypes to pay attention to in the coming years.

Here is our shortlist from the innovation room that really made us think.

Haptic Gloves and Virtual Reality

What did we see?

Imagine using virtual reality or augmented reality and being able to physically touch the environment or your virtual creation. Haptix has got this covered. These gloves are full of mechanisms that allow a user to tangibly grasp and feel VR. We had the pleasure of being guided through an enchanting farm themed demo. The demo allowed you to brush wheat stocks, or feel the rain on your fingertips. There was a barn that you could tap or grasp in order to feel the resistance of a harder material. We were surprised by how little it takes to trick the human mind and body into thinking that it’s actually touching something.

What does this mean?

Other than being extremely innovative, Haptix is aiming for some very specific use cases for their tech. We don't expect to see this tech for average consumers anytime soon as it caters towards commercial applications.

Haptix was a lot of fun to test, but they are hyper-focused about where their tech will be positioned. They are not going for the consumer market, which is primarily VR gaming worth $4B, video viewing worth $2B, and AR games $616M. Instead, Haptix is situating themselves for commercial VR/AR.

To date, the biggest opportunity for commercial use is training which is being predicted to be a $1.8B market. It’s important to consider that there are a bunch of other potential commercial use cases such as retail, showcasing, anatomy, diagnostics, and industrial maintenance.

RFID, Wearables, and Logistics

What did we see?

This demo was fantastic from a purely aspirational perspective. The teams’ work is attempting to consolidate AR, RFID, and other tracking technology into one fluid logistics platform. 

Imagine picking up a tool, or a component, and having it automatically tracked and inventoried. Having a constant view into the logistics between manufacturing and supply chains of materials is absolutely the next move for frictionless build process from materials, to shop floor, to final location.

If you know where everything is, when it will arrive, combined with third-party services (weather, traffic, etc.) then it makes delivering complex manufacturing projects much more certain. The team intends to pool data from all sensors into a cloud-based dataset that is then plug and play for every other device in the ecosystem.

What does this mean?

In this new world of interconnectedness, everything was made possible first by the idea of APIs, second by the cloud, and third through cheap low-powered sensors.

What this means is that businesses need to start considering their digital ecosystem; most importantly how it connects with consumers, services, and products. Imagine the possibilities when you begin relating manufacturing data to weather, economics, or other parameters.

As great as this demo is for showing the philosophy of APIs and IoT, and tracking the delivery of raw material, our interest was piqued by the possibilities of that data set.

"machine learning and contextually rich, real-time data streams delivered by IoT sensors and networks is going to make IoT business cases compelling in 2019..."
—Louis Columbus, Forbes Contributor

Considering that:

  • Global technology spending on IoT is expected to reach $1.2T in 2022 
  • A study from Ericsson projects that cellular IoT connections are expected to reach 3.5B in 2023

This is going to be a flood of data. Businesses who can build services or products around this data will have one leg up on the future.

It really means we need to pay attention to some of these seemingly disparate signals. Yes, IoT is going to be huge, yes it’s going to be problematic for security—your fridge getting ransomware and threatening to spoil all of your food kind of scary. The main thing we are looking at here is not the application of devices, instead, we are looking at that dataset.
Data-driven Customer Journey

What did we see?

The holy grail of user experience and human-centered design is an interconnected world where my real-time experience is directly influenced by my previous actions. Home automation following our ebb and flow, recommendation systems prompting us, reminders making sure we pick something up on the way home, our healthcare information deeply connected to our buying habits. This demo, which was more of a user narrative—was highlighting possibilities for bridging the gap between our data, and our real-life experiences.

What does this mean?

Fluidity is what this brings us; to some, this might sound exciting, and others terrifying. Security experts are likely very worried about this.

What did we take from it? It spurred some ideas about user data, and perhaps the need for a new methodology centered around what you could call User Centered Data and Data-Driven Design. We talk often about user-centered design, but thinking through a fluid user experience that uses personal data so openly, glosses over all the changes happening in policy and security.

For the last decade, it has been an, if it’s free then you are the product mentality—but more and more, the conversation has been shifting to a user having better control over their own data and how it’s used. At present this is taken care of by an unwieldy Terms of Service agreement.

What if users owned their own data, and choose who to share it with via a marketplace? What if they understood the market of data in a way that they themselves could earn some capital through the sharing of their data—data is not free, you are often giving it up in exchange making money off of it without your consent.

Keep this drone in a cage


What did we see?

If you didn’t already know, pipelines are significantly more cost-effective than trucks when it comes to getting liquid or gas from A to B. The downside being catastrophic failures that damage the surrounding environment. This makes inspection absolutely critical for fault prevention.

Drones already provide an important remote perspective for inspecting pipelines, Flyability took this a step further and has been developing a drone to cover the interior spaces of facilities. They have a developed a crashproof drone.

Simple solution, put a drone into a lightweight geodesic ball so it can roll, bounce, and fly through a facility collection high-resolution inspection data.

What does this mean?

Nothing earth-shatteringly new, but there are some trends to consider the drone industry. There are two industries that dominate the expanding commercial drone market, construction, and agriculture. Construction can cover a wide gamut of work from inspection, maintenance, surveying and mapping ($11B). This is exactly where this demo is situated.

Second is agriculture, which currently sits around $6B. That growth will likely be seen in what’s called precision agriculture. It was common for this to be carried out through the use of satellite imagery or sensors mounted on a tractor. With drones, this becomes more cost-effective and more distributed. Remember that flood of data we mentioned from IoT, well you can add high-resolution imagery from drones to that list.
Two things to pay attention to

Out of all these exciting demos, we did have our favorites. Haptics took the prize for being the most innovative—but they are at the bleeding edge of science, technology, and human-computer interaction.

The demos that stole our attention were the user journey, and IoT demos. We felt that these are the most tangible, scalable, but arguably harder challenges to overcome. These are ideas that need to augment existing paradigms of industry, security, logistics, policy, and human behavior; they essentially need to solve people, and a bunch of other long-standing systems—IoT and User-Centered Data, and Data-Driven Design being some real disruptive ideas to pay attention to.

Thanks for Reading

Symon Oliver

31/05/19

5 MIN

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