NPD Tales

Ideas Thoughts and Comments on Product Development

Customer Empowerment

In an earlier post (Collaborative Tools – Customer Involvement) I explored how the latest collaborative tools like SharePoint and SamePage are beginning to emphasise the value of customer involvement in new product development.  A recently published paper in the Journal of Product Innovation Management (Customer Empowerment in New Product Development) details some research on the same concept.

Illustrated with examples from Threadless and Muji (but they could also have included Yamaha with their EZ-AG Guitar) the authors describe the difference between ‘creation’ and ’selection’ empowerment and present the results of some research that shows a positive quantified impact from such close customer involvement.

Not every company can invite its customers to submit designs and let them vote which one will be used (like Threadless do with their T-Shirts) but it does seem to be worth spending a bit of time thinking about how you can tap into the creativity and decision making of your customer base…

Media Centre Controller

I recently bought a small PC to hook up to the TV in my living room.  All my music collection and family photos have been transferred and being able to access all of these plus online content like Spotify, iPlayer and LoveFilm from the comfort of my armchair on a large ‘monitor’ is very enjoyable.

However, the user experience is let down somewhat by the options for the physical controller.  Inevitably something more than a pointer and some transport controls is required.  As far as I can see, text entry is an unavoidable requirement and balancing a wireless keyboard and mouse on your lap does nothing to enrich the user experience.  There are a few products emerging that are trying to address the need, but I’m wondering if something more revolutionary is required before the Media Centre (or indeed any internet enabled TV) becomes a more widely accepted product.

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A genuine opportunity for some innovative thinking to drive a product development that satisfies a real need?..

Open Source Hardware

An ever increasing number of people are using open source software products – but how can the principles of open source apply to hardware?

Check out Arduino and BeagleBoard and the increasing number of peripheral boards being developed for these platforms.

Then take a look at the TouchBook product based on BeagleBoard.

I’m certainly interested to see how the concept develops – is it of purely academic interest and destined to languish in geek backwaters or is there a more interesting development and wider success on the horizon?

Powerline Communications – A New Dawn?

Powerline communication devices just never realised their potential.  Wi-Fi very quickly became so ubiquitous the technology never stood a chance.  However there are a few developments that have hinted at a new dawn.

IEEE are working on a standard for powerline communications up to 100Mbit/s

There is a greater demand for higher communication speeds and/or multiple dedicated networks around the home as streaming audio and video applications become more widespread

Marvell Semiconductor, the highly innovative provider of integrated silicon solutions have acquired DS2 a Spanish developer of chips for powerline communications

‘Now is the time to drive innovation in this space’ said the VP of product development.

Energy Monitors

There are an increasing number of electrical energy monitors appearing on the market.  The theory is that when you are aware of your energy usage you do more to reduce it – even if it’s a subconscious effort.

From a new product development and innovation perspective there’s a lot to be observed.

The majority of the products are simple portable square devices looking a bit like central heating controllers.  There’s a remote sensor that clips on the mains feed near your meter.  Most of them have some sort of PC/Mac connectivity (USB or WiFi) to download data.

Right now there are a couple of alternatives to this.  There’s the Wattson which has tried to turn the concept into a thing of beauty and the AlertMe which focusses on interconnectivity with web applications (including Google PowerMeter), and mobile devices (including the ubiquitous iPhone app) and integration with smart plugs, home security and heating control.

It’s an interesting market which will no doubt continue to develop and grow – but in which direction?

Where’s the iPad?

The usual furore associated with a new product from Apple came and went.  The astonishing sales figures for the first day in the US added to the excitement.  Then the rumours of a delay to the international launch started and the expected announcement of pricing and pre-order never happened.  The official line is that the delay is due to unexpectedly high demand for the product in the US.  There’s a suggestion that LG, Samsung and Epson who are suppliers of the touchscreen are experiencing yield problems.

The phenomenal brand loyalty of the ever growing band of Apple enthusiasts will most likely prevail but there are rumblings of dissent…