Companies have moved manufacturing of things to developing countries since many years. The reasons have primarily been competitiveness and profitability and the results of this are well-known and documented. Focus on software and the Internet made knowledge of making and marketing touchable products, things, scarce in countries like Sweden. It’s not that we are lacking ideas or can’t make a nice design but manufacturing, service and communication of products need to be closely integrated for superb results. Great ideas and designs are gradually taken down towards “normal” for every consultant, advisor, middle-man, controller and purchaser that gets involved. Huge cost-efficient factories only manufacture huge quantities and cost consciousness efficiently replace odd designs and components to those easier to manufacture and cheaper to buy. Most of this is obviously very good since we don’t want a world with only guordiously designed and incredibly expensive things! But take a look at things around you and you will see a lot of “global look and feel” in neutral colors and with rounded corners. Smartphones are really good examples – a huge, growing, rapidly changing and innovative market with youngsters showing the way should produce some sexy products but they all look more or less the same.
But the pendulum is swinging back again! There are many reasons why we will start to see much more things being designed and built “at home” onwards. Let me give you a couple:
– democratization of development is enabled by cheap and easy to use components like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, iBeacons, Sensor tags, easy to use cost efficient tools like Evothings Studio and powerful smartphones and pads everywhere.
– methods and approaches like open source, crowd sourcing and crowd funding gives new opportunities for entrepreneurs
– 3D printing is happening right now and creates new ideas and ways of working
– Internet of Things makes a lot of people wanting to build their connected thing, at least the prototypes
– Technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy and Sigfox makes it possible to build tiny connected products with battery life of 4-5 years
– Human beings love smashing design
– It is often easier to get reasonable pay for things than software or services alone
– Creative processes require rapid response. Iterative prototyping och testing is key these days.
Nest is a good example of what is coming, Panono as well. Last week I participated in a great IoT Sweden meet-up with two fantastic presentations from Humans since 1982 and Teenage Engineering. David Cox walked us through how Humans since 1982 built their famous and fascinating clocks of clocks starting from animations and Jesper Kouthoofd guided us through yet another fantastic project: the development of the OP-1 synthesizer. Both speakers work in innovative and creative teams with all possible profiles and backgrounds, they obviously love what they do and they make wonder. I had a smile on my face the entire evening since these two cases made me understand that making things is back now.
Let me also take this opportunity to share a wonderful piece from the Q&A where someone asked David Cox about connectivity and David responded that “we design our clocks to last for 50 years”. Reality bites!