Watch out! Two major forces meet – interesting times ahead

March 18, 2015

Imakr 3D Shoes in the Machine and on the computerAdding things to the Internet will make extraordinary impact on industries, businesses, nations and people’s lives. And I hope it will make us take better care of our globe too. The three major deliverables of IoT – safety, sustainability and efficiency – together with convenience will do the trick. In essence IoT fuels digitization of processes and allows us to base decision-making on better, often real-time, data. Applications like preventive maintenance and scheduled repairs will make us tremendously more efficient to name one example. And one day “if it aint broken don’t fix it” might be hard to understand. The Internet of Everything is rapidly coming together and I believe we’re leaving the teens already 2016.

Another rapidly developing major trend is the Makers Movement. Equipment and tools have become much easier to use and really affordable. And new types of equipment like 3D printers together with a host of new materials and techniques complete the opportunity to democratise manufacturing. In other words a couple of people could easily get together and buy what it takes to make at least prototypes of their ideas. And that is exactly what has happened – there are makers everywhere, in more or less organised and specialised organisations, sharing tools, skills and facilities, training each other and building new micro startups en masse. FabLabs, TechShops and Makerspaces are popping up everywhere and 3D printing and scanning by itself promise massive changes on how we design and produce things, e-business, healthcare and so on.

It is hard to predict what will happen when these two mega trends meet but let me share a couple of observations to get going:

– It’s more difficult and resource consuming to design, manufacture, market and service hardware than just software
– Hardware requires more money and a wide range of expertise
– Working with hardware requires more physical interaction and relevant facilities
– Early stage investors are often reluctant to invest in hardware today
– Crowdfunding services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are already loaded with hardware, often with great innovative design compared to mainstream products
– Apple combines gorgeous things with ease of use and Internet bringing continuous innovation and record profits

I find the meeting of these two mega-trends very interesting and have worked for a year with some friends trying to figure out how to turn this into serious solutions and big business. One important conclusion is that successfully making solutions with things included require great engineers, great designers, great entrepreneurs and internationally successful enterprises with things part of their solutions to collaborate with. That makes it a perfect fit for Sweden and I will do my best to help the Swedish hw start-up community become successful. We have started to use #sthlmthings for our community and I would welcome other communities to gather around similar hash tags to make it easier to follow and interact in and between “things communities”.

Things matter!

Advertisements

We are making things again!

April 14, 2014

A-Million-Times-Installation-by-humans-since-1982Companies 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!

 


%d bloggers like this: