Left brain, meet right brain

By Catherine
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By Catherine Bolgar

Three Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces on Table

When Louis Henry Sullivan said, “Form ever follows function,” he was talking about architecture of buildings. But today his 19th-century credo is cited in many other spheres where engineering and design interact, including technology and software.

The lines are blurring, though, so that in the future, engineering and design will be seamlessly integrated.

Good designers are engineers,” says Blade Kotelly, senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and vice president of design and consumer experience at Jibo Inc., which makes a social robot for the home. At the same time, customers are no longer as wowed by raw technology and they expect an easy, and aesthetic, user experience.

Design runs to the core of things,” he adds. “Large companies realize they’re being outdone by smaller companies that are putting design at the center of their thinking.”

Brainstorming Brainstorm Business People Design ConceptsThis design-thinking approach can be hard for engineers to understand, Mr. Kotelly says: “The beginning of the design process looks like very little is happening, because the designers are trying to get their brains around the problem fully. Before that, they ask whether the problem is even a good one to solve. Then they figure out what’s going to make the solution successful, then they begin the typical design process of research, prototyping, testing, iterating.”

Modular structures or open-source components that can be swapped in or out in a modular way reduce the risk of change, so “you can iterate faster,” he says.

“It’s important to think architecturally about the system—how it breaks out at the top level and the smaller and smaller components—to be able to observe technology as the landscape is changing,” Mr. Kotelly says.

The Internet of Things is making it possible to create systems as never before. However, we’re likely to soon stop talking about the IoT as it becomes the norm.

“It’s like plastics in the 1960s,” says Dirk Knemeyer, a founder of Involution Studios, a Boston-area software design studio. “The distinction of things being plastic was super-important. A couple of decades passed, and plastic things are just things.”

In the same way, “in the future, everything that is digital and many things that are not will be in the Internet of Things,” he says.

Systems require holistic thinking. And that requires integrated teams. “Getting to a successful integrated model that puts design in an appropriate strategic place can be challenging,” Mr. Knemeyer says. “It requires overcoming the biases and preconceptions of stakeholders who are already in place and who often have a skeptical view of design and creative expression as part of business. They also have existing fiefdoms they control, and fear that order might be upset by redesign of people and processes.”

Tearing down management silos provides a new problem-solving methodology and mindset that can augment the traditional perspectives, whether financial, operational or technological.

The engineering perspective is raw capability: what is the range of possibilities technology can do,” Mr. Knemeyer says. “Design says, ‘from these technologies, here are the things that can be done specific to the needs of customers.’”

Addressing customer needs is at the core of high-impact design, or design that brings a meaningful change in increasing revenues and reducing costs, he adds.

Business People Team Teamwork Working Meeting ConceptAt the same time, design thinking doesn’t just create efficiencies, but new ideas, says Mathias Kirchmer, managing director of BPM-D, a West Chester, Pennsylvania, consultancy that helps companies increase performance through cross-functional business and information-technology initiatives.

In the classic approach, a company starts mapping the processes it needs to accomplish, then optimizing so the processes will be carried out efficiently, then writing the actual software, then implementing or installing it. “It’s very inside-out driven,” Dr. Kirchmer says. “In today’s world, that’s a huge problem. First, it’s too slow. We need a faster approach. Second, the inside-out view doesn’t deliver results to drive profitable growth. It doesn’t improve the customer experience sufficiently. It’s good to be more efficient, but that doesn’t make enough of a difference for the client and move the organization to the next performance level.”

Companies compete in just 15% of their processes, he says. The rest is commodity—that is, matching competitors rather than differentiating beyond them. That high-impact 15% requires innovation enabled through design thinking.

Dr. Kirchmer sees four aspects of design thinking:

• empathy to look at high-impact processes from a customer point of view;
• transfer of ideas from unrelated fields to introduce innovation;
• storytelling to communicate the customer journey and intended innovations in a way that will resonate with all the involved teams;
• rapid prototyping to quickly get to the visual design of user interfaces and software development.

The melding of disciplines means that in the future, designers will need to be more knowledgeable about core science or core engineering. “The way science is moving is going to pull all of us into a more quantified scientific environment,” Mr. Knemeyer says.

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, now working as a freelance writer and editor with WSJ. Custom Studios in EMEA. For more from Catherine Bolgar, along with other industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion on LinkedIn.

Photos courtesy of iStock

The center of the tech revolution in finance couldn’t be further from Silicon Valley

By Alyssa
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By: Ian Kar

China, Shenzen skyline, elevated view

Silicon Valley is on a mission to disrupt finance. Even Jamie Dimon is worried about it. US venture capital funding for fintech startups reached $7.4 billion in 2015, up from $4.3 billion in 2014. But while the money’s flowing, the real action is in China.

According to a new report from Citi’s research division, people in China are actually using fintech products. The three biggest internet companies—Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent—all have digital finance businesses that are thriving. Baidu Wallet has 45 million users. Alibaba’s Alipay is the world largest fintech startup and processed almost $2.6 trillion in payments in 2015—a third of all third-party transactions in China. Tencent’s financial products accounted for $800 billion in payments in 2015.

China’s fintech dominance isn’t just in payments. Alternative and peer-to-peer lending is bigger as well. The US does more peer-to-peer lending than the UK, but, combined, the two countries do less than China.

China’s fintech and digital banking businesses are growing in part because consumer banking hasn’t developed as much as elsewhere, Citi said. Chinese internet giants have stepped into the void to provide access to financial services via mobile apps. Chinese regulators have also taken steps to promote, not inhibit, financial innovation in China.

China could be where the US is headed. Citi said that China is past the tipping point of disrupting financial services, but the US or Europe is still a few years away. By 2023, 17%, or $1.2 billion, of North American consumer banking revenue will move to digital services, Citi estimates.

 

To discuss this and other topics about the future of technology, finance, life sciences and more, join the Future Realities discussion on LinkedIn.

Revolutionizing Smart Appliance Innovation through Collaboration

By Neno
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According to Berg Insight, in 2014, smart appliances made up one-third of the estimated 5.9 billion smart and connected products sold worldwide: that’s 2 billion smart appliances. With that level of production, and a market growing at an estimated CAGR of 15.4% toward a value of $37.2 billion USD by 2020 (MarketsandMarkets), there’s no doubt about it: customers love smart appliances.

Puremotion video washing machineIn the recent post “A New Spin on Washing Machine Design”, we explained how customers today expect more than just a product when they do business with a company: they would rather spend money on an experience than a thing. The ability of smart appliances to deliver delightful, intuitive experiences that make daily life easier and more pleasurable is in large measure the key to the smart appliance market’s success.

This is a theme we returned to in “The Secret to Creating Market-Winning Experiences”, in which we explored the use of collaborative simulation and design exploration software to help craft these compelling experiences, enabling manufactures to simulate virtual product experiences while evaluating and analyzing hundreds of design options.

engineer-puremotionSuch advanced software is invaluable because at technical level, designing great smart appliance experiences can be a daunting challenge. It requires that companies have engineering proficiency in a wide array of areas such as software, mechanical, electrical, fluid, electronics, software, and other specialized areas.  What’s more, success requires bringing all of these competencies together to collaboratively develop requirements, solve problems and optimize outcomes (see our post “How to Stay Competitive? Develop Smart Appliances in the Era of Experience”).

This kind of collaboration is essential for success in systems engineering in general, but the need for collaboration in the fast-growing but intensely competitive smart appliance market requires expanding collaboration to an enterprise level. It requires establishing an ongoing dialogue between design, engineering, manufacturing, marketing and support.

We’ve developed a short video, Pure Motion, to introduce the ways in which these disciplines can revolutionize smart appliance innovation through collaboration on a single platform – the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, while leveraging common 3D system models and digital assets across optimized processes.

Watch the video now, or to learn more, visit our white goods webpage or download the V-ZUG case study today, which details how the Swiss High Tech appliance maker is innovating for perfect cooking and washing experiences with the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

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