Autonomous, Connected & Interactive:

Technologies Defining the Next Wave of Product Innovation

Secton Two: IoT

Understanding IoT

Understanding Product Performance Through IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is already massive. While estimates vary, in part due to how one defines IoT, there are already tens of billions of devices connected to the internet and capable of communicating with each other. Thanks to network effects, as the number of connected devices grows, the power of this technology grows exponentially.

Understanding Product Performance Through IoTThe primary use cases for IoT, particularly in the industrial space, involve the monitoring and analysis of device performance in support of preventive and predictive maintenance, location tracking of vehicles and cargo, and the use of connected sensors to create “digital twins” of products.

This latter use case is particularly critical in product development because it allows manufacturers to use data collected from devices currently in use to optimize design and performance of next generation products. Rolls-Royce is one company relying heavily on this use case to improve the design of its jet engines, for example.

Industrial IoT: The Rise of Platforms

As more and more companies invest in IoT technologies—the global market was $193.6 billion in 2019—we see major players developing platforms to support deployment and management of IoT resources. For example, in mid-2019, Honeywell launched Honeywell Forge, an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) performance management platform. It featured an open-API architecture that allows organizations to integrate data from multiple sources. Companies around the world have already leveraged this platform to improve everything from the performance of steel mills to the cybersecurity of major ports.

Honeywell Forge is far from the first IIoT platform offering, however. GE launched its Predix platform in 2013 and has continued to expand the platform’s capabilities, most recently with the launch of Predix Manufacturing Data Cloud, “purpose-built to consolidate and transform manufacturing data across plants for enterprise cloud storage and analysis.” The capabilities of Predix MDC allow enterprises the ability to ingest, analyze, and act on IIoT data more efficiently and optimize performance of “the connected factory.” The Predix platform itself has found uses ranging from hospital operations management to airline fuel optimization.

From Gut Probes to Smartwatches: A Smarter Healthcare Experience

Healthcare organizations had already begun adopting IoT several years ago for maintenance and monitoring of physical operations. The next step was to apply this technology to patient monitoring, including using “smart beds” to let staff know when a patient had left their bed, or using wearables to track patient vital signs.

 A Smarter Healthcare ExperienceMore recently, we have seen the development of “smart pills,” that is, pills featuring ingestible sensors that are activated by stomach acids. These pills allow caregivers to ensure that patients have actually taken their medications. Similarly, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a swallowable gut probe. The patient swallows the probe and then onboard cameras allow doctors to examine the health of the patient’s gut, enabling them to quickly diagnose potentially fatal diseases such as environmental enteric dysfunction.

Of course, IoT now extends far beyond factories, service fleets, and hospitals. From Fitbit to Nest and beyond, IoT in recent years has become part of daily life. Cities have been using IoT to become “smarter” about energy usage, public safety, and traffic management. And in the face of COVID-19, healthcare institutions have been looking for ways to put the technology to use in gathering data to understand and potentially manage the pandemic.

From a product innovation perspective, there are two questions product designers need to ask themselves. On one hand, how might we perpetually transform and improve our products based on performance data gathered continuously from IoT sensors? On the other hand, when a product can communicate directly with its environment, what potential design innovations does this introduce? For example, if my luggage becomes autonomous, how does that change the material I use to make it? The handles, the compartments, the wheels? Thinking further out, how does this change closets, hotel rooms, and airports?

From Gut Probes to Smartwatches