Systematic Innovation at the Consumer Electronics Show

Innovation Sighting: Task Unification and CAPTCHA
January 6, 2014
The Partial Subtraction Technique: Betty Crocker’s Egg
January 20, 2014

Systematic Innovation at the Consumer Electronics Show

One way to develop your expertise in SIT techniques is with pattern spotting. A key premise of SIT is that for thousands of years, innovators have used patterns in their inventions, usually without even realizing it. Those patterns are now embedded into the products and services you see around you, almost like the DNA of a product. You want to develop your ability to see these patterns as a way to improve your use of them. There's probably no better place to practice pattern spotting than at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). In last week's CES in Las Vegas, "manufacturers demonstrated a range of previously mundane but now smart, web-connected products destined to become part of daily domestic existence, from kitchen appliances to baby monitors to sports equipment," as reported in The Independent.

One way to develop your expertise in SIT techniques is with pattern spotting. A key premise of SIT is that for thousands of years, innovators have used patterns in their inventions, usually without even realizing it. Those patterns are now embedded into the products and services you see around you, almost like the DNA of a product. You want to develop your ability to see these patterns as a way to improve your use of them.

There’s probably no better place to practice pattern spotting than at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). In last week’s CES in Las Vegas, “manufacturers demonstrated a range of previously mundane but now smart, web-connected products destined to become part of daily domestic existence, from kitchen appliances to baby monitors to sports equipment,” as reported in The Independent.

The word, “smart,” should tip you off right away. That’s a tell-tale for the Attribute Dependency Technique. It works by taking two attributes of a system and creating a correlation between them. As one thing changes, another thing changes. It tends to yield products that change or adapt to some changing need of the consumer. Hence, the product appears smart.

See if you can spot the Attribute Dependency Technique is these examples from CES:

  • Smart cars will become so smart they can drive themselves, avoiding congestion or collisions – even finding the closest parking space to your destination.
  • Smart refrigerators will let you know when the milk is on the turn, or when you need to buy more ketchup.
  • Smart toilets will monitor the frequency and consistency of your bowel movements, and tell you whether you ought to book an appointment with a dietitian – or worse, a clinician.
  • Smart ovens will manage mealtimes, cooking different dishes by different methods at the correct time.
  • Smart toothbrushes keep track of your brushing habits – not just the frequency of brushing, but also the technique. It then sends the dental data it has collected to your smartphone, with notes on how to brush better.
  • Smart “onesies” are not only a sleepsuit, but also a baby monitor. It tracks its infant wearer’s temperature, breathing rate, body position and activity level. It can even be paired with a bottle warmer, which starts heating milk when the Mimo senses the baby is about to wake up.
  • Smart tennis rackets record the power of each shot, the position of ball-on-racket, even the amount of spin. That data is then displayed on a smartphone or tablet, demonstrating the details of a player’s game and thus illuminating potential areas of improvement.
  • Smart beds track your heart rate, breathing, snoring, movements and surroundings, building a comprehensive picture of your sleep patterns which it then sends to your smartphone, offering suggestions for how to sleep better the following night.

With enough experience using SIT, you’ll use pattern spotting automatically. You will see some new product or service and instantly your mind will try to search which of the five techniques applies. When you get to that point, you have what we affectionately call the SIT “virus.” It means you are well on your way to mastering the method.