Where Are Those Smart Products?

Does anyone remember the Innovations Catalogue? My brother and I would eagerly await the delivery of the Sunday Papers and every few weeks there’d be this paean to gadget lovers everywhere, the Innovations Catalogue. It was mostly tat but the males in the house would read it avidly and buy stuff. There was the key-fob that beeped when you whistled at it (me); the micro bugging device (my brother) or the lawn shoes with 9inch nails through the soles that would aerate your lawn as you walked over it (I kid you not, my father was obsessed with his lawn and I totally get it now that I have one of my own.) I often wonder how the innovations catalogue would look like today and then a colleague shared this Internet of Things slideshare with me.  It’s the innovations catalogue for the smart product age and the smart tennis racket is going on my Christmas list.

The media is awash with smart products, from the gimmicky to the more serious offerings. Smart products will radically reshape an experience with a product or lead to a dramatic upswing in outcomes (see my post on Healthcare Hits the Melting Point to the impact from Smart Products within healthcare). A slew of newly connected gadgets controlled through mobile apps, feeding personal data into the cloud which is continuing to drive interest in these products and their apps that tie and make them personal to us. They’re mostly badged under the Internet of Things (IoT) moniker. And it’s no wonder we’re all watching as the interest in IoT plays out in our personal lives, but a closer examination of the IoT from a product perspective reveals the full extent of how a billion interconnected devices and products will change the rules of business. We set out to chart these changes in our survey we ran with help from the Economist Intelligence Unit, the research arm of the Economist magazine. Together, we surveyed over 200 product design and innovation executives across Europe and the US to chart the phenomenon of smart products. I call the respondents our smart product pioneers and their development initiatives underway may surprize you. 

A huge amount of media interest around smart things is focused on the wearables space, such as the Apple Watch and Google Glass, or broad infrastructure initiatives such as “Smart Cities.” However our pioneers are looking elsewhere. Our survey reveals that the real market for smart products (particularly over the short to medium term) is aligned more with manufacturing process improvements, product packaging innovations or reconfiguring consumer products so that they communicate and deliver to us an enriched customer experience. (See the figure below taken from a question we asked “Which categories of smart products have you/will you develop?”)

Response base: 202
Source: Cognizant/Economist Intelligence Unit, Smart Products study, Q4/2014

Roughly 58% of our survey respondents focus their organization’s smart product development on making industrial equipment smarter by gaining insights as the product embeds itself into and around a manufacturing process.  A similar number (57%) focus development on making product packaging smart, whether by highlighting the expiration status on perishable foods, or reminding a patient how and when to  consume their medication. The next significant development opportunity (40%) is on making a consumer device smart— like the dreaded smart toothbrush I posted about last week or a fitness band that tracks your personal hygiene and wellness. I believe these initiatives are set to dramatically change the dynamics between product creation and product sale because customer insight and business meaning are flowing through from a product’s data—its Code Halo. And they are triggering new revenue models as a result.

What strikes me is where smart product development is happening today. This is a business efficiency play and its steering clear of the frothy eye catching wearables space typified by the Apple Watch or Google Glass (intriguingly though, most of the 19% charted above came from European rather than US respondents to the survey…)  Smart products strategies are set to drive efficiency and innovation throughout a product’s eco-system, from its design, manufacture, sale and the after-care servicing once in the hands of a customer or installed onsite at the customer’s premises. It’s in the product data where an unprecedented level of customer insight is being found and it’s accelerating away, triggering new strategic options (for the companies we surveyed at least). Get ready for a new product model to emerge for the digital age. Watch this space.

Identity Brokering Can Bring Banks New Business

My bank pretty much knows my life. Most of my payments route through my credit card to earn points and rewards. From card statements, my bank knows where my kids go to school, their extracurricular activities, what our family does for fun, and where we go on weekends and vacation.

Yes, banks – mine, yours and everyone else’s – know a lot about us. And as they keep learning more, they will increasingly use customer data and big data to personalize offerings and make customer experience a winning marketplace differentiator.

Savvier banks are already doing an exceptional job of capitalizing on this powerful paradigm to expand their offerings beyond core checking, savings and card services. But other institutions are underutilizing the information they have.

Whether leader or laggard, most institutions can benefit from expanding and improving how they leverage information. A promising way for banks to do this is by capitalizing on “identity brokering.” You may be most familiar with this term as it’s used in data networking – the complex, technical business of managing user identities and permissions across enterprises, data stores, systems and networks. It’s an increasingly complex concern as the use of mobile devices and cloud networks explodes and businesses expand their relationships with partners, vendors and customers.

For our purposes, though, identity brokering means using the wealth of information available regarding customers to better understand their interests and needs, and then partner with retailers, entertainment providers and other merchants to offer tailored products and services. Banks can work with these partners to create offerings that align with customer interests, creating revenue for the entire ecosystem, merchants and banks alike.

Factors banks will want to consider in exploring identity brokering opportunities include:

  • Data management strategy – breaking through data silos to obtain a full customer view is a prerequisite for using data analytics to uncover customer interests and create contextual offerings that appeal to them.
  • Omni-channel experience – whatever offerings are created, customers will expect a seamless experience across the devices they use and the businesses they interact with.
  • Simplification – banks face an ongoing challenge to unwind the complexity that customers face in doing business with them.

Banks have trusted relationships with customers and a wealth of information about what they want and need. Identity brokering can help banks team up with other businesses to create personalized offerings, strengthen customer relationships and build revenue, while continuing to meet customer expectations and legal requirements for data privacy.

Do you think identity brokering can enhance the opportunities for banks at large to create more value-added offerings and enhance customer experience? Let me hear from you.

This is a guest post contributed by Prasad Chintamaneni, EVP and President, Banking and Financial Services at Cognizant Technology Solutions. 

Every click, swipe, "like," buy, comment, deposit, jog and search produces information that creates a unique virtual identity - something we call

Code Halo

Code Halo
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Mobile World Congress & Future Tech

As the Mobile World Congress (MWC) recently took place in Barcelona, Spain, a lot was revealed about the future of tech and what we can reasonably expect to become mainstream in the coming months and years. With around 2,000 companies showcasing their wares at the congress, there was plenty to take on board; some of the world's biggest smartphone manufacturers were present, including household names from Europe and the Middle East and entrepreneurs from a variety of countries.

The Yahoo! website has helpfully listed to top trends tech expects can expect to take off in the near future:

Google & Facebook internet.

Whilst this isn't a new device as such, it is the dawn of new tech - specifically small-scale internet provisions from Google to remote areas in the world, or to places affected by a natural disaster which has wiped their connection, and also from Facebook with its Internet.org offering.

More wireless charging.

With Ikea recently launching wireless charging furniture like lamps and tables, it seems that this isn't just a fad and may well become incorporated in yet more objects and may even become supported for yet more devices - most notably the iPhone which currently has no wireless charging.

Security will up its game.

Passcodes and screen patterns will be a thing of the past as fingerprint recognition becomes more mainstream and more advanced, able to recognise wet fingerprints as well.

Virtual reality is here to stay.

No, it's not just a fad apparently - virtual reality is going to gain in prominence. In fact, certain companies that no one previously associated with VR have invested and are looking to associate themselves with the tech in some manner.

Smartphones will get hipper.

Most users will be able to pay for goods using their phones when out and about using tap-and-pay functions but also with a magnetic wave that imitates the same kind of strip found on traditional credit and debit cards.