Be like Gillette: Why software is the razor blade of hardware companies via Venture Beat

The most successful hardware companies are the ones that look a lot like Gillette.

Consider Dropcam, for example. While the company’s new $199 Dropcam HD is a great wireless camera, it’s infinitely more useful with the optional $10 per-month subscription, which offers seven days of archived recording.

Guillaume’s comment: I find the analogy here very interesting and totally transferable to Volvo’s business, or more generally to the commercial transport business. While trucks have been our core products for many years, what is the razor blade of the truck business? Probably its data and that’s where I believe we should focus our efforts: which data, what to sell, where to create value.

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Trends 2014

With the new year come the new predictions for 2014. In this post you find a selection of 4 predictions: from Frost & Sullivan, Forrester (via Forbes), Gartner and one from Ericsson. You will find them at the end of this article.

 

Guillaume’s Comment:
” Taking a look to these 4 predictions, we can see some alignement with what we have seen during 2013 and what TechWatch & Business Innovation plans to work on for 2014. Starting with On-demand video, it is a strong consumer trend that enters more and more the industrial world. ‘Video for routing’ and ‘LiveView’ were 2 prototypes in 2013 taking a look to how this trend translates into the enterprise. No doubt that this will become a tool for our businesses, the question which remains is: how will we manage the data (make it searchable, sizable, easy of access, editable, …). On our side we are also seeing Augmented Reality as one of the enabling techs for 2014 all along the supply chain. Some first experiments are already promising and makes us believe that we should further investigate the possibilities.
Continuing with Biometrics, we’ve seen in the prototype ‘BioRec’ how employees could spare time retrieving their password but also in a near future identify themselves and log their activities and we’ll see more of that in the coming year.
We also see that Smartphone is an enabling factor in markets that used to be secluded. While earlier premium services required advanced infrastructure we saw that we could provide basic services by using only the smarpthone capabilities.
Big DataWearables3D-printingSensors Ecosystems  are also topics that we started investigating and with which we will continue exploring in 2014 together with the different business challenges that are communicating to us.

Frost & Sullivan

 

Forrester

 

Gartner

 

 

Ericsson

 

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What is Google up to do with robotics?

During a short time Google bought 8 robotics companies. There is of course a strategy behind this and not just a try out. Here is a list of the robotics companies (or maybe better “smart machines and software” companies) that they acquired:

The net is invaded of comments about why Google is doing this and the first thing that comes to my and everyone elses mind is of course Google’s self driving cars. They are robots in their own right. However, I don’t think that is the only explanation. Continue Reading →

A Gestural Interface for Smart Watches

As mentioned before, wearables is the next wave of mobile devices. One bottleneck with these things is how the handle input and output. Some devices are so simple that it doesn’t matter much but some are quite complicated and requires smart ways of both input and output interfaces. There are not so many options really. Touch screens on very small devices is not very handy. Voice and gesture interface seems to be a possible way to go. In MIT Technology Review there is an article by Rachel Metz about a new technology for gesture interfaces: A Gestural Interface for Smart Watches. The technology is called Chirp.
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Inside Dropbox’s Quest to Bury the Hard Drive – Wired

I loved Dropbox from the first time I saw it and I still love it. It’s easy and very useful. Wired has an article “Inside Dropbox’s Quest to Buy the Hard Drive“ about Dropbox’s developers conference. Drew Houston, the CEO of Dropbox, was talking about the next step for the company.

Dropbox is known for its supremely useful cloud storage service, which lets you drop files into a folder that can be accessed from any computer. But going forward, the company wants to power a new breed of syncable apps that would let you share any kind of data with anyone across any device.

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Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2014

The analyst company Gartner had their annual Symposium in Orlando in October and revealed what they think are the Top 10 strategic technology trends for 2014. Most of them are about cloud computing in one way or another but there are some other trends as well. In the long run I’m sure that, more than any of the others, “smart machines” and “3D-printing” will change our life. Find them in the bottom of the list.

Here is the list: Continue Reading →

So Far, Smart Watches Are Pretty Dumb

The next wave within mobility is supposed to be wearable devices. For instance smart watches.

Rachel Metz concludes in her article about smart watches in MIT Technology Review that these watches are not smart enough yet.

In theory, smart watches offer a smoother, more natural way of checking information than pulling out a smartphone.

Rachel feels bothered from too many features.

Their manufacturers, trying to please as many people as possible, have turned them into Swiss Army knives—neat at first, but not really fantastic at anything, and ultimately destined to be ignored or replaced by a simpler, sharper blade.

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IBM launches Ads with purpose, what about Volvo ?

While looking for inspiration for our next prototypes at Tech Watch & Business Innovation, I encountered the latest finding of IBM: their “People For Smarter Cities” campaign. For those of you who did not see it yet, you’ll find a video showing that above.
But in short: it gives city billboard-like ads a purpose. Whether it’s a ramp for the luggage, a shelter for the rain or a bench for sitting, it delivers you a message while serving a purpose.

I found the principle rather ingenious and wonder how Volvo could use similar approach. Volvo is definitely a main actor and stakeholder when it comes to contribute to “Smarter cities”. Apart for providing transport solution, it would be interesting to take the perspective of IBM’s campaign and reflect on what other purposes could we fulfill while providing our products:

  • What about trucks that display local information on their trailers (weather, traffic, news)?
  • What about construction equipment that becomes urban furniture at night (lamp post, bridge, bench, shelter)?
  • What about trucks that offer shelter on the side of its trailer (e.g. while delivering)?

 

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The first of the selected Ideas from Volvo IT’s global ideation contest 2012 is now prototyped and tested

The Idea

Started in January 2013, the prototype “App for the Yard” is one of the selected ideas in Volvo IT’s global ideation contest in 2012, posted by Attilio Zanelatto (Volvo IT – Curitiba). The “App for the Yard” idea was based on the challenge for most of the yards to locate easily where the different chassis are parked on the production yard for production of distribution purposes. It is particularly time consuming when the truck is not where it is supposed to be! It can indeed take up to several hours to find trucks through similar models and within big production yards. The idea explored in this prototype by the TechWatch & Business Innovation team was to use consumerization of IT, and particularly in this case the smartphone capabilities to achieve geolocalisation of several trucks on different yards.

The Test

After developing an android based application we were able to test the prototype in real conditions and with over 20 end users both in Curitiba and Ghent.

Results & Next Step

“The overall prototype is well received and the feedback is positive. From a technical point of view, the accuracy reached is good (between 2-5m) which enables the end users to locate the truck easily, can in some cases simplify existing processes with less movements (for keys, manual registration …) and is easily scalable compared to professional yard management solutions”, says the prototype leader Guillaume Favreau. Apart for its cost advantage, it naturally reduces the search times for trucks and could have many other applications.

Re-thinking the way we design trucks

The other day I stumbled upon this innovative design by Izhar Gafni: a bike made out cardboard (see featured image). The bike weighs 9 kg, can stand more than 200 kg and cost 9 $ to manufacture.

This got me thinking. In regards to the Volvo Group and its strong objectives such as a “revenue growth by 50% in the APAC region and 25% in Africa” it would be interesting to re-think completely the way Volvo designs its products in order to capture new market shares in emerging markets. This of course is already partially addressed today by doing what we call “reverse engineering” and “frugal innovation”. Big automotive players spend indeed part of their R&D expenses into re-thinking how to adapt product development to the bare needs of the emerging markets.

But we are quite often blinded by what we already know and low-cost commercial vehicles are still quite similar to traditional products. Why not take Gafni’s approach and take the opportunity to innovate completely on the way we design our trucks?

I guess what I’m getting at is: when will we see a Volvo “Cardboard Truck” on the roads ?

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