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Product Design and Smart Technology

Smart technologies are starting to get added to every sort of product imaginable – from our well known smart phones and watches, to lesser known applications such as tennis racquets and whiskey bottles. Here at Bayly, we’ve been thinking about them a lot recently, having just worked on The AirBolt.

As we approach the possibility of our homes, factories and offices being filled with a network of products that all work together, as product designers, we are faced with how we can adopt these technologies, and use them to better our businesses and products.

What are smart technologies?

First we have to understand what makes this technology “smart”. There are three core components that make up a smart technology.

First and foremost is a smart component. This can be a sensor or processor, a kind of data storage, or other software. This is embedded in the product, and can usually be accessed through a simple user interface, or app.

Second is a connectivity component. Smart technologies are able to be connected to networks or other devices, usually through wireless communication. This allows them to be controlled remotely, or send information to other products that they work with.

The final part is a physical component. This is the electrical part of the product, that provides power for the smart technology to work. Designs often have to be reworked to fit these pieces in, and often need new materials to be introduced to the product.


The Rise of the Smart Product Economy

What makes a smart product smart isn’t too difficult to get a grasp on, but it’s much harder to see how they will be shaping the industry as they become more and more popular.

Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work, in collaboration with The Economist surveyed over 200 professionals in the product design industry about their thoughts on smart products.

The survey showed that most think the big areas of smart development will be in industrial equipment, packaging, and home devices.

While people suggested industrial smart devices would predict failure and respond to unexpected changes, home devices seem to be more focused on a network of products that respond to each other and change as are needed. Things like security systems, lighting, and entertainment devices that automatically adjust based on patterns or set limitations, or even appliances that automatically detect when food is cooked, or spoiled.

The survey also showed that the majority of professionals are interested in smart technologies as a way to introduce completely new products to the market, and to create a direct relationship with customers. Interestingly, the lowest percentage of responders considered improving the customer’s experience to be a high priority. Similarly, those surveyed mostly wanted to use data collected by smart devices to automate customer service, while the fewest wanted to improve customer service.


What does this mean for you?

  • Candidates for smart products are anything that has an on / off switch.
  • It’s important to consider a smart product strategy when designing your new products.
  • It’s becoming more affordable to implement smart technologies, Low Energy Bluetooth combined wireless / processor chips cost less than $2 and adding a wifi transmitter / receiver is not much more.
  • Consider how to approach new designs with these smart technologies in mind. Look for places you can innovate in, especially ways that the consumer will be aware of.
  • Engage with and communicate with your customers early, and use their input to gauge their interest in your ideas.
  • Be flexible and experimental in your design process and business, as the focus may shift further from the actual product to the data it collects, and how it collects it. Bayly is using a collection of off the shelf components that allow customers to create quick and dirty systems which can be used to collect data for analysis, to test systems and an opportunity to learn how the data might be used for innovative business processes.  We will be sharing more news on these systems in future articles.

You can read “The Rise of the Smart Product Economy” online here.

If you’re interested in discussing the potential smart technologies have for your product, or want to talk about setting up a trial to collect some data, please contact our Product Design team in Melbourne on +613 9413 9000 or email Mark at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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