This week has been quite busy with one innovation fair following one another. (Or, to be honest, in a clumsy way, causing clashes in schedules and forcing some professionals to teleport between venues to be present everywhere.)
The Innovation Tech Show featured a lineup of promising, lovely geek engineer students and tech startups, while the Innotrends 2013 offered an all-you-can-eat selection of leading local companies, R+D organisations and departments, developers, startups and “anything in between”.
Providing a highly subjective summary, let’s say some of the top trending topics and my personal thoughts and concerns from a product-market fit perspective.
1. Robotics – whether they are walking (rolling?) on the Mars, talking to visitors like an embodied Siri, or change shape like a mini Transformer made of trash.
I actually really loved this latter Rebot idea, as “it teaches children the basics of robotic technology in a cheap and entertaining way and develops a kind sensitivity for environmental issues. We can build different robots with different forms and functions using a few empty boxes or bottles (and a set of microchips and infra sensors that come in a pack – the author).”
This is actually not Rebot’s robot, but they look kinda like this – or whatever shape you create
While other projects like the Puli Mars robot obviously have a very distinctive purpose and “target segment”, I liked the Rebot idea because I can see some potential segments that could love it (of course this is just an assumption!)
– E.g. families in developed countries who are conscious about their environment and would like to secure their kids future by sending them to a wise career path (STEM fields), so they are looking for creative yet meaningful toys for their kids; geekish guys (and gals) who never really grow up; schools and maybe even kindergartens (if the kids don’t swallow the parts, ehh).
In one word, the kids that have access to the technology of the 21st century and are raised in this spirit. Even if there are still some blind spots in the (business) model, I can see some promising potential product-market fit there.
2. 3D – I haven’t actually seen 3D printers and software until now and I just had the chance to see at least 3-4 different versions.
The majority of them created plastic figurines, cups, jewellery, design objects etc. Some of them even scanned bodies to create a 3D mini sculpture of them. Some of them seemed more conscious about their planned usage in the biomed/industry scene, some of them were less articulate about it (at least on the spot, not online).
Although I fell in love with the 3D printing technology, I hope that they will build a highly scalable and sustainable business model around the ideas – I just don’t want to see them ending up like a laser-engraving stall at a mall that is coveted for half a year and then it’s just a very last resort for someone seeking a gift.
I just think it will need good segmenting, narrowing the spectre of purposes (e.g. personalised toy, customised design objects for home or the kitchen), value props and comms to maintain/nurture the potential initial hype phase within the mass consumption segment.
I really like this very niche approach by an external provider: anyone can turn into a Star Trek figurine thanks to the technology.
Also, there was Leopoly by the great Leonar3Do company, the first “plasticine application that works on all 3D and even 2D screens”. The works can even be printed with a 3D printer. I have mixed feeling about the idea – maybe it’s just the fact that it seems somewhat fun, somewhat cool, and still, who is the main target segment?
A highly exclusive and rare technology meets a front-end interface that resembles simple drawing apps or apps for kids. It may be a unique combination, but without the 3D technology accessible to masses, it really just works as a “drawing-kind-of app” (for those who are smart enough to understand its dashboard). It may actually be meant for 3D designers and professionals, but I just can’t see any distinctive positioning strategy, value propositions etc., any benefit clearly communicated and I think it would be important.
PS: I loved the cream cheese printer made by university students that printed patterns on a toast, e.g. the head of the poet József Attila. Will personalised sandwiches be the future of HoReCa?:D Whether it was a joke (prank for the expo) or not, I think it was just hilarious.
3. Eco-friendly, environmentally conscious and/or cost-effective infrastructure for building
There had been some exhibitors at Innotrends that offered bricks-and-mortar R+D solutions for buildings, e.g. special panels that make buildings earthquake-proof, solar panels and “passive house” appliances, energy efficient lights, consumption measurement systems etc.
I know it’s sort of a “trending” are when it comes to R+D…I just really hope that the market will respond to such products well – this is always the most difficult part considering that the majority of such solutions have been quite expensive for the majority of potential customers. So I think that the “cost-effective” benefit should really be emphasised (whenever it’s true).
4. Smarter traffic, smarter transportation
There had been quite many applications and systems that tried to make people’s everyday transportation easier.
– EgérÚt, a GPS-based service that suggests drivers real-time tips regarding which way is the fastest;
– TaxiLike, letting people book a taxi in a convenient, reliable way and provides smarter choice by price comparison and ratings;
– iParking that offers smart indoor navigation and parking assistance at parking buildings at malls etc., where outdoor GPS systems don’t work.
– I would also mention Drungli who set up a flexible system that inspires travelers when looking for potential flights and destinations based on mood, expectations or their own schedule.
Then there was CarCare, a project I was happy to see there. I had actually been working on the project (together with Brainexpress Innovation, an innovation marketing research company I had been employed at and still help in a freelance way some times).
Even if it was a joint project of Ericsson and Telekom, the project itself was resembling a “startup approach” in many aspects.
Our main objective back then was to
1) …involve customers in form of a co-creation approach which means that agile selected consumers participate at a brainstorming day, finding useful and relevant features and solutions together with the research and the development team. (I know some people find this approach controversial, but when it’s done RIGHT, it can be a great, inspiring experience.)
2) …ultimately, try to establish a better product-market fit by developing a positioning and service strategy around an existing technology (a diagnostics unit).
In the end, they incorporated some of the concepts, e.g. Opti Drive that helps you find the optimal driving style to drive safely and more economically, providing drivers personal feedback to establish a cost-efficient driving style with less braking, unnecessary speeding etc., a dedicated service/mechanics network etc.
Of course, I don’t say that such techniques are the ultimate recipe for success. It’s more like guidance and authentic inspiration, but there are so many other factors that influence the real market performance (usability and reliability on a tech level, pricing, just to name a few.) We will see how the market responds when it comes to real usage and rolling out.
Of course there had been many other solutions focusing on consumption areas like retail, biomed/health care etc.
On the whole, it was great to see so many ideas and people working on solutions for a better, more exciting or liveable world. I just hope they will also be able to find, attract and keep the target segments that match their solutions.