Product Innovation Trends

How innovation is transforming hardware design

Sensors, connectivity, and small-batch production are accelerating product evolution

Software is driving product design, which is in turn disrupting manufacturing practices, and inspiring commoditized parts makers to become data connectivity service providers. We see this in multiple sectors, from traditional industrial companies to consumer electronics to manufactured durable goods. The source of the ideas that spawn these innovations–the developers, designers and entrepreneurs found in software startups–are now drawn into the broader product design ecosystem, including hardware design for large established companies such as GE, Jaguar, and Intel.

In the spirit of sharing the stories that inspire us, we’ve gathered up the following articles that illustrate these innovations and how they’re transforming not only the product development process, but also the very companies who make them.

Digital Driving Innovation and Design” by Marco Iansiti and Karim R. Lakhani

“The paradigm is not displacement and replacement but connectivity and recombination.”

In 2011, faced with increased competition and the threat of commoditization, GE launched its Industrial Internet of Things initiative, which ultimately transformed the entire 113-year-old company. For GE, the game-changer came with an internal software initiative, Predix, that enabled the machines GE builds to connect and share data, learn from historical data, and provide predictive information to prevent unplanned downtime and improve efficiency.

OEMs Driving Design” by Ann Steffora Mutschler,

“And while it doesn’t necessarily make hardware any less valuable — semiconductors are at the center of every major development and shift in technology — it does affect ecosystems for everything from IoT appliances to consumer electronics to automotive subsystems, and the underlying IP and design strategies that are used to create them.”

Systems companies used to design products based on the availability and capabilities of chips. As customer requests became more individualized, chip manufacturers adapted to quickly, trying to cover all their bases by turning on or off capabilities as required. Today, systems companies are driving the capabilities of chips–and sometimes making the chips themselves.

Hardware Incubators Are Critical To The Future Of Making Things” by Mike Geyer, Techcrunch

At the bleeding edge of product innovation, is hardware the new software? Techcrunch points to hardware design incubators that are influencing established software companies and even changing the way they design and manufacture products.

“Hardware is hot — and poised to get hotter. Venture capital investment in connected device hardware startups reached approximately $1.48 billion in 2014, more than triple the amount of two years earlier. In the last year, however, the number [of incubators] has grown from single digits to upwards of two dozen in the U.S. alone. Europe and Asia are joining the fray, as well, with stand-out shops like Unternemertum and in Germany, and DMM in Japan.”