Innovation Trends

Product News Round-up: Google, Nest, Tesla and BlackBerry

Google Makes a Move for the Home

The most discussed story in products this week was Google’s acquisition of Nest, the startup best known for its smart thermostat. The move echoes the buzz around the Internet of Things from last week’s Consumer Electronics Conference and many are seeing this acquisition as a tipping point. Google paid $3.2 billion for the company, signaling a move toward more integrated systems by Google.

Nest disrupted an industry that consumers typically didn’t spend much time thinking about (until their ongoing solution stopped working). The technology behind the thermostat wasn’t especially new; what made consumers pay attention was the integrated software, which provided a holistic, meaningful user experience. That’s the beauty of embedded systems — the software adds much more to the product than the hardware itself.

As Google invests in wearable technology, home automation and robotics, it will be interesting to see how the company integrates all the information (big data) from the Internet into the physical world. Consumers can expect to see greater integration of hardware and systems in the home in 2014 and beyond. It’s worth mentioning that this integration of hardware and software extends far beyond consumer electronics; it’s rolling out just as aggressively in the enterprise.

Tesla Rolls out the Next Generation of Recall

Speaking of disruptors, this week Tesla Motors perfectly demonstrated how its cars are changing the automotive industry. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday issued a recall notice for overheating cords and adapters; Tesla resolved the issue by issuing a software update that went into effect immediately. Because of the software embedded in the car, Tesla could resolve the matter remotely, without inconveniencing owners by making them go to a service station or be without their vehicle.

A traditional recall of that magnitude would have given automakers headaches, inconvenienced consumers or left dangerous components on the road. But this was a new kind of recall.

The potential for virtual updates has major implications for the costs and challenges of delivering products. MIT Technology Review contrasted Tesla’s recall with those issued recently by Chevrolet and GMC, noting not only the cost and convenience savings, but also the rapid impact on safety.

Disruption will be broad and the auto industry will inevitably have to adapt to change. As Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted “The word ‘recall’ needs to be recalled.”

BlackBerry Resets Expectations

Thought I’d temper all the excitement of Victor companies like Nest and Google with a bit of Victim news: Blackberry announced a deal to sell 1,000 BlackBerry 10 smartphones. At its peak, BlackBerry sold almost 7,000 phones per hour.

This is one company that didn’t embrace change. No need to say more.