Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Technology in Bathing Soap?

This post is on a lighter note, but definitely has a technology perspective and caught my attention recently.

Hindustan Unilever, a reputed FMCG company recently conducted a market research in a village in India. The intent was to collect the usage patterns of their famous product - Lifebuoy - a bathing soap. As part of the study, a small microchip was planted inside the soap and they were distributed to selective set of participants who signed-up for the research. From technical perspective, the microchip was based on motion-sensor that captures the data when the soap essentially 'moves' when used by the customers. After the study, the chip would be shared with the company to assess the customer usage patterns. It was a brilliant idea!. This idea reminds me lots of interesting opportunities/ideas in Enterprise IT space. (for example - potential in remote infrastructure management?)

Now there ends the tech story. What would happen if the same soap falls into the hands of customers who are totally unaware of the presence of the chip and then they eventually find out the same?. - Panic :-). Yes, thatz what happened. When few customers found the presence of the chip, they mistook it for a hidden camera and that led to confusion. Later the company had to step in to clarify the actual situation. Innovation boomerangs! :-)

Mining Hidden Gems!

Have you ever heard of a non-human receiving a patent?. By Non-human, I mean a robot kind of application. Yes, thats true. HP's auto-innovation achieved the same. HP calls it as 'Genetic-Programming'. The idea is an application could analyze the 'genes' of earlier inventions and point to evolutionary advances. Thats interesting!.

In any organization, there are plenty of creative ideas, suggestions, initiatives always flow thru. only few of them sustain, rest of everything gets abandoned or goes unnoticed. If the organization does not have a formal way of capturing those ideas/suggestions, then there are chances that people are re-inventing the wheel again for persistent problems. The question is, Can the past knowledge help in determing or predicting the future?. Can a software application help mining those ideas and recommend suitable directions?. And HP claims to have an answer.

Am sure there are chances of looking at false positives!. But the brighter side is that it would help analyzing the existing data for useful patterns, relationships and understanding its impact in the future. For me, it looks to me its an application of Predictive analytics in the Innovation space. HP claims that it uses the concept to streamline their supply chain and come out with new ways of predicting future sales.

I believe the concept/idea is applicable across variety of domains within the enterprise, especially in the area of Idea/Innovation Management.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Innovation from Coca-Cola!

This is outstanding!.

When I first time read this newsbit, I was thinking it sounded like a 'Telematics' solution.
The idea is simple. Coke is introducing a 'freestyle' wending machine this summer. Using this machine, the customer will be able to pick and choose the flavor/colories/water of his choice and make a beverage using a touch screen interface.

Ok, so, what is so Techie about it?. Here comes, the vending machine transmits the customer choices using a verizon uplink to Coke's data center and updates the choice information in SAP and Business Warehouse. The vast amount of choice information getting uploaded to the warehouse can give unique insights into Coke's next product of choice. That's innovation!.

The presss release says Coke has been designing this machine for the last four years. And some of the technology used are RFID (for flavor dispensors), Microsoft Windows, and SAP BW with Verizon Data services.

This is an excellent case of work where the company tries to co-create its future product by working along with its own customers, not in isolation. Apart from giving insights to future product design, the data can also lead to other obvious benefits such as stock replenishment, regional preferences. It can also potentially make healthy recommendations and customized offers.