Innovation Design: New technology to transform luxury products

The Challenge

The technology inside consumer electronics often goes unnoticed by the end user. There is an expectation for products to be easily accessible, reliable and energy efficient.

Ignite Exponential has been helping a household brand to redefine their category through the implementation of a new technology that would drive a step-change in consumer experience.

Our customer wanted to understand how a given technology might revolutionise their existing product offering and the new areas where it could play and win with the technology.

The Approach

We first conducted fundamental scientific and technical research to explore how the existing technology might be used in this category for the first time. Using a combination of theoretical analysis and experimentation, we created a proof of concepts to test the technology.

Due to the complexity of the challenge, we needed to ‘pivot’ our entire technical approach at several stages to ensure it delivered on the customers’ vision and met the needs of their consumers.

This agile approach to collaboration was particularly important to our success.

The Outcome

We delivered a ‘works-like’ demonstrator representing an exciting new market opportunity for our customer and proving the possibility of the technology.

Ignite Exponential transformed this breakthrough technology opportunity into a clear proposition with known risks which the customer is now developing into a future product internally.

As well as improving performances and re-defining the category, the approach taken could have the potential to hugely reduce the overall power consumption of their products in the longer term.

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Innovation Strategy – CamelBak: How can we successfully innovate in connected products?

The Challenge

CamelBak provides a range of innovative hydration packs, backpacks, and water bottles. Its consumers know when they buy CamelBak, they are purchasing a durable, high-quality product, but after purchase they may not interact with the brand for several more years.

Consumers are increasingly using digital technologies such as smart watches, phones, and apps to manage their lives. CamelBak has previously embarked on a few digital technology projects but has encountered a range of challenges in successfully developing connected products.

CamelBak wanted to understand how other natively ‘physical’ product companies successfully made the transition to complementary connected offerings; and how it should structure and guide its own innovation in connected products.

The Approach

Through an Ignite Exponential Learning Exchange, we brought CamelBak’s senior R&D and Product Management team together with experienced corporate innovation leaders from our network who have successfully navigated similar challenges in their own industries.

We screened more than 100 companies to shortlist those from whom CamelBak could learn the most. We set up virtual meetings, briefed the participants, and moderated the discussions translating insights between industries and sharing our own experience.

After the meetings we helped CamelBak distill what we learned through collaborative virtual workshops and to build a strategic framework for innovating in connected devices, and for transitioning from a physical to ‘digitally connected’ organization.

The Outcome

Our approach allowed CamelBak to learn about the technical and commercial capabilities it would need, as well as the impact of ‘soft’ factors such as partnership, purpose, and organizational culture. By drawing directly on the real-world experience of non-competing leaders it was able to build its confidence and internal alignment in a strategy for future connected products. The programme also created a rich network of cross-industry peers that can provide partnership to CamelBak long after the meetings.

CamelBak’s Director of R&D said, “The Learning Exchange process really helped us to recognize the value of partnership. It was like being able to see the future – by learning from these other companies we could see the challenges we’d face and what it would take to succeed before we started our journey. Without doubt, the project goal was met and this is now one of the biggest opportunities we have as a brand.”

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Test System for 5g Broadband

The Challenge

We worked with a broadband company that is developing an ecosystem of products designed to simplify and improve our connected lives. At the centre of this is a proprietary 5G mmWave technology that offers customers high-speed broadband access, the vital ‘last mile’ delivery stage for any broadband provider. Testing this technology at mm-Wave frequencies in mass production takes fresh thinking. Connected ports are not desirable for multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) devices at mmWave frequencies, so a radiated test setup is required. This is the conventional way for laboratory testing, but when you have a mass-produced product, creating a high volume, automated test setup is no mean feat.

The Approach

Plextek built a series of custom anechoic chambers and an automated over the air test system that could confirm correct operation of our customer’s proprietary 5G protocol.

We worked closely with our client’s technical team, adapting the test station as the product evolved during NPI (New Product Introduction). All systems were built in the UK and deployed to sites in the US.

The Outcome

Plextek helped our customer to commission and manufacture a comprehensive test system to support the mass testing of their multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) devices, which operate at mmWave frequencies. This was done using a radiated test setup. Plextek’s test chambers were deployed on-time to meet an aggressive production schedule allowing full over the air test coverage of an NPI product. Our customer subsequently adopted a similar system for their regression testing, as part of a continuous development pipeline process.

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Vehicle Asset Management System

The Challenge

Vehicle Asset Management System (VAM) products enable efficient management of vehicular fleets (e.g. fleets, emergency services and heavy equipment/machinery) and offer driver-behaviour monitoring for the vehicle insurance markets. This is achieved through incorporating cellular modems and GPS modules, both of which require antennas to function effectively.

There is often enormous market pressure to reduce the size of products of this kind, for example, so they can fit into a cramped location in the vehicle. This can transform the development of the antenna system from a straightforward integration of individual designs, focussed on particular frequency bands, to a highly complex custom development. Each antenna interacts strongly with other antennas and with components of the product (PCB, battery etc). In many ways, it can be said that the entire product becomes the antenna. Plextek began working on this technology in 1993 and since the initial brief works with multiple clients in this area through our spinout business Redtail Telematics.

The Approach

Fortunately, we have the ability to model the electromagnetics of the entire product, allowing us to predict the impact of design changes and reduce the need to iterate. The antenna design process used by Plextek also takes account of the VAM product placement in the vehicle and, in particular, consideration of materials close to the VAM unit that might affect the performance of the antenna system.

The VAM product uses a custom designed a multiband-band cellular antenna, integrated onto a PCB substrate together with a custom GPS antenna. This solution exceeds the performance requirements set out in the standards, resulting in a lower product cost than the equivalent COTS antennas and allows integration into a tiny product package.  Plextek is responsible for the design and manufacture of the Redtail Telematics range of Vehicle Asset Management (VAM) products.

The Outcome

In 2015, Plextek Ltd formally spun out Redtail Telematics, which provides turnkey vehicle telematics services to the fleet management and automotive insurance markets. Since 1993, Redtail have shipped more than six million tracking devices into line fit and aftermarket vehicles for stolen vehicle recovery. Redtail’s expertise in working collaboratively to answer challenging questions directs our efforts in working with OEMs to fulfil the potential of the connected vehicle, from line fit vehicle tracking with Mercedes Benz, through golf-cart battery health with Columbia Vehicle, to pothole detection with Jaguar Land Rover & Synaptiv.

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Intelligent Mobility

The Challenge

Autonomous vehicles must be capable of sensing their environment, including moving objects and people, so that they can move safely with little to no human input or risk. The de-risking exercise involves testing and validation using real life scenarios in a controlled environment. The health of the decisions taken by the vehicles on-board systems need to be validated by external sources of information.

Cranfield University’s on campus test road equipped with Cameras and Lidars provides that environment. However, these external sources have limitations that needed complementary solutions to enhance the data set required for decision making.

In pursuit of achieving the next level of vehicle autonomy, Plextek assisted Cranfield University in its £1.2 million pound HumanDrive Connected and Autonomous Vehicle project. The aim of which was to test and validate the full autonomy of a vehicle as it completes an end-to-end journey.

The Approach

Plextek provided Cranfield University with 12 electronic-scanning radars to form a robust testing process for their advanced vehicle control system. Compact and low power consumption, the radars were spaced along the University’s “smart road” to detect and localise vehicles, unmanned aerial systems and people from up to 120 metres, providing vital data for the project.

The advanced vehicle control system, designed to emulate a ‘natural’ human driving style using machine learning and artificial intelligence, was challenged in a variety of environments and weather conditions. Situations that would test the ability of a human driver were simulated, including densely populated sidewalks and navigating roads with low visibility, such as rain and darkness. The data provided by radars installed on the test road was used to test and validate the decisions made by autonomous vehicles.

The Outcome

In late 2019, HumanDrive will complete a complex real-world journey that is both driverless and human-like for other road users.

The autonomous vehicle will perform a 200+ mile route across the UK through country roads, A-roads, traffic junctions and motorways.

This marks a pivotal point for the successful deployment of an autonomous vehicle solution in the UK. https://humandrive.co.uk/

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