When you have an idea for a new product, you might not know where to start. Well, many new businesses are taking advantage of big data to optimize that product idea. Global data has made enormous leaps in just under a decade. While designers once used a smaller set of structured, internal data to make decisions, the boundaries have expanded exponentially. Access to data from a variety of sources is now available at volumes that previously would have been unimaginable. One of the most exciting applications of big data in the innovation and design of new products. Here is how big data is transforming product design across nearly every industry.
Leveraging Big Data
There’s no sense in developing products if there is no demand for them in the marketplace. Now more than ever before, vast amounts of data allow companies to study narrow segments of customers and to precisely tailor new products to their needs. Big data isn’t just about the volume of data but also about the velocity. Studies of markets and consumers can be accomplished at lightning speed, giving companies the targeted direction needed for their next generation of products.
Creating Value with Big Data
Combining separate pools of data allows companies and agencies to develop systems that add value to consumers at an unprecedented rate. GPS technology, now available in most smart phones, has allowed the invention of real-time traffic applications and the use of smart routing. This same principle of data sharing could have massive potential for other industries. It has been estimated that the U.S. healthcare system could create more than $300 billion in annual value and an 8% reduction in healthcare expenditures by sharing data.
Companies Using Big Data for Product Design
Using big data for design isn’t just a futuristic idea. It is happening now with increasing frequency, and some of the products designed with the aid of big data may already be in your possession as you read this. For example, using observations gleaned from big data related to fuel economy and emissions, the Ford Motor Company re-designed its 2015 F-150 to be 700lbs lighter than previous models. The company’s core research groups were able to make use of aluminum alloy components, similar to aerospace and military materials. Not only are these materials lighter, but they are also stronger, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly. A recent article in The Guardian summarized the striking impact of these developments.
“The data analytics also enable Ford to find the optimal mix of vehicles (gasoline, hybrid, electric, hydrogen, etc) to maximize profits today and decades to come. Because of the sheer number of F-150 trucks sold – over 760,000 in 2013 – the aluminum technology may have a far greater impact on the environment than Ford’s electric vehicles.”
Nike is another company that has used big data, or what it calls “smart data”, to improve its products and enhance their commitment to sustainability. The company has a goal of separating its growth from the continued use of constrained resources like fossil fuels. Smart data analysis was able to help them develop their new Flyknit shoes, which both reduced manufacturing waste and used a color-free dyeing method called ColorDry.
GE uses big data as a means to improve on its already successful wind turbine business. Their new system collects wind data, which is fed into an algorithm that determines what is needed in order for the product to improve performance. While these self-improving products are fascinating, it gets better. This data is also communicated to all of the other wind turbines in the fleet so that performance can be improved across the board.
In an age where innovation is necessary to remain competitive, big data has given companies the tools gain insights and leverage mass amounts of information like never before. Finding new customers to design for and creating additional value are just a few of the ways that big data is being used in product design today.