25
Jun

Changing Tides in IoT New Product Development

By Lucas Lowden
Research Director

In early February 2018, I was lucky enough to embark on what many might consider the trip of a lifetime.

My wife and I, along with three other couples, arranged a bareboat charter to sail around the Abaco Islands in the northeast Bahamas for eight days and seven nights. The chartered 40’ catamaran was our “home” for the subsequent week’s adventure of going somewhere new and different each day.

If you are considering taking a trip like this, I can’t recommend it enough. As Nike says – just do it!

Back home, and finally remembering what I did for my day job, came a realization.

My sailing trip parallels well with the development of innovative solutions here at Morpace, and the lessons we continue to learn in the product development process:

  1. Find someone to captain the ship in unfamiliar territory
  2. Focus first, then iterate development so you don’t end up marooned at sea
  3. Don’t let rough seas deter your development – embrace a flexible and adaptive mindset that comes with new adventures

My focus over the last 18 months has been facilitating a cross-functional team to develop big data and IoT capabilities within Morpace – specifically, our first-ever commercially-released mobile application, DataDialogue™|Pulse. This app takes our knowledge of commercial fleets and their business purpose as well as our experience working with telematics data to provide fleet professionals with an easy-to-use mobile app designed to prioritize performance issues adversely impacting profitability.
With data management and analytics in our marketing research DNA, that sounds pretty straightforward, right? Hardly. It has required deep internal engagements, a lot of perspective, and some key partnerships along the way.

  1. In any new venture, it is paramount to be strategic in your pursuits, working closely with partners, as needed.

Seems like a no-brainer, but it is not always easy. This requires you and your team to be completely honest with yourselves—taking a good, hard look in the mirror. The key is to play to your strengths and find partners to supplement you where needed.

In my boating analogy, a friend in the group is a certified and licensed captain, so we were not required to hire a captain or crew. With the captain in place, the other seven of us were the de facto crew. While this was our second trip as a group, we still leaned on his expertise to navigate us safely through the sea. Who knows where we would have ended up if I was captain of that ship.

As we’ve built DataDialogue|Pulse, there are skills and workflows required that are not necessarily the forte of a traditional marketing research company. After some internal cross-functional efforts and debate, we partnered and consulted with a Michigan-based fleet, data scientist, and application development agency (among others) to supplement our product development process with their deeper subject matter expertise.

We see this in today’s changing automotive landscape as well. OEMs are acquiring or partnering within the mobility and autonomy ecosystems with focused start-ups in hopes of getting a leg up in the race to establish a presence in this emerging space. Generally, the more narrowly-focused start-ups lend a much deeper, specific expertise to the broader-focused OEM.

  1. You want to start with the end in mind. Develop a solution that delivers the minimum acceptable level of value and iterate solutions from there.

Especially in today’s tech-centric approach to development, you must begin with a vision for a minimum viable product – a set of features and content that is essential to the success of the product or service. From there, you can plan for more detailed development around expansion in future iterations.

This also requires you to acknowledge selecting tools that work best for your problem/solution, and not vice versa. For example, we built the proof of concept within Microsoft’s PowerBI offering. This worked quite well for that stage of development, however, we ultimately opted for a custom app build to deliver the long-term scalable solution.

Our trip began and ended at the same marina, so we planned an overall course to achieve this. We certainly couldn’t stray hundreds of miles into the open ocean -after all, we had to end back where we started. This required deciding which islands and cays would best fit into a desirable route. Lastly, we decided on the specifics of choosing which islands and activities we wanted to enjoy.

  1. Despite all the planning in the world, your development process will ebb and flow. In the face of it, you will forge ahead even better if you remain flexible.

Doing so requires an adaptive mindset. Seas and weather change, much as does the business environment. You have to constantly assess your situation for disruption or, if you’re lucky, opportunity. Things do not always go as planned, so you need to be able to think quickly, improvise strategically, and move on.

Fortunately in sailing, if the weather becomes prohibitive, there isn’t much of an option than to stay put and ride it out. In business, that generally isn’t the best strategy. Many times, it may require reversing some decisions or work completed to get back onto the best path of development. Do not be discouraged by setbacks; rather, embrace them and learn from them. Sometimes, small setbacks can be the catalyst for an even better strategy.

In our app, we had assumed a relationship of one fleet manager to one fleet business. We quickly learned that one fleet manager may oversee multiple business lines. This dynamic forced our hand to allow for one user to profile multiple fleets’ data sets. While it was a step back in development, it also gave us a more scalable and robust solution in the long run.

As inspiration to you on your path to new product development, I share a handful of adages that ring true for us on our path to developing DataDialogue|Pulse:

  • Be a trailblazer, take the road less traveled
  • If it was easy, everyone would be doing it
  • Take calculated risks – nothing ventured, nothing gained
  • Embrace the opportunity to learn and grow, but fail fast
  • Enjoy the ride – it’s about the journey as well as the destination

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for dedicating your valuable time. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss our new product development journey, more details about my sailing adventure, or to tell me how much you love/hate my blog at llowden@morpace.com.

And don’t forget to pay attention for more news from Morpace and the upcoming release of the DataDialogue|Pulse v1.0 mobile app!

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11
Dec

The IoT Frontier: As Seen In Trade Shows

By Lucas Lowden, Research Director

As professionals, we often hear about expanding our horizons. How frequently do we actually do so? In reality, not very often. We get comfortable, and, we are experts at what we do anyway, right?

Commercial Vehicles. Fleets. Construction Equipment. I’ve done plenty of research projects with these professionals.

Big Data. Internet of Things. I’ve heard plenty about these concepts, and do work with a lot of data.

Now put all those ingredients into a pot and distill them into something useful for professionals in those industries?  That’s a different kind of problem. It requires new tools. New skills. A new way of thinking. A new understanding.

Truthfully, everyone’s reality is different and being made uncomfortable is not easy for most.

The last two years of my career have been a whirlwind of discomfort for me. And I’ve loved every minute of it. Learning, growing, helping – each in parallel with teammates and partners alike. In establishing a data-driven mindset we’ve embraced a new way of thinking to get to a new understanding. It’s been incredible!

It’s now late into 2017, and I recently attended the North American Commercial Vehicle Show, NTEA Executive Leadership Summit, and EquipmentWatch’s Traction 2017 show.

Interacting with fleet and equipment professionals at the trade shows forced me to personally broaden my horizons, and embrace the pain points that may make those professionals uncomfortable. I quickly realized that my reality as a Market Research professional differs greatly from that of a Fleet Manager or an Equipment Manager.

Which brings me to the first theme that became apparent to me.

Theme 1: Big Data Is A Big Deal, Getting Bigger With IoT

Let’s start with something that most industries in existence are familiar with – Data. Data. Data.

Data has long been available from an enterprise perspective – financial data, employee data, customer data, and transaction data, among others. Most have utilized each source of data independently for their own practical, everyday needs. Some have integrated the data for a broader application.

Operational data is becoming much more prevalent today – passive data coming in from sensors integrated with all types of equipment and applications used to conduct our everyday business and in our personal lives.

With the IoT I expect the growth curve of data to be an exponential factor the likes of which we may have never seen before. I’ve heard the term 4th Industrial Revolution thrown about. I’m not totally sold on that scope just yet, but it seems more possible than not from my perspective.

Getting the data is often not terribly difficult. Making sense of it is slightly more difficult. Harnessing the power held in these disparate data sources? Broad success stories are far and few between.

So how do we get past this hurdle?

Theme 2: Integration Is Key

Everyone has data. Few have truly harnessed the power of integrating their data to the extent it could be today.

To use an example from a long haul transportation perspective, integrating truck telematics data can give you the amount of fuel burned while a tractor is idling. Layer contextual feedback from a driver survey to understand the idle situation to deem an idle event necessary or unnecessary from a business perspective. Lastly layering that with fuel spend, and you can see how much money lost due to unnecessary idling.

There are lots of high quality solutions in the burgeoning market that provide services around the IOT ecosystem – telematics hardware, internal/external CRM, database architecture, reporting dashboards. As of yet, not many have fully embraced data integration.

That doesn’t even get into what I feel like is the next technology wave of data integration– blockchain. That’s a whole topic in its own right, so will save this for a later post.

For small to midsize organizations this highlights a challenge – they often don’t have the time available or skill set needed to integrate their own data across platforms.

Ultimately, baby steps are critical to integration efforts. Partner. Discuss. Get smarter. Get better. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Integration of data and systems is a natural progression to the final theme.

Theme 3: Any IoT Solution Has To Be Easy To Use

The integration of data at the business level leads to a “what’s next?” question of sorts.

Sometimes, a reporting dashboard can be a solution. For others, it’s an app delivering their data and insights.

Any solution in this space needs to be data-driven and actionable to be most useful and effective for industry executives.

It also needs to be simple and easy to use. Time is money.  Difficult to use and hard to understand solutions cost a company more time and more money.

Currently I’m contributing to a data-driven solution that delivers descriptive dashboards and actionable light-prescriptive reports that, with ongoing interaction, can develop into full predictive and prescriptive systems.

From my perspective, full prescriptive and predictive analytics come with nothing more than time and data pumped into the appropriate systems. Those claiming the ability to do so already are quite far ahead of the curve.

Recap & Conclusion

To work through these steps requires some keen self-awareness and the desire to embrace a data-driven decision making approach around business and competitive intelligence.

In each case, we get there one way – by data.

New technologies are allowing data to be brought in, analyzed, and presented to stakeholders in ways never before imagined.

Doing so represents a whole new batch of challenges at the same time.

Do we have the time? Do we have the people? Do we have the money?

Yes. Yes. Yes. You have to.

If you answer “yes” to all the above then you’re golden. If you don’t answer “yes, I do internally” to all the above that’s ok too. One way to shorten your timeline is to say “yes, I do by partnerships”.

The risk of not saying “yes” and taking action in this new frontier is potentially greater than taking action and failing, but still learning along the way.

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8
Nov

Tactics For Humanizing Data From Connected Devices and IoT To Drive Business Outcomes

By Lucas Lowden, Research Director

Connected devices. Automation. Machine learning. Artificial intelligence.

Just a few short years ago, we would’ve thought we were watching a science fiction movie.

There is much discussion around these technologies – and for good reason! Each are critical components of scalable Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

Today, it is the reality of our day jobs. With the support of various functions across the organization, we are actively establishing Morpace’s thought leadership and positioning for what we believe will be the future of the market research industry.

In support of these technologies, the importance of the human element should not be discounted.

There are numerous human interactions that provide crucial inputs to enable successful automation of machine processes. Doing so allows for a broader understanding and application of big data to produce actionable insights for business outcomes.

With several years growing in this space, we have developed a passion about leveraging big data and IoT systems. We have also realized the importance of Big Context – the intersection of man and machine that layers contextual understanding and lends business meaning to these massive data systems.

Are you leveraging Big Context in your business? Are you finding the humanity within your organization’s data?

Join the Strategists on Morpace’s Growth & Innovation Team – Jason Mantel (Sr. VP), Dania Rich-Spencer (VP), and myself, Lucas Lowden (Research Director) – for our webinar from Qualtrics’ Experience Week, Big Context: Humanizing Big Data From Connected Devices” and learn about tactics for driving positive business outcomes. To sign up and view our webinar, click here.

In the webinar, we explore the tenants of Big Context and how we have proven the importance of the human element and answering the question “Why?” for an automotive manufacturer and a transportation & logistics fleet.

We encourage you to reach out to us directly for any questions or further discussion around humanizing your organizations’ data at information@morpace.com.

 

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22
Apr

The Connected Car and Consumer Privacy

The Connected Car and Consumer PrivacyBy: Andrew Fixler, Senior Project Director

On March 21st during the keynote address of the Apple Event, CEO Tim Cook reaffirmed the company’s commitment to privacy. Early in his speech he addressed Apple customers directly, saying, “We believe strongly that we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and protect your privacy.”

Leaving the legal analysis to others, consumer satisfaction is more in our line of work as researchers. In our studies relating to the appeal of new features for vehicle makes and models that will be available in the future, consumer feedback demonstrates a clear demand to enhance connectivity. If phones are our new personal assistants and keepers of our secrets, automobiles are increasingly becoming our mobile offices and logistics coordinators.

Current telematics tools with direct relevance to the automotive industry include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However, to further increase safety and convenience, automotive manufacturers and suppliers are now preparing for a future where all vehicles are connected to each other, along with the infrastructure that surrounds them. Privacy becomes even more complex if future users feel they should control the information that connects to vehicles from car sharing services like ZipCar or Uber.

Knowing that connected cars are here to stay, how should automakers deal with their customers’ need for in-vehicle security, privacy, and encryption? As of now, automakers are actively seeking ways to keep vehicle software safe from hacking. Developing a comprehensive privacy policy may be the next logical step.

Recent news of the collegial agreement between 20 automakers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to make autonomous emergency braking standard by 2022 proves that creating industry guidelines for new technology is possible. This process may be a model for the development of best practices for privacy and connectivity in automobiles, aligning the interests of all stakeholders.

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