Brands and agencies are often seduced by new and exciting technologies, even if they don’t offer a particularly effective solution to a problem or enhance the customer’s relationship with the brand in any way. In fact, being drawn in by unnecessary bells and whistles was included in our What Not To Do Guide for 2016.
Along with virtual reality and robotics, connected devices are the most commonly hyped emerging technology that brands are keen to capitalise on, but there is frequently a lack of in-depth understanding. This is what the makers in this space bring to the table.
Josh Valman is a self-taught engineer who began his career as a creator at a young age, engaging in a series of ‘Robot Wars’-style competitions. He is now the founder and CEO of RPD International, a product design and manufacturing company which works with agencies and brands to take connected product ideas from prototype to mass production.
“These large companies are struggling to innovate at the pace smaller startups are successfully launching new products. They’re working with us to develop these new products, with the vast breadth of skills at RPD, before manufacturing up to several million units in our facilities,” he says. “By using RPD, the risk in launching a new product is greatly reduced – with small internal resource commitments and little required investment in manufacturing assets.”
There’s no such thing as a typical RPD project; the company has worked with companies in sectors ranging from FMCG to aerospace. “We like this broad industry spectrum because we like to cross-pollinate between sectors,” says business development manager Markus Perkumas. “For example, what works on airplanes might work in trains.” What each of these campaigns has in common, however, is a focus on finding the simplest and most effective way to solve a problem. “Whenever we work in technology, we try to look at a problem and find a solution, then find the technology that works for that, as opposed to implementing tech for tech’s sake,’” he says.
Vodafone Xone is a prime example. The product which RPD developed for this project was incredibly simple; a bike light which doubles as a theft alarm. The alarm is armed as soon as the owner moves a certain distance away, and if the bike is stolen, it can be tracked via an app.
Another universal problem which RPD helped a large airline solve with was how to overcome jetlag. The team ended up creating a small wearable device which issued users with alerts suggesting the best time to sleep and to eat, getting their body clocks back into the right time zone quicker.
“We like working with agencies because they know these industries and pain points really well, and we know technology,” says Perkumas. “We try to bring those together with a functional perspective.”
Then there’s the silver goose, a connected pendant RPD International designed in partnership with Mr President and Bacardi’s Grey Goose, as part of an ultra-premium loyalty scheme. The sterling silver tag was handed out to members of VIP group ‘Le Club Grey Goose’, and collected data on their beverage preferences. Then, when that customer visited an “activated” location, they would find all of their tastes had already been catered to.
So if you’re an agency trying to solve a mundane, everyday problem, or you’re a brand and you simply want to make your customer feel like the most important person in the world, a connected device could potentially play an important role. Then again, it might not be the right fit for you at all. You won’t know until you sit down with the experts.