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June 12, 2015

Emakina / Things: Welcome to the next level of connected objects

Posted by Luc Malcorps

We asked Michael Totta, Head of Emakina / Things, well, “How are things?”.
His answer was a stream of ideas and insights,
energetically introducing his business of connected objects.

MTO: “The team works at the frontier of new technology, where creativity and digital meet innovation. From smart homes, cars, and other means of transport to drones, and wearables, connected objects are taking main stage in the industry.”

Oculus

 

The next game changer

Smart products are the next great game changer, like the iPhone was not so long-ago. That move brought screens to our pockets and wrists, eclipsing desktop dominance. Once more, we are witnessing a revolution, and every major tech company joins the race for the Internet of Things. We are moving even closer to the consumer, with digital becoming part of our tools and toys, clothes, jewels, glasses, and even in ‘digestible objects’.

On average, a person uses two connected objects. Experts see this number rising quickly, increasing to 10, 20 or more in the near future. The estimated speed and omnipresence depends from one expert to the next, and varies with their mood and state of excitement…

At the latest CES event, it was clear that the industry is now well beyond the hype. It is amazing how varied and inventive this new world already is. The Las Vegas digital high mass was flooded with connected objects. Monitors for sleeping babies, teddy bears with health sensors, smart light bulbs, intelligent pet feeders, self-watering flowerpots, smart toothbrushes, and many more.

CES_Interactive_WallImage: CES

MTO: “It’s interesting that innovations don’t always have to be highly complicated. Some combine a clever concept with easily available components and geek skills, and a new connected object is ready to seduce the consumer.”

Of course Michael Totta is enthusiastic, but he also warns against the ‘gadget approach’. “The effort must keep balance with the potential results. It is best to think of real value, and then take sensible steps forward. If you want to plant a tree, plant a tree. You do not necessarily need a drone to help you do that. It is not because we can, that it automatically makes sense or will please the customer.”

MTO: “Connected objects can also be part of an organization’s digital transformation. They can make companies more relevant, literally connecting them with their audiences. The Internet of Things offers a key opportunity to reach new goals, building rich experiences and boosting customer engagement. People will become even more ‘tuned in’ than today, on multiple (literal) touch points, intelligent and interactive.”

TeddyTheGuardian Image: Teddy The Guardiuan, the first smart teddy bear on the market

Emakina / Things helps to navigate more clearly through this expanding mass of dreams and opportunities. It separates fact from fiction, and guides clients towards real feasible, and doable solutions, with added value for their target audiences. We integrate solutions into ecosystems of applications and products.

MTO: “Our mission is to guide our clients towards the right choices, with appropriate answers specifically tuned to their business. Besides sharing ideas and insights, the team also helps to prototype these future connected objects and/or to interface them with their new application program interfaces.“

Emakina today works on several confidential projects, mostly in the concept and prototype stages.


Reinventing packaging

MTO: “One vast domain of activity is the world of connected packaging. It allows for improved quality control, automatically checking the conditions of use, such as storage and consumption temperatures. Consumer engagement will also change and surpass simple impressions.”

Product packaging can be linked with store displays, interactive screens, and full-blown 3D user experiences. The package also becomes a sender, from up-close with RFID radio frequency identification, over low-energy consuming near field communication to blue tooth for somewhat longer distances.

Simple actions with connected objects can trigger massive data collection and personalized consumer responses.

The frequency and timing of opening packages can be recorded, and packages can send signals to each other. Extra sensors can monitor temperature, light, etc. This may seem trivial but it truly is a marketer’s dream. Smart packages will learn if the product meets customers’ needs, when and how they are used, and even fight counterfeit products. It is also the fast track to designing new forms of clever interaction. When you open up a package, you could receive a warning when it is past its consumption date, or a digital voucher for a free gift, a token for participation in a contest, bonus points linked to your user identity, or access to a VIP event near you.

Misfit smart lampImage: misfit Bolt smart lamp

We are creating ‘The living room’

MTO: “The ‘living room’, as in a room responding to our needs and actions, is progressing from science fiction to (connected) reality. Emakina was already an early adapter in the field, with its award winning Electrabel projects for connected spark plugs and smart thermostats, and the energy manager app suite. We are moving forward on new confidential projects for several clients in this environment. Our desk research and creative concepts are already leading to first prototypes. Opportunities range from magic mirrors (Who is the fairest in the land?) to voice controlled kitchenware, interactive and virtual reality screens, and digital bathroom health coaches wishing you a good morning. This is a wave towards tangible and straightforward solutions, making life easier and more pleasant.

Emakina is fully operational in creating connected objects.
We deliver concepts and prototypes, validate market potential, and tweak product software and hardware.

Research and development, it’s a way of life

The field is constantly evolving. So naturally, the team invests in desk and field research, and meets with potential service providers and partners. We meet with expert teams specialized in tracking and reporting of connected objects, interface wizards, hardware producers for both small scale and mass production.

MTO: “Our interventions vary from more basic work like creating 3D printed draft objects for interface testing, to high tech ‘on the edge’ productions, at the frontier between invention and application. To be able to do this, we constantly buy and try out new tools, such as electronics from Arduino, and Little Bits, controllers and sensors. Thus helps us to crystallize ideas and shape future projects and objects.”

“We also work closely together with Emakina / Insights, our market research experts. The changing lifestyle, interests and values of customers are part of the exercise to know where to go next. It is very valuable to have a clear view on consumers’ interests from the start, and to be able to adapt the product to the way people respond to the new solution.”

So, how are things? Things are great.

And they are moving at fast pace to new exciting ventures for Emakina’s clients, in various domains, from packaging to the home environment and automotive. In this new world, massive data on consumer behavior will be a valuable currency. Not only what but also how people do things will be at the centre of experience marketing.

Michael TottaImage ©DYOD

Michaël Totta is Head of Emakina / Applications and Emakina / Things.

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