Design 1st Blog


The Secret Ingredient to Successful IoT Devices

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Kevin Baily, President at Design 1st attended CES 2017 last week and shares his perspective on the secret to the success of an IOT product.

It’s ease of use.

CES 2017 was an exciting mix of IOT hardware products tethered to their companion cloud and phone applications.

Many products were sophisticated prototypes with a product ready look, each booth beckoning you to try out their new features.  Audio interfaces are the new buzz.  However, at the show they were spotty with Amazon Alexa cloud platform and echo hardware devices struggling in the Wi-Fi saturated and noisy crowd environment.

With 3D prototyping exploding and investors providing a variety of funding models, a new generation of creative thinkers displayed their design talents.  This year’s show screamed of connected everything.  Truly a hardware heaven of wireless gadgets.  Drone fun, Virtual Reality goggles, robots, home monitoring and body electronics options were in abundance.

There was an entire floor with a thousand startup teams, set up like a science fair.  The exhibitors displayed product and ideas in various stages of development and the aisles bustled with shoulder to shoulder interested crowds. The rest of the show floors and buildings were vast runways of companies and global giants showing off connected objects, from body biometrics and hairbrushes to TVs, kitchen appliances and cars.

The take away for me was the hidden confusion coming as we buy, set up and use each of the hundreds of connected products to come with their unique interfaces that we will need to learn one by one in order to use them all.  Truly suffering will be the ease of use for this new category of IOT connected products.

Great products are born from ease of use as it enables us to accomplish tasks, allows us to feel in control and in doing so, it projects our confidence and personality to others.

At Design 1st we have 3 Golden rules that get used when we test drive any new product concept.

From a user’s perspective when I interact with a product:

  1. Don’t make me wait (2 seconds is awful, 10 seconds is a lifetime)
  2. Don’t make me guess (I feel frustrated)
  3. Create magic moments where what I want to happen, feels satisfying and enjoyable, every time.


Product ease of use for interconnected mobile devices is much more challenging than standalone device designing as they must be convenient and easy to use everywhere.  This means that as users, we expect to be able to take a discrete call in a movie or turning on the oven on your way home from the car audio interface.

We want the technology to disappear and the device to meet our needs.  Leveraging Amazon Alexa audio scripts (skills) is one choice for handsfree interaction and its popularity with designers has skyrocketed in the last 6 months as a convenient way to give commands and trigger actions without keys and displays.

To interact with devices in your home, there are now many service providers that will collect data and inform you using data from your growing inventory of household appliance and security sensors. These home stations add a display on a table or wall and can be accessed on computers, tablets and smartphones. 

This will likely be the first interface you will select and use.   The big player choices are AppleHomeKit, GoogleHome, AmazonEcho, Honeywell and there are dozens of others.

The big player choices are AppleHomeKit, GoogleHome, AmazonEcho, Honeywell and there are dozens of others.

The car manufacturers have their own audio and display interfaces and each one was jaw dropping to try out at the show.  The third major environment of use is when you are out and about. You will need a central command and the smartphone or watch becomes your friend so your biometrics can be a click away wearables and the small screen and audio will keep you connected, aware and informed.

Medical connected products are a category of their own.  They bring an exciting area of IOMT equipment replacement and upgrade, however the hardware product creation is going slower than the consumer market frenzy, with the added complexity of compliance, privacy and security of data.

This feels like year one of a hardware journey where developers want everyone to experience the value of their standalone cloud interconnected device while global giants and standards groups catch up with simpler more ubiquitous solutions to help the technology problems disappear. This first step we believe is the connection phase followed by the data management phase (analytics, filtering and delivery), once the connection stage frustrations are minimized and the easier to use products have matured. 

In developing a good product, it is important your design team understands the changing component, cloud and software options to help extend product life in the changing cloud connectivity environment over the next 3 years.

It was apparent while walking the exhibits at CES 2017 that some companies are building fast and loose and many will fail the test of make it easy for me to use everywhere.  There are thousands of exciting connected products being brought to market every year. 

Ease of use will guide IOT product adoption over the next 5 years. Get it right, you stick around, get it just a little wrong and a new entrant will replace you.  The hardware design failure problem is so large that Indiegogo and Kickstarter crowdfunding platforms have implemented support programs to help mentor, guide and audit incoming projects with the platform establishing approval requirements before a campaign can be launched.

We all recognize a successful product as it is immediately exciting to interact with and easy to operate, with little or no help.

For most companies, the trial and error of creating devices and applications without considering the delays and inconsistencies of network connections and the environments and personal situations a user will need to be in (at home, office, in-between and away) can lead to several years of prototyping, learning and re-design before an acceptable solution is configured. These product development projects spiral to failure as they take the shotgun approach to the design process rather than using tried and true design tools, team experience and early stage lean methodology to test the various options.

The design methodology will ensure you arrive quickly at a product solution that is good enough to launch to your market.  A good deal of the feature design tweaking will happen in software after the product is launched.  Your connected hardware device generally is made to be ‘dumb’ for lower cost and longer useful life and the device software is updatable over the cloud.

Young startups and technology companies shifting to connected IOT products including manufacturers extending their product lines require a very experienced design process mentor now more than ever to steer connected product development.

At CES 2018, we predict an even larger explosion of devices most of which will be land fill the year after. Successful new product design must embrace rigorous user testing during the early product definition stage. This type of expertise is hard to find and harder to cultivate and maintain. 

A product development schedule is 4 months; an expert design team takes a decade and hundreds of projects to be effective.  Startups and companies connecting their existing products to the cloud will need to find and exploit existing product design teams that are experts at ease of use.

Building a team and developing the design process from scratch at the same time you are developing your product and technology is a much longer road making the venture an educational experiment not a business strategy, in today's fast-paced product design environment.

The successful companies will go on to solve real world problems with devices and applications that give better customer experiences using devices that fit easily into our day and are delivered in under 8 months from idea to revenue generating sales.



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The Value of Attending CES 2017

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Interview with Design 1st VP Sales, Ian Kayser on value of attending CES 2017

Return on Investment is always top of mind for Design 1st so being away four days to attend CES 2017 means there must be a pretty strong motivator. Ian Kayser certainly thinks so.

I sat down with him to talk about his experience from CES 2016 and why it is beneficial to attend this year.


Author: Joan Highet


Ian Kayser - VP Sales and Finance

Ian Kayser, VP Sales

 Q: Ian, why is attending the Consumer Electronics Show a good investment?

A:  There is a multitude of reasons I personally attend. I’m Vice President of Sales at Design 1st so on the sales side, I look for new business and insights into what clients are looking to create. But equally important is that CES showcases innovation and imagination at its best, specifically in technology from my perspective. I get a world view of what’s happening.

For example, a wearable used to refer to a timepiece, now there are a myriad of electronic wearables that monitor exercise, health and vital signs, security, commercial vehicles etc. There is an explosion in drones and places where the technology can be used in security, lifestyle, maintenance and surveillance of infrastructure. Just a couple of examples of technology skyrocketing and how humanity can change.

Q: Was there one thing that stayed with you the most from the show?

A: There was more than one. As I indicated before, drones will be an integral part of our life. For sure there are issues and challenges but the will be overcome with great design and learning. Automation in transportation like autonomous driving cars. Once there is consumer confidence, it will be a sea change in our society. Robotics is another area that is coming forward at quieter but rapid pace, with the ability to bring massive change.

If you are a business person in technology or design, you need to have world exposure. Design 1st may be in Ottawa, Canada but our market and clients are across the globe. CES opens your eyes to possibilities, discussions and potential. It’s a tremendous opportunity to connect with clients, suppliers, and build new relationships with people from everywhere.

Q: Ian, the footprint of CES is massive, last year some 2.47M net square feet. How do you decide where to start and what advice would you give someone attending for the first time?

A: You need a framework or an initial plan as the show can overwhelm you. You also must be prepared to pivot and modify as you get caught up in discussions. Focus on an industry that is relevant to your business, attend keynotes of interest, look for lead generation opportunities, new innovation and educate yourself. You need to be ahead of the technology and continue to be the expert to your clients.

Q: One last question, how do you share your experience with your team back home?

A: This is very important. Our firm makes a point of de-briefing with the partners post these events and ensuring our resources share in the knowledge and are updated on the latest trends. At Design 1st, we are in front of our clients every day and CES 2017 provides an additional layer of confidence in the trust they place in us.

Thank you, Ian, for your insights.

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4 clients pitch their products on CBC Dragon’s Den

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Dragon’s Den is a Canadian television reality show on CBC where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to secure investment from a panel of venture capitalists. The contestants are often entrepreneurs who have great products but need further funding investment.

Over the years we have had several clients pitch their hardware products to the Dragon's, you can watch 4 of them below.



Humidfy Your Home Using ZERO-Energy

Jeri Rodrigs embodies the true definition of an entrepreneur. With help from Design 1st, he took his product idea for a zero-energy humidifier from napkin sketch to store shelves across the country. Along the way he has gained many happy customers, positive reviews and mentions in the press. But the most memorable event for us was watching him on CBC Dragon's Den.

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EzClipse Decor

Magnetic Recessed Lightening Covers

Ezclipse magnetic recessed lightening covers are shaking up the home decor lightening industry with an easy to install product that can instantly transform the look of a room. Based on a patented magnetic fastening system, the Ezclipse covers can snap onto existing recessed or potlight covers without tools or new wiring. Watch what the Dragons thought of the product

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The PowerPress

Olympic barbell adapter

A personal trainer for over 30 years Guy Murray has thought of many useful fitness product ideas. But one idea stood out from the rest. This was the Powerpress, a barbell adapter that can transform any standard Olympic barbell into a smooth moving barbell press with a natural arc. Enlisting the mechanical design expertise of Design 1st, Guy brought his idea to life and onto CBC's the Dragon's Den.

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K9 Clean

Portable Pet and Utlility Shower Solution

Combining their love for pets and a clean car, K9 Clean inventors Ron and Kim Hamilton searched for a product to help them clean their pets after long trail runs. After coming up empty handed they decided to develop their own. With help from Design 1st they brought K9 Clean from idea to prototyping, manufacturing and market. But the highlight for everyone was giving their pitch on CBC's Dragon's Den.

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Do you have a product idea?

Contact us today for a free consultation, or visit our startup resource center for more info


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5 Steps to turn your Idea into a Winning Product

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In 1748, in an essay titled Advice to a Young Tradesman, Benjamin Franklin offered this advice to young tradesmen “Remember that Time is Money”.

This statement is especially relevant in the world of inventing physical products and in market commercialization, both for yourself and the product development firm you work with.

There are many things you need to consider when trying to bring your idea to market. I am going to talk about 5 key steps.

1. Your idea needs to fill an existing gap in the market

Every product in the market today started as an idea by someone. The path to get from your idea to a marketable product is not for the weak at heart and there are many challenges along the way. But if you have the right information and the right team, your success level increases substantially.

Your idea should identify a need, solve a problem, correct a gap or make something more appealing or easy. You need to think through who will be using and buying your product, where will they use it and how they will use it.

If you have more than one user, you will need to understand the characteristics of the total universe of users and how each is unique. How your product will look and feel is a critical consideration in product development of physical hardware and the environment in which your product exists is another factor.

2. You need to do your research

You have a great product idea but it requires deep investigation and time. Your market research is critical to your success. Are there similar solutions in the market? Which ones have been successful, which ones have failed? Size up your competition and know your target market and how you will need to differentiate.

What are the legal requirements such as regulatory approvals and patents, trademarks, copyrights etc.? There are a number of sites that you can access or work with a design firm that has expertise in patent protection.

3. You need to know exactly what you are marketing

You need to start getting initial feedback from friends, your network and other contacts immediately, even before you have a working prototype. Determine how you will market the product and what are the sales opportunities and distribution channels that you will use.

Work on your elevator pitch, 50 words that describe the value, uniqueness, relevant data and a call to action. Start pitching it and modify it to perfection.

4. Work with someone who knows how to do this

You have a great product idea. You have done your research and funding lined up to take the project forward. A word of advice is to be confident but also listen to the experts. There are lots of steps in the process and it can be frustrating and overwhelming.

Reputable product development specialists like Design 1st have done hundreds of projects; they have the expertise with a refined process, they know what success looks like and have worked through enough budget exercises to tell you within +/- % of what the actual cost will be.

Don’t be surprised that your understanding of the cost and effort to confirm the business objectives, design, develop and prototype, manufacture or license, get it to market and distribute is more than you thought.

5. Pick the right partner to bring your idea to market

If you pick the right design firm, their role will be to support you to deliver your idea to market and they will have your best interests at heart. Knowing some of these folks, they get their adrenaline rush from designing the most aesthetically pleasing, coolest product you could ever imagine and even though they need to make money; their heart is in the hunt of the solution.

The great firms work collaboratively, are part of your team and include you in every aspect of critical decision making and milestone approvals. Do your homework and check your options out.

Listening on both sides is a big consideration and an indication that you made the right design partner choice will be based on your initial call with the front-line sales or business development individual. If they tell you not to waste your time, generally they are right.

There are a lot of considerations and decisions to make but it is very important to remember: The reason we work with product development design firms to support our ideas is because they are the experts and have perfected the process through hundreds of successful products.

If you have thought through some of these considerations ahead of time, that first conversation with your design partner will move your idea to market a lot faster.

Why? Because, TIME IS MONEY!

Do you have a product idea?

Contact us today for a free consultation, or visit our startup resource center for more info


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Rumidifer does deal with the Dragon’s

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We are proud to announce another Design 1st client has gone into the Dragon’s Den and walked away with a deal.

This time around it was Ottawa entrepreneur Jeri Rodrigs, founder of Rumidifier Home Comforts.

Watch Jeri’s segment on the CBC Dragon’s Den below […]

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