Climate change, AI and supply chain disruption among trends to heavily influence product design in the years ahead.
Feature Article: Design & Engineering Magazine, Winter 2022 - By Kevin Bailey
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from 2020 and 2021 it is that 2 years of unpredictability has changed how we live, work and purchase goods and services. Changes in climate, fears of inflation, global supply chain effects on availability, and a shift in the types and purchasing methods of goods and services consumers want were all contributing factors.
The question here is whether these had any effect on how new products are designed, developed and delivered to businesses and consumers.
Similar to what we saw in 2021, we’ll see technologies evolving to meet consumer demand, which will in turn result in continued shifts in the product design ecosystem throughout 2022. The world of tech is always evolving, advancements in digital technologies, available next gen components, sensors modules, miniaturization, integration of AI into products, and new sensor choices bring a grab bag of new opportunities and risks to the design world.
For over 30 years, Design 1st has helped guide customers, from entrepreneur to enterprise, through all stages of the product design and development process. With deep expertise in new tech, usability, component options and risk assessment, Design 1st has developed over 1,000 projects for a wide range of clients, that influence millions of people globally.
Here are predictions the Design 1st leadership team sees taking shape in 2022.
Trend #1: Climate Change
Climate changes will result in product design focus on reducing energy consumption and designing for survivability in more extreme environments
- “Climate changes and environment conscious re-use will play a more impactful role in new product designs and product life cycles for consumers. We’ve seen legislation in Europe for the “right to repair” and I see the push for repairability gaining more steam in the US increasing product life to reduce energy consumed to produce more product replacements. However, it will be difficult to implement and continue to be so for consumers and after-market repair shops to restore data associated with a ‘connected’ smart device due to inaccessibility to the information and data privacy rights pertaining to the individual, the cloud application and product manufacturer.” Donovan Wallace, VP, Electronics
- “Climate change and the push for sustainability will have minimal effect on the immediate product design process. Where we will see dramatic changes is in how products are packaged and shipped. In product design, more emphasis will be placed on using materials that are sustainable and products that can be broken down back to their basic elements. More and more design teams will eliminate the use of components and materials that can’t be recycled or disposed of in a safe and sustainable” James Henderson, VP, Product Design
Trend #2: Mobile Devices Getting Smarter
Advancements in digital technologies will continue to feed the consumer appetite for smart devices and result in product design teams providing faster processing, more in-product AI, more open-source code for faster development, and requiring risk assessment of new components to ensure low-risk reliability and predictable supply.
- The ongoing increase in functions and size shrink of silicon chips combined with advanced circuit design techniques and further combined with improved efficiencies in batteries will have a compounding effect of enhancing the ease of usability of smart devices for the consumer. Lower energy requirements in smart devices will open the door for photovoltaic renewable energy As an example, onboard and charge station solar cells will begin to play a bigger role in extending the time between charges, reducing the battery anxiety effect most pronounced in first generation IoT products. Recent door alarm sensors use photovoltaic and solar cells to extend battery life. This will lead to a broader base of on-product power consuming applications with increased data processing for smart and connected devices yet to be invented in the coming years.” Donovan Wallace, VP, Electronics
- “The increase in digitization will continue to accelerate smarter product features at a lower cost from the competing global component manufacturers. This will propell the opportunity for product design teams to leverage these more capable component software and hardware features to help meet personalization and data collection and presentation needs of users in an increasingly mobile world. Designers will also turne to open-source software tools to help speed the development process and cut development” Yih-Shyang Tsai, VP, Embedded Software
- “With the explosion of IoT devices comes increased network traffic and load on cloud services. Edge devices with intelligence help for the end point devices alleviates this load and provides for a faster consumer experience with greater power efficiencies. Microprocessors with TinyML support and sensors with built-in machine learning core will become more prevalent. Additionally, in 2022 AI and machine learning capabilities embedded into device power management will support greener, smarter energy consumption.” Yih-Shyang Tsai, VP, Embedded Software
- “IoT product design is evolving wireless device interfaces using audio and visual control convenience as devices become more integrated into people’s homes and lifestyles. Larger product companies that invest heavily in cloud applications and services have been successful in selling the user experience utilizing these end point devices to give consumers a novel way to verbally access and receive data, games and entertainment from the internet (Amazon Alexa, Google home, TV media boxes and game consoles to name a couple). These devices become part of a family dynamic; they are enablers to a whole ecosystem of products that play into convenience and our isolation constraints and communal social I see the term IoT becoming more associated to an industry term for many background data entry points to the cloud and less related to device features.” James Henderson, VP, Product Design
Trend #3: Connected System-Level Products
More system products are being designed and they connect software inside physical products with the cloud. Users want experiences not devices. System products will continue to be harder to design and require diverse skills in the development teams and collaboration between cloud and device design teams.
- “The pandemic and subsequent shift to isolation and remotely located design team members will continue to propel the use, and availability, of cloud enabled engineering tools in private and cloud managed secure servers to facilitate productive and effective team collaboration environments. I see an increase in the number of sophisticated tool vendors emerging in the market that enable companies to leverage automation and sophisticated technologies like AI in the design process to deliver even better outcomes to customers.” Donovan Wallace, VP, Electronics
- “A challenge as we shift to a global remote workforce is designing and debugging new products where objects we build and handle lead to size, ergonomics and feature refinements that require an in-person environment with multiple skill team members to resolve. Seeing and feeling objects and engaging with them remotely using touch sensitive gloves and virtual 3D glasses environments are evolving. It will still be some time before they can equal or replace the value of in-person interaction with real products and prototypes. Teams leverage collaborative, easy to use remote tools such as Miro and Draw.io to support remote team and Client engagement, helping them to make decisions as they visualize, sift and sort options together on display screens.” Matt Bailey, VP, Engineering
Trend #4: Supply Chain Disruptions
We’ll continue to see supply chain wobbles that will require different thinking around bringing lower risk to the critical and scarce in-demand part choices during new product planning based on supply predictability instead of going for highest functionality and lowest cost.
- “The current shortage of critical electrical components is a wakeup call - that it’s time for supplier location rethink. The upset in the balanced flow of parts and goods is having significant consequences on our design process and choices we make with Clients. The pandemic created a dam in the flow and unpredictable delivery concerns mostly for electronics parts and in the hardware world it is not forgiving, missing one part or a raw material input means not shipping the product. Material supply and worker disruptions mean manufacturers need additional time to catch up and re-establish good flow after being shut down intermittently. The demand for certain chips is so hot companies must decide on who gets what and large strategic contracts win out over the smaller design services teams. Companies and design teams will continue to look at alternative supply locations and go back to producing their own critical parts locally with more vertical integration. An example of this would be Apple; they moved away from Intel as their chip supplier to produce their own micros specifically designed for their products” James Henderson, VP, Product Design
- “With part shortages, design teams will continue to use reverse-system of picking the chips and components first based on predictable supply and select more easily replaceable parts in case supply becomes an issue in 12 months when the products launch. Teams will design the product around those identified chips and components and live with the compromised functions, speed and features that the new product will be deployed with, as it will be a better option than no product being delivered at all.” Yih-Shyang Tsai, VP, Embedded Software
- “The manufacturing issues caused by the pandemic are affecting many manufacturer selection decisions. Cost of goods, shipping and import taxes dynamics will continue to contribute to the decision-making process as companies decide whether to manufacture a product in North America, China, Mexico or elsewhere. More US companies will select Mexico and local options due to the 25% duty on import imposed recently on China produced goods.” Dave Ingram, VP, Manufacturing
- “We’ll see more people buy their products directly online with delivery to their homes to avoid the risks of covid impact on on Shipping delays and rising import taxes will continue to shift behaviors to buying more goods and services locally.” Dave Ingram, VP, Manufacturing
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