Product design can be a complex process. In the past, creating the concept for something new might have involved clay models, a drafting table, a team of artists, and many sets of blueprints. While some of these elements may still be used today, the process has been streamlined a great deal by technology. Taken a step further, the availability of big data in recent years has nearly revolutionized the way that new products are being designed. Here are just three examples of how big data is changing the face of product design.
1. Tesla Motors
Tesla Motors is known for having some of the most cutting-edge motor vehicles on the road today. Their use of big data in the design and operation of their vehicles is a game-changer. The new Tesla Model S is the embodiment of this advanced product design. The vehicle has been developed with an Autopilot feature that will allow the car to change lanes on its own after the driver engages the turn signal. The Model S also keeps the vehicle at the posted speed limit and maintains an internet connection so that software updates can be done automatically. More importantly, data is auto-fed back to the company to be used in updates and future design improvements.
Procter & Gamble (PG&E) currently operates in over 70 countries with annual net sales of approximately $84 billion. While they’ve been in business since 1837, the company has a goal of being one of the most technologically enabled businesses in the world. To this end, PG&E has employed big data in every facet of its business, from design to delivery. Just one example is the company’s use of big data simulation analytics to design new products. To create a new dishwashing liquid, for instance, PG&E employs modeling and simulation to create thousands of returns that combine different fragrances with moisture variables.
Big Data is also being used by companies to create more efficient and sustainable products. Nike is a perfect illustration of this in its use of what they refer to as “smart data“. One of Nike’s goals is to separate its growth objectives from the exploitation of constrained resources like water and fossil fuels. To this end, they used big data to figure out a way to reduce manufacturing waste when they developed their Flyknit shoes. Nike also developed a water-free dyeing technique that they named ColorDry, and have been researching alternatives to using cotton in their products as cotton is a water-intensive crop.
Big data has allowed companies to move beyond the use of just internal, proprietary, data in their research and design activities. With the sheer volume and speed of data availability, the creative process has been radically transformed in many ways. New products are brought to market more quickly, and ideas are developed that are targeted to markets never identified before. These three companies are perfect examples of how big data is revolutionizing product design.