Ollie Croft, Design Engineer and Business Development Representative at eg technology, talks about key market trends that stood out in 2019.
2019 was a busy year for eg, we attended a wide range of networking events and exhibitions in the UK and Europe. A quieter January 2020 gave me the opportunity to reflect back on the year and identify the trends that were the golden threads weaving through the shows – and what we could possibly expect in the future.
INNOVATION IN PERSONAL DEVICES
‘New Product Innovation, MedTech, Biotech and Lab Equipment’ were consistent across all of the events, but one trend that really stood out was the increase in innovation around personal devices. Sony set the scene with the ground breaking ‘Walkman’ (for those not familiar with the late 70s and 80s, the Walkman was a portable cassette player that changed listening habits by allowing people to listen to music of their choice on the move). This set expectations of “I want that technology; on me at all times to be used whenever I want”. The health and leisure sectors have seen a massive increase in wearable products that fit this statement. From fitness tracking through to vital signs monitoring these wearables that are moving from nice-to-have leisure & fitness gimmicks to fully operational MedTech devices.
There appeared to be an explosion of products though that are solely medical, where the focus is not on health data and general well-being, but with the real possibility of improving lives. Devices that detect, track and deliver a form of therapy or treatment for diseases like Parkinson’s and Dementia may become the standard for monitoring and treating patients. This will likely link with personalized medicine and have huge impact on the requirements of regular “in person” clinical appointments with remote, continuous monitoring becoming the norm. It’s opportunities like this for engineering to really change the quality of life for patients that I find really exciting.
Aside from the wearable tech, ‘Social Enterprise’ was really trending. According to Social Enterprise UK, these businesses are changing the world for the better. Like traditional businesses they aim to make a profit but it’s what they do with their profits that sets them apart – reinvesting or donating money back into the system to create positive social change. Looking at this from a product development point of view, there are companies emerging that are developing products with the intention of matching product donated for every product sold. This business model really does make technology more inclusive and accessible to those in less economically developed countries or those without the means to access new technologies.
Heygirls have developed a scheme with a view to try to combat period poverty in the UK. They have created a business model and designed a product that is not only desired and purchased but also given away to another person in a different demographic for no charge. For this to succeed, a huge amount of effort will have had to go into getting the product specification absolutely right and balance this with the requirements of users and stakeholder.
‘Open Innovation’ was another phrase commonly used at last year’s events, particularly at the CAN DO Summit held in Glasgow last November. Speakers from Thales and Police Scotland talked of technical problems that they had put out into the public domain for solutions. ‘Open Innovation’ seems to follow the approach of not just thinking outside the box, but asking outside the box. “A team of engineers, although fiercely intelligent, may not be right for coming up with a truly innovative solution; what you need is a Sci-Fi writer on board.” This really did make me think about where creativity could come from in the future. How ‘Open Innovation’ is being adopted in the design and engineering world is still in its infancy, but it’s an area that I will be really interested in watching unfold.
I’ve really enjoyed this time of reflection and the opportunity to think about what has really stood out during 2019 and I am excited to see what trends we will see in 2020.