What is a smart product?

What truly makes a smart product smart? The attribute “smart” is now used to describe diverse devices such as a smartphone, smart watch, smart TV, or even a smart refrigerator! All of these everyday objects allow user interaction via a touchscreen or remote control and have access to the Internet. However, not everything that can “tweet” or that has a touchscreen is necessarily smart.

Smart products innovatively place the focus on the user, enabling new control concepts in today’s digital and networked age.

Smart devices are useful items that use modern technologies for networking in order to make usage easier for the consumer or even to enable usage in the first place. When it comes to haptics, shape, design, and reliability, these products might already be perfect, but networking can tap into completely new opportunities and create space for innovations.

Smart Product – a key component of a digital strategy.
Source: Own representation

Figuratively speaking, a smart product uses its sensors, actuators, shape, design, haptics, and reliability to merge the boundary between the real, analog world and the digital realm. An IoT platform or comparable means of connectivity provides the leverage required to make the technologies in the cloud or at the on-premise computer center effective. As a result, the digital information gleaned from the smart product can be displayed on one or more dashboards or displays in knowledge databases or other stores in conjunction with data analytics and integration functions with other systems.

Communication between products, users, and providers now offers up new opportunities for making relevant information available as soon as it is needed. Condition monitoring, remote control, integration in BPM, and asset tracking are just some of the things in which these technological achievements play a major role. In certain core areas, some of these technologies have already been used successfully for several years, e.g. in high-bay warehouses, highly automated factory plants, and automatic ordering and service processing. These industries used networking technologies even before the IoT hype. They were the pioneers, and their solution approaches are now also used in other application scenarios in the fields of networking, IoT, and smart products.

You’ll be amazed: Even tiny steps towards networking and information exchange improve handling, increase transparency, and integrate the special knowledge of experts into the user experience.

An example: The networking of a
car with a smartphone

One obvious application example is the networking of a car with a smartphone that has control elements for a radio control car key and other functions that vary depending on the manufacturer. A car app, once it has been connected up to the right vehicle, can open and lock the car doors via an encrypted connection or can even check the tank level. In particular, there’s no need to take a note of how much gas you have in the tank when planning the route for your next long journey. The app does this automatically and plans the best stops – and it can even do the same for an electric vehicle.

In the transport area, Michelin offers the possibility of using tires-as-a-service. Sensors in lorry wheels monitor the condition of the wheels via the tire pressure and wear. The data gained from the sensors is made available to the users to enable the optimum use of the tires. In this way, Michelin guarantees a fuel saving of 1% and a wear saving of 1 mm – the equivalent of 15,000 to 20,000 additional kilometers per tire – along with less frequent flats and an optimization of empty vehicle kilometers.

Things are often different in production and manufacturing. Who hasn’t yet heard about them? – Industrial robots that lift vehicle parts up into the air as if they were light as a feather! Or person-free production lines that are monitored by futuristic control stations. Smart product implementations are often found here, including condition monitoring, predictive maintenance, product life cycle management, software update distribution, and data linking from the supplier to production and on to customer support. Often, these implementations are special, tailor-made solutions that show little interoperability between the individual components and therefore serve only as “island” solutions that are difficult to modify. Keywords: Machine execution system or production control center. To bring more flexibility to these systems through modern technologies or to make it easier to start using a system of this kind, standardization bodies and best practice/guideline alliances such as the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance have been founded.

For some industry products, certain companies offer special services for their machines, e.g. ABB (ABB ServicePort), Fanuc (Fanuc Field), and Trumpf (TruServices). These solutions provide locally or remotely executed services to enable more effective troubleshooting and better customer care. However, added value is only achieved when multiple devices are linked together and the collected data is made available for further processing. For this reason, the next step involves analyzing the data and reacting to it in a semi-autonomous way. Only then can we really start talking about a “smart” device.

Get digital with smart products

A smart product uses all areas of the IoT – and much more. We can support you in all of your technical IT challenges, for example:

  • Selecting suitable sensors for your product , with design & prototyping if required
  • Design and implementation of a secure connection for data transfer from a smart product to the cloud
  • Selection of a suitable data analysis platform
  • Discussion and creative idea development for new business models

Naturally, we want you to know in advance what you need to be aware of. You can find out more on our Website, including information on the topics of asset tracking and new business models. We wish you every success, and we hope you choose to contact us!

Your direct contact

Novatec_Jonas-Grundler

Jonas Grundler

Head of IoT & Digital Innovation
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Jonas Grundler Head of IoT & Digital Innovation
Novatec_Jonas-Grundler