Our Head of Engineering, Daniel Watson, provided prototyping thought leadership at the recent internal event, discussing using the mentality and approach of the rapid prototype cycle to deliver innovative, digital solutions.

Specialist household appliance and electrical retailer, AO, invited Sensor City’s Head of Engineering to take part in their annual Digital Future Festival earlier this week.

The online event was part of the company’s continued innovation drive, encouraging employees to think outside the box and be inspired by a broad range of industry experts, which in turn helps shape the organisation’s digital future.

Presenting to over 100 AO employees within their Digital Development, User Experience, Marketing and e-Commerce teams, Daniel Watson covered the overarching themes of rapid prototyping and the future of connected technologies and how they could be applied to diverse ways of working.

Dan started by defining prototyping as ‘the first solution to a problem, new or old’, then explained how applying the five stages of the Rapid Prototype Cycle (RPC); Scope, Design, Query, Make, and Evaluate, helps to focus the mind when working on solutions, which at first glance often don’t appear to even exist.

Based on his experience working within Sensor City’s purpose-built rapid prototyping laboratories, Dan explained: “The RPC is not in fact a production approach, but a method for proving a concept as quickly as possible via agile development.

“By looking at the goals you need to achieve in manageable sub-parts, it helps to maintain motivation, as it can be easy to get lost in a complex project.”

As part of the iterative prototyping process, the evaluation stage provides opportunities to learn and revise, and come back stronger. Failure in the RPC is just a reason to go back, question the mechanism, check your elements, think about what you have available – and revise.

Dan also encouraged participants to be inquisitive and question how and why something works the way it does, advising that the RPC philosophy and set of principals can be used within AO’s product design and e-commerce activities to create a focused approach to developing solutions.

While AO already utilises cutting edge technology throughout its international operations, from AR in their home demos, to smart warehouses and stock control, it is the incorporation of evolving digital solutions such as IoT, VR, 5G and LiDAR which are going to shape the way we behave, interact and shop in the future.

The second half of Dan’s presentation revolved around emerging technologies. While 5G will bring high speed connectivity, it is the reduction in latency that will have greater implications for smart city applications, including autonomous vehicles and other decision making/machine learning devices.

In industries where low power transmission is essential, the increased use of LPWAN (low-power wide-area network) is expected, due to it enabling small amounts of data to be sent across large distances. For AO, this could be applied to asset tracking or employee safety within their large warehouses.

Additional technological developments that Dan discussed was smart textiles and flexible electronics, as well as an uplift in the streaming of VR experiences. By working closely with industry experts and innovation hubs like Sensor City, AO are well positioned to capitalise on these future digital trends and adopt emerging technologies across all departments at pace.

The event ended with an engaging live Q&A session, with AO employees keen to find out more about design considerations, the RPC and context switching, as well as digital ethics and barriers.

Leon Andrews, Head of Digital Experience at AO, said: “It was fascinating hearing about Sensor City’s unique hybrid innovation capabilities and how their prototyping approach could be applied to our business activities.

“Dan’s eye-opening insight into the future of connected technologies was something I found particularly beneficial, and I know many of my colleagues who took part in our Future Digital Festival are now looking forward to visiting Sensor City in the near future.”

If you too would like to benefit from Sensor City’s rapid prototyping, innovation support or digital transformation expertise, please email: Daniel.watson@sensorcity.co.uk or visit https://www.sensorcity.co.uk/

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