The majority of design and development effort expended by industry results in incremental innovations – those that manage to change a product – a particular model is improved and replaced with something better, faster, cheaper…but it remains doing essentially the same task, within the same product portfolio. A radical innovation will change your company – turn it from an ‘also-ran’ to ‘best in class’….from a provider of ‘things’ to ‘benefits,’ or perhaps from providing products that you sell just once to services providing repeat revenue and an on-going relationship with your customers. Beyond this, we have breakthrough innovations – the ground-breaking, disruptive technological changes that can change or render obsolete entire markets, or create entirely new industries where none existed before.
At Cambridge Consultants we specialise in the development of radical and breakthrough innovations, so we’re familiar with the challenges, pitfalls and delights associated with the process. It’s even possible to be blasé about such step-changes – particularly in a world that is changing so fast and where the pace of technological development is ever-increasing – but even so nothing quite matches the pleasure of seeing a true innovation hit the streets after months or years of effort.
Last month at the CGA Underground Safety conference in Orlando FL we saw our clients, IPEG Corp, launch their new cloud-based service for the underground utilities location industry; UTTO (www.utto.com). This system enables utility providers – those whose fibre optic cables, wires and pipelines are buried beneath the ground – keep a better track of their assets and avoid damage from construction activity. Some of the base technology used by UTTO (such as the locator devices) has been around for 20 years, but the crucial innovation is to link all the information elements together; map data, GPS coordinates and locating device signals are all handled by the UTTO servers, updated in real time to the users’ tablet computers via GSM and BLE and giving the field technicians and construction teams instant insight into the world beneath their feet.
It’s fair to say that UTTO was the star of the show. This is a small, highly technical industry niche and those working in the field are hard to impress. They’re used to dealing with multiple technologies for tackling difficult sensing challenges – try finding a needle in a haystack when it’s buried beneath the mud of a building site and you’ll know what I mean – but the potential of this innovation was immediately apparent and the UTTO stand had the kind of buzz about it more normally seen in the consumer market than in the more rational industrial world.
Where next for UTTO? It’s hard to say, but if the CGA is anything to go by UTTO will be going far and fast with this disruptive technology. So to Alan, Annie and the rest of the IPEG team – many congratulations on your launch…the hard work starts here.