As smart technologies proliferate in the modern world, the industry is experiencing a widening gap between coming up with ideas and having the ability to execute them.
"If we look at product innovation across the electronics industry and across all markets, we see trend where complexity of product design goes through the roof," Dr. Erik H. Volkerink, chief technology officer of Flextronics, told EBN in an interview. "The tools are not keeping pace. That growing gap is causing a lot of challenges, while time to market pressures is paramount. Fundamentally, a different paradigm is required for product innovation."
Dr. Erik H. Volkerink, CTO, Flextronics.
Today, Volkerink will present a keynote on this topic at the Silicon Valley Open Innovation Summit, being held in conjunction with EE Live!, being held in San Jose. The talk, titled Accelerating Product Innovation: Solving Complexity and Productivity Gap, hopes to propose a new approach to product innovation.
As the electronics industry moves from the old school analog past, through its current digital approach to a market that is focused almost solely on smart products, the approach that designers take needs to evolve too, Volkerink believes. "Smart products are really about putting more intelligence in products," he added, pointing to the adaptability, context awareness, location awareness, and networkability of these devices. "It adds a tremendous amount of complexity for engineers."
To maintain and accelerate the speed of innovation, the electronics industry needs to move from a system of closed innovation to one of open innovation, Volkerink said. "We can go deeper with product innovations if we have building blocks in key areas: sensors and actuators, human machine interface, connectivity, semiconductors, smart software, flexible technologies, and battery and power," he added.
These seven areas are all interrupters of innovation. "It takes a lot of time and effort to understand what these building blocks are about," said Volkerink. "By creating an ecosystem and building blocks, we hope to provide better time to market by creating a foundation that products can be built on."
This open development approach would bring together members from throughout the electronics industry to qualify technology building blocks. "To turn outside technologies from electronic design companies, universities, startups, or research institutes into a usable building block requires a rigorous process," Volkerink said. "I think that, together as an industry, we could figure out what qualification should like."
Ensuring that building blocks work seamlessly together would require a close look at all the elements of a product, including physical, mechanical, electromechanical, communications standards, supply chain certifications, logistics, and business challenges. The end result of this type of collaboration would be the development of common terminology, standards, and tools, Volkerink said.
Open source initiatives are nothing new in the technology, with open source Web servers and Mozilla providing excellent examples of successful collaboration. "Those are really examples of a large ecosystem of people working together," said Volkerink. "So the call to action is for people to work together on the standardization of smart products, including tool providers, test providers, component providers, venture capitalists, startups, large OEMs, institutes, universities, and more."