In this series of articles about TIDE, the acronym coined by Lance Vaughn of CabForward℠ in Austin, we are examining four factors contributing to the rapid societal changes we are experiencing today: Technology, Innovation, Disruption, and Entrepreneurship. Innovation is about finding a better way of doing something, and differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something differently rather than doing the same thing better. Innovation can also be defined as something original and new that may completely disrupt the market or an entire society. That is often experienced through what we call digital transformation.
Here are a few examples of transformative innovation from our own portfolio of digital projects:
Security – A global supply chain security consulting company provides intelligence and security recommendations through individualized on-site assessments. Manned with a clipboard and printouts of extensive lists of factors to be examined to do a proper security assessment, the field representatives visit sites, observe security and safety practices in place, conduct interviews, photograph areas of concern, and aggregate all the information into a written report for the customer. The company gained tremendous advantage over their competition through development of a tablet-based mobile application that enabled agents to research questions or issues related to security, take photographs, conduct and record interviews, dictate notes, and assemble the information into report form, which could then be sent as a digitacar repair,electronic,eco-friendly,l file to appropriate personnel or repositories.
Oil & Gas – Oilfield construction project management is a very complicated process involving hundreds of professionals, consultants, contractors, vendors, suppliers, and others working on a site, all of whom have their work progress slowed by the paper-based process of authorizing and delivering written purchase orders, delivery tickets, and time sheets and then waiting for fulfillment. Projects tend to move at a day-at-a-time pace because of the daily paperwork flow requirements. Our client’s innovative mobile application combined with a sophisticated dispatch web app meant that purchase orders could be placed and payment authorizations posted from the field, instead of having to wait until the end of the work day. Using a tablet-based client dashboard, project managers have real time field access to every facet of a project.
Personal Transportation – RideScout is a smart mobile application that provides users with information on all ride options around them, by searching nearby buses, subways, trains, taxis, car sharing, and carpooling programs, in addition to many other ride options, in real time and displays all relevant rides on one easy to use mobile interface. This allows the user to choose the most convenient ride option for them given their specific circumstance and context.
Auto Repair – The automobile sales and service industry is bogged down by voluminous paperwork, broken service department websites, and best practices that just don’t make customers happy. San Francisco’s Luscious Garage is an environmentally conscious hybrid auto repair specialty shop that is determined to shake that industry up and disrupt the way things have always been done.
They created a web-based application that would improve communication with technology savvy owners of hybrid technology vehicles. The web-based solution provides a customer portal where owners can painlessly access their vehicle’s records, schedule appointments, view repair recommendations online, and authorize next steps for maintenance, all while in a secure online environment.
There are some other great examples of innovation here in the thriving Austin startup community. In October, 2013, CNN said they liked five particular startups they heard about in the city’s inaugural Techstars demo day: Filament Labs, Proto Exchange, Testlio, Atlas, and Gone. Techstars provides over $100,000 in seed funding for startups, along with intensive mentorship in exchange for 7-10% equity in the company. Many of those companies have been purchased and taken into the next phase of development.
But, innovation certainly isn’t limited to software. Jack Andraka was only born in 1997, but by the age of 15 he has already changed the world with his innovation. Andraka has developed a new way to detect pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer during early stages when there is a much higher likelihood of a cure. His inexpensive method, similar to blood sugar testing for diabetics, could save countless lives. Andraka’s concept won the 2012 Gordon E. Moore Award, the grand prize of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
Eesha Khare is another impressive young innovator, who at the age of 18 created a tiny device that could charge a mobile phone in 20-30 seconds—a revolutionary technology she calls a “super-capacitor.” She won the 2013 Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award for her invention, and plans to use the prize money to pay for her tuition at Harvard and continue her work as an inventor.
As we have mentioned, today you can outsource market-proven, off-the-shelf, components from a variety of resources via the internet, have them assembled, packaged and distributed by third parties, and get an experimental product to market quickly. This allows the entrepreneur to quickly evaluate its acceptance by the end user and adapt to feedback.
Dan Casebier, an Austin TX general contractor, has experienced many challenges over the years with broken shutoff valves on water lines of all types. Handles typically protrude out from the valve and are frequently accidentally broken, or, after a number of years, corrosion eats away at the stem making the handle lose its grip.
Dan says it just isn’t practical for a plumber to carry every conceivable type of replacement handle, so a repair usually means inspecting the problem to see what type replacement handle is needed, making a trip to the hardware store, and then returning to the site to make the repair. What Dan sought was a better way to handle (pun intended) these situations, get the repair made more quickly, and get the valve back on line.
He had an idea for a solution, and began searching for information on the internet. He found that he could obtain parts that were already in production for other purposes, locate manufacturers that could make the modifications he needed, and assemble and market the unit cost effectively. The result is a device that may become a disruptive tool, disrupting, evolving, and changing the water valve handle industry.
Enter the Mandle: a multi-purpose handle that may forever change the way municipal water systems, boiler makers, plumbers, and handymen think about valve repair and replacement. Currently available through Amazon, this first iteration of the emergency replacement handle has already received interest from municipal water departments, who replace hundreds of valves and valve handles per year. And, if the marketplace perceives the value in this product, we will be seeing it in retail home improvement centers soon. This is the kind of emergency tool every homeowner needs to have on hand. Watch the Mandle in action and view the Facebook page.
The internet gives each of us the possibility to become entrepreneurs, using our personal experience to determine how to improve our human condition, and, maybe, locate resources that can build or modify off-the-shelf components, and take the product to market from our own living rooms.
We would like to add more case studies to this discussion; innovators that may cause disruption in their ecosystems. Disruption is a whole other topic we’ll cover in some detail the next installation. Nothing is going to remain the same. We see it in the works every day as a digital transformation agency, but want your input. What is happening in your industry or marketplace?
We invite your questions and comments, reports and case studies. Please feel free to leave us a note in the comment section below.