Innovation fever hit AgilityWorks yesterday, at our own Innovation Forum and at the IoT Symposium in Dublin. The key message: the foundation of innovation should be simplicity.
First, innovation simplicity is identifying the everyday challenges we all face at work, at home, or the collective challenges we face as global citizens, and designing intelligent solutions to combat those. Second, innovation simplicity is in how we design those solutions in a way that actually works for the people using them.
This brings me nicely onto the ‘boring’ subject of water pipes and tiles. Let’s start with the pipes.
In the UK, we waste on average 3 billion litres of water every day(1) – a huge problem, considering the global water shortage. But how can you innovate a pipe?
Over in Dublin, our Senior Consultant Utsav Chobe showed attendees a live demo of how smart sensors in water pipes can be used to capture real-time data which is then pushed into the backend for processing, using SAP Cloud Platform’s IoT capabilities. Automated requests can be generated and work orders created, so field engineers can find and fix the faults faster. This results in a huge reduction in water wastage, and it enables back-office staff and field engineers to work more efficiently. Suddenly, the humble water pipe becomes an everyday hero. How exciting is that?!
If that isn’t thrilling enough for you, don’t worry – we’re now going to talk about roof tiles.
Our Head of SAP Technology, Gareth Ryan, is pictured here talking about tiles. More specifically, how imaging and machine learning can be used to assess objects, or ‘assets’, to identify whether there is minor damage which can be repaired, or whether a full replacement is needed. Data from image assessments is captured and, similarly to the water sensors, pushed into the backend where it can be used to automatically prioritise and assign work orders. The machine learning functionality found in SAP Leonardo enables this system to get more intelligent – assessing assets with increased efficiency and accuracy. The modest roof tile becomes an unassuming vehicle for artificial intelligence.
The roof tile is only one application of this smart imaging technology. Take drones – primarily used for photography, ultra-mobile and always connected. These have applications in a multitude of industries; oil and gas, construction, mining, transport. When you consider the roof tile example in the context of everything you could possibly photograph with a drone, suddenly, the applications are unlimited.
So, what about simplicity in designing the systems behind this? Given SAP Leonardo is mentioned a lot in this post, it’ll come as no surprise that Design Thinking is behind this simplicity.
In one of our sessions at the Innovation Forum, we ran a Design Thinking taster which focused on the ‘Explore’ phase of the approach. Attendees went back to basics and went through an exercise which made them think about the system’s end user. What is their name, their role, and what challenges do they encounter on a day-to-day basis? By taking this simple, granular approach at the beginning, you are ensuring that you create a system which is easy to use and solves real challenges, rather than ‘innovating’ for the sake of it.
If you take away anything from this blog, I hope it is the understanding that even the most boring subjects can become some of the most exciting opportunities for innovation. You’ll never look the same way at a roof tile again…
And finally, from SAP Leonardo’s namesake: