Technology has always led to the development of business but it’s a bit premature to give digital technologies the task of expanding the home appliances sector. There is still a long road ahead, starting with understanding these technologies and their potential
by Paolo Barbatelli, Chief Innovation Officer at ROLD Group S.p.A.
The widespread digitalisation introduced to corporate business processes, regardless of the kind and size of the company, is a competitive growth and development factor in itself. The Internet of things and smart homes are increasingly popular expressions on the electrical appliances market, but probably more so for its fashion/design than its functionality.
A digital, interactive round touch-screen window is certainly trendy. Instead, let’s imagine an intelligent control system for home appliances, which prevents malfunctions thanks to preventive maintenance managed in accordance with the actual use of the electrical appliance.
I think this is the point of view based on which digital technologies can generate a business value and therefore growth and a competitive edge. This is of course a complex change. It’s not simply about introducing technology to a device or reviewing manufacturing processes, but it regards changing the approach of the business model itself, along with the market proposal and this requires a lot of time.
There is no doubt that what we are seeing are revolutionary trends. There is a well-defined path, but there is still a long, uphill road ahead. For instance, with modern technologies we can control and monitor the electrical consumption of electrical and electronic equipment with systems that require considerable investments (home automation, Wi-Fi systems, new communication protocols, etc.), both in terms of infrastructural work (cabling, installation of aerials and sensors, etc.) and spending (we often overlook the fact that home automation systems also use up energy) and often they are not safe (objects ‘connected’ to the internet are, in all respects, liable to hacking).
There are still many issues to resolve. I personally believe that one of the main reasons why the ‘union’ between ICT and traditional worlds (such as the world of electrical appliances) is still a matter in progress, is that they are both reluctant to change. I already mentioned the fact that the biggest difficulty for a manufacturer is changing the business model; for ICT, change means a change of approach.
Traditional ICT, especially in recent years, driven by the force of ‘consumerisation’ is used to quickly provide market solutions before taking action later with several ‘bug fixing’ steps, i.e. by releasing updates and patches at a later stage when users are already using the product. This is an inconceivable approach for products like electrical appliances: the requested levels of reliability and availability are entirely different. ICT is used to thinking around ‘users’ (who now accept repeated bug fixing as a normal procedure), while in the world of electrical appliances users are ‘customers/consumers’. They are two very different concepts!