Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Future transport - 1936 style innovation

After a quiet early summer period here on my blog when I have been busy with other things, I couldn't resist a posting on the subject of transport futures, having spotted this Pink Tentacle article; and so it heralds a period of more regular blogging from me again.

I'm sure James Dyson would feel vindicated about the most recent ball innovation he has brought to his range of vacuum cleaners should he see the Pink Tentacle article which highlights spherical wheels for future transportation. [Although I have to say, as good as Dyson cleaners are, it seems a little strange to see the trademark symbol ™ against a plastic ball!] If Dyson were to combine their excellent vacuum technology with some robotics, I would be sorely tempted to upgrade to another Dyson that does the cleaning itself, as is the case with some other brands.

Getting back to transport though, it is interesting how the Pink Tentacle article content from 1936 concentrates on different wheels as defining the future. The reasons given for the spherical wheel innovation (smoother ride & cushioning in an accident) are also different to Dyson's reasoning of better manoeuvrability! A majority of current forecasts for future cars focus not on different wheels but different engine technology and navigation systems. It demonstrates how innovation needs to address the issues of the moment. The problem in 1936 with cars wasn't the number of internal combustion engines polluting the planet but the discomfort of the ride, quality of road surfaces and poor suspension.

It was the same with the innovation of the original iPod. The issues of the moment then were not that playing music couldn't be done on the move (as it was when Sony brought us the original cassette Walkman). Some commentators at the time saw iPod as just the next form of portable media after CD players. Actually the issues of the moment were more about being able to not only take any amount of music with you, but to select any track from thousands simply and easily as well as embracing the moment of broadband internet facilitating the download of music.

And this idea of addressing the right issues of the moment holds true for successful innovation, whatever the product or service. To think about future transport requires though about about what the future issues of the moment might be!

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