21 12, 2012

Conference Report: Observations and Conclusions from the MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:57+00:00 Dezember 21st, 2012|Customization Trends, Events, MIT SCG, Personalization, Technologies & Enablers, Wrap Up|

Over the past months we have reported a lot on the latest preparations of one of the most important meetings of the customization community in 2012: Smart Customization Seminar, hosted by Smart Customization Group, MIT. Now that the event has taken place and we got some time to breath again we want to take a look back and share some of our experiences with you. 

WorkAtSCGWith the general topic being Micro | Macro | Customization it has been a really broad range of experts giving insight and views on customization from the point of view of their respective field of profession or research. From internationally renown scholars like Joseph Pine, Eric von Hippel or Alex Pentland to experts for (custom) architecture, food individualization or top-notch sports cars: This years lineup of speakers brought some centuries of combined experience into one room. 

Overall there was a great agreement that customization will continue to and play an even more major role in implicit and explicit design of our all's common living space, especially in large cities, and the way we interact, produce, buy and consume. 

FerrariOne highlight of the seminar was when Marco Mattiacci, CEO of Ferrari North America, presented what could be called the glass ceiling of automotive individualization: A Ferrari 599XX EVO, in red, of course. Unfortunately we could not take the 1.500.000 USD car for a short test drive around Boston highways, but at least many auto enthusiasts got the chance to get photographed with this little gem of the four-wheeled world. 

Of course, the car did not just serve as a background for nice souvenir photos. In fact it did underline one very important message: the desire for individualization is an important part of human psychology. While a car for
10.000 USD would get you from A to B just fine, one for over a million Dollar will still leave room for individual desires. And to fulfill these, be it in regards to admittedly exclusive sports cars or "just" individually produced nutrition bars, is not only a big step towards a new age of consumerism but also a business opportunity that could revolutionize many branches. 

MattiacciAs Mattiacci explained in his keynote speech, implementing (the right kind of) customization in an established company is not necessarily an easy undertaking. But once you have overcome potential barriers and worked out a system that fits your product and corporate philosophy, you can majorly benefit from your entrepreneurism: Ferrari managed to increase orders of individualized elements on their cars from a few thousand to about 80.000 USD per new car that is being bought, "just" by tweaking the way they offer customers to personalize their car in Farrari showrooms. That is rather impressive. 

Another great example of how the future of both retail and urban planning could potentially look like was outlined by Prof. Alex Pentland of MIT. He demonstrated how data mining can be employed to optimize shopping experience for customers, making it more convenient to find what you (likely) want to buy, making the process less tiresome and more efficient at the same time. 

As Alex Pentland showed, using a large enough database of location data from cell phones, one can make actually rather precise predictions of the buying behavior of customers, what they are interested in, individually, and which product offer might be benefitial to them. 

Of course, this is a really double-edged sword. Not everybody is comfortable with his location data being used for marketing purposes (or even stored). And while privacy concerns are very much understandable, this technology still has a lot of potential, certainly not against the will of customers but, with their agreement, advertising could see a real revolution. Imagine only seeing product ads about things you really care about on television. No more generalized campaigning but specific offers for every individual, fitting his or her interest and needs. This kind of customization will need a lot of further development until it will become as universally accepted as today's broad-range advertising, but it at least has the potential to play a big part in tomorrows retail world. 

Also very interesting was a finding presented by MIT's Ryan Chin: Employing modern RFID technology his group could prove in a research scenario that mass customized dress shirts are being worn more often or used over a longer period of time as compared to non-customized shirts. This is certainly explainable with not only a better fit but most importantly the customer's increased affection to a product he individualized himself. 


This, and other presentations, deliver a clear message: customization is far more than a trend for those with a special interest in personalized products. It will be one of the most important aspects of living and conducting business in the coming decades. And while we are still far from a fully customized world, this is an excellent time for innovative entrepreneurs to get into the market and secure themselves market shares, like Anthony Flynn did with his venture YouBars, producing custom nutrition bars. And sometimes, its just a small idea that sparks something large

But customization is not only a matter of business opportunities. At least evenly important, it will be part of our future society. More individualism will change the face of urban living, personal traffic, media consumption and many more fields of life forever. And while this development will be driven by consumers and supported by industry, it is also academia and administration who is asked to get a custom world into their focus of attention and do their part to make the future fit the nature of humans better by creating an enviroment that allows individuals to do what makes them individual: Taking and living their choice. 

10 07, 2012

Wrap-Up: MC2012: The Business Workshop

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:19+00:00 Juli 10th, 2012|Events, Personalization, Research Studies, Wrap Up|

IntroOur major event of June, the MC2012 in Salzburg, Austria, was a great success. As you can see in my other wrap-up post, we had a tremendous amount of great speakers, presenting the latest and greatest in Mass Customization and Open innovation.

What I did not cover in great detail so far is the business workshop that has been helt by my fellow co-hosts, Dominik Walcher and Paul Blazek as part of the EU AlpineSpace Project ("Open Alps"), coordinated by ITG Salzburg.

Following an introductory overview of the development of MC, Dominik Walcher and Paul Blazek presented to and debated with the attending enthusiasts (the workshop was already fully booked ahead of time):

  • Content and results of their latest Delphi-Study "The Future of Mass Customization"
  • Long Tail Business in practical application (case studies about Spreadshirt and Lulu)
  • Hard MC vs. soft MC
  • The MC500 study and the Configurator Database (findings and numerous case studies)
  • The 3 most important aspects of successful MC
  • Exclusive cases: CowCrowd and Build-A-Bear
  • The interaction with the consumer: What makes an MC customer want to pay for your product
  • Introduction into Open Innovation
  • Lead-User method, toolkits, idea contests and netnography as key-tools for successful OI
  • Successful OI business models (cases of Threadless and Quirky)

Following this tightly packed bundle of knowledge, participants were invited to apply the new insights to their very own fields of work in a small-group mentored workshop.

All rights reserved!

Some interesting figures on MC. Click to enlarge!

From the feedback we have gotten so far, the business workshop was as much of a success as the conference. We received a lot of positive comments and will be glad to offer workshops like this as open or on-request inhouse events in the future.

2 07, 2012

Wrap Up: Top Technology Clusters Mid-Term Event: Open Innovation in the Greater EMR Area

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:32+00:00 Juli 2nd, 2012|Events, Open/User Innovation, Wrap Up|

Copyright AGIT, www.agit.de, all rights reserved!Few weeks ago I wrote about the then-upcoming mid-term even of the Top Technology Cluster, an initiative started by companies and institutions from the Euregio Meuse-Rheine to foster cross-border colaboration between SMEs (and potentially additional larger consortia partners).

Last friday the event headed off here in Aachen. About 130 participants representing companies, academia and NGOs from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany came together to follow the presentations which were charmingly moderated by Simone van Trier.

After the official welcome and interoducing words by our city's mayor, Marcel Philipp, my dear guest Prof. Joel West gave a comprehensive overview over the term "Open Innovation", it's roots and implications.

Copyright AGIT, www.agit.de, all rights reserved!Following his presentation I helt my own talk about how OI can impact the research and development opportunities of SME and help them to discover completely new solutions to problems they might have never been able to solve without the crowd.

The first block was completed by Jingshu Du's discussion of the impact of OI on SMEs in the Euregio.

In the following interview that Simone van Trier conducted with AGIT representative Ralf Meyer and Theo Hommels from the Industriebank LIOF it became obvious which great opportunities the TTC initiative offers to SME in the Euregio.

Companies having promissing ideas for cooperative business and research but lacking sufficient funds to kick off can apply for innovation vouchers, worth 5.000 Euro each. Furthermore, more though-out consortial cooperation projects can receive grants up to 250.000 Euro under the Bordercrossing Cluster Stimulus program.

Copyright AGIT, www.agit.de, all rights reserved!Walking the talk, two innovative companies were awarded the very first two vouchers live on stage.

After a short refreshment break we headed into the second part of the conference. Five innovative companies from the Euregio each got 10 minutes on-stage to present their business and it's revolutionary idea as well as problems they are facing in bringing the product to market.

These five managers (Jeroen Rondeel, Pulseform, Rolf Call, Irmato Industrial Solutions, Edwin Currie, Kriya Materials, Ulrich Wirtz, WSE ltd. and Dirk De Keukeleere, AnSem) then assembled on stage to get into a lively discussion with Simone van Trier and the audience.

Copyright AGIT, www.agit.de, all rights reserved!During this debate it came across that many companies do already use OI to support their business growth (even though they do not necessarily recognize that there is an actual term, OI, for their activities).

However, one issue entrepreneurs are often facing appears to be the cultural differences between people in the three neighbouring countries. While these can be overcome in most cases, language and different levels of openness towards new, external cooperation proposals do at least cause a certain delay and require dedicated work before would-be partners can actually dive into the core materia of their potential common venture.

The TTC vouchers and grants have been seen as a great help to get some new initiatives started and up to speed. The combination of the easier to get vouchers, fostering research of possibilities, and the actually incubating stimulus grant are perceived as an incentive and support to look into new possibilities cross-border.

Overall it was a successful, very nice event in a familiar atmosphere. Despite the unusually sunny weather and the heat that came with it, many good and interesting points were debated with a cold head and in the concluding get-together, lots of new contacts were made, opinions exchanged and new ventures discussed.

I am certainly looking forward to the next TTC event and to see how the program will develop until then. If you happen to work for an SME in the Euregio, the TTC website might be worth to stop by for you for further information.