I love Berlin – it’s got a rich history, gothic charm and baroque tradition; and, as one of Europe’s top tech startup hubs, also has it’s eyes firmly fixed on the future. It’s architecture is a mash-up of new and old with a strong creative edge. It is therefore somewhat fitting that this week ,rolling into Berlin, came the IFA Global Innovations Show, which heralded a slew of new, risky and innovative tech from some of the world’s leading consumer brands.
Innovation (However Left-field And Crazy) Should Be Encouraged
What I found exciting about this year’s batch of IFA product announcements was a return to pushing the boundaries of what is expected from new technology. Stepping away from “conventional” tech, some brands – Lenovo, Acer, HP – are taking risks with their products, both to stand out from competitors and also to engage their consumers. By way of comparison, Wednesday’s Apple event – announcing the iPhone 7’s and Apple Watch 2 (plus a Pokemon app and some insta-lose ‘Airpods’…) – seemed like a bit of a snooze-fest in comparison. Slimmer, lighter, whatever!
A particular highlight for me was a new laptop from ACER. They seem to have listened to their niche gamer audience and announced one of the talking points of the show with their Predator 21 X laptop – a step into the future of gaming and full of design quirks: fully customisable mechanical keyboard, customisable backlight settings per key (!), built-in wrist supports, a curved screen and clamshell case… It’s a product unashamedly for the hardcore gamer. At an unwieldy 8kg it is also not for the faint hearted, but the sheer amount of tech inside makes it both ludicrous and groundbreaking, both in it’s field and if you were to drop it!
Likewise the Lenovo Yoga Book with its innovative halo keyboard and built in stylus, 3-axis hinge, lightweight design and beautiful aesthetic means has marked it as true original in a market full of Macbook-a-likes. The ‘Halo’ keyboard alone makes this a product miles ahead of the competition. Essentially this is a laptop with two screens, that can utilised as a tablet, laptop and an artists pad all in one. A true leap into the future.
Elsewhere, we have the HP Pavilion Wave, which has a dual functionality as a high-end Desktop computer tower and a speaker unit. Utilising a unique textile approach, the entire device is wrapped in a lush fabric coat. Where the dressing adds nothing to the tech, it certainly lends the whole package a pretty design quirk, and stands it out from the crowd.
Finally, the Botvac Connected from Neato is a nifty innovation in vacuuming that is internet connected, can laser scan a room to map its path and route and has a handy homing beacon and “find me” function if it gets lost around the house (yes, really) that be activated via your smartphone. You can also plot its routine and course on your smartphone via the app. Add a GoPro and you could have hours of fun chasing your cat around the house.
It’s A Core Principle Of Entrepreneurial Enterprise To Test And Learn
It’s great to hear how some consumer brands are taking risks. It’s important for product innovation and for consumers. It’s a return to the test and learn, risk-taking, entrepreneurial spirit that has been largely missing from the Samsung and Apple tit-for-tat product launches. Having over-engineered gaming laptops and a robot hoover with a location beacon gives me hope that manufacturers will once again push the envelope and deliver innovative new products.
Even in the face of fashionable trends and common sense amongst your peers – a daring new product can make your company for the next ten years – or end you in a heartbeat, and this is what innovation is all about.
In an earlier blog post I spoke about how it’s more important to listen your customers rather than your competitors. When developing my own services and brand, I made the conscious decision to stop watching my competitor’s every move to make sure that I was in line with them. I can see why people would ask how I could be sure that my business was relevant, if I didn’t know what my competitors were doing. To be honest, I didn’t know whether my products were on par with those of my biggest rivals, what I did know was that my products matched what my customers wanted and answered their needs.
More brands need to push the envelope with risky innovations, give their customers the excitement of trying new tech and listen to the feedback. It’s great that leading brands are taking these risk with design, aesthetic and the expectation of their consumer base – this variety of product, of design and of idea is good for the companies, the consumer and – most importantly – keeping the field interesting and moving forwards. The only way we’ll get to the future is by taking the big risks to get there.
What new tech is getting you excited? Let me know below, or on Twitter @