Product innovation will see automation and robotics infiltrating all stages of the supply chain process. The pandemic has transformed the global supply chain, as well as the expectations and demands of buyers of logistics services. In 2021 and beyond, these companies are going to require their providers to offer much greater agility, financial stability, transparency, and speed. Many are seriously considering insourcing at least a portion of their logistics operations.
Beyond warehouses, delivery robots (also known as Personal Delivery Devices (PPDs) were already becoming popular before COVID-19. However, the combination of a need for humans to distance and a worldwide increase in demand for home delivery accelerated the rollout of the robots themselves, as well as the government regulations that give them the freedom to roam our sidewalks and streets at speeds from 5 to 25 miles per hour to support ‘last-mile delivery’ issuance. In concept, a large truck would drive to a specific neighborhood and unleash a small swarm of robots, each headed to its assigned list of addresses to deliver goods.
- Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality and Machine Learning
Augmented reality (AR), machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) are here to stay. According to a Nielsen global survey from 2019, consumers listed Augmented and Virtual Reality as the top technologies they’re seeking to assist them in their daily lives, with 51% saying they would be willing to use AR technology to assess products.
- Smart Speakers and Smart Home Devices
Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers have become key tools for many online shoppers, especially as people are spending more time at home. Around 20% of smart speaker owners use them for shopping activities, such as ordering products, conducting product research, or tracking deliveries. This figure is expected to jump to 52% within the next four years.
As we move into 2021, we can expect to see more consumers online shopping without ever having to look at a screen, especially on Amazon. But even brands who aren’t on Amazon can leverage smart speaker and voice search technology. Product innovation is occurring even within these products themselves. For example, when a voice assistant provides an answer, it also allows users to open the website where the answer was found. For brands that prioritize voice-optimized SEO, this could mean a boost in traffic.
3. Antiviral Surfaces and Coatings
Although the frequency of COVID-19 transmission via materials remains uncertain, studies have revealed varying levels of virus viability depending on the type of surface. A key concern about antimicrobial coatings is that they can help create new microbe strains that have antibiotic resistance, an undesirable and growing phenomenon caused by traditional chemical-based disinfectants. Biomimetic approaches pose no such risk: for instance, the targeting of viral membranes by manipulating the microscopic surface geometry of relevant materials.
Product innovation due to rising health concerns can be seen to have been adapted by Airdal, a coating manufactured by a decorative product company based in Ahrensburg, Germany. Airdal employs non-toxic silicon dioxide as its antiviral ingredient. Initially developed for air travel applications, Airdal is now available in a spray-applied disinfectant (“D-Med”) as well as a permanent application for various interior surfaces. Another approach involves the use of nanoscale silica fragments (basically glass particles) as an antibacterial and fungicidal element that is also dermatologically safe.
So, what does this mean for product compliance? Well, according to Aberdeen’s “Design for Compliance Benchmark Report,” companies are not generally organised for success. Less than half of product companies have formal metrics, procedures, and systems for measuring and enforcing product compliance, while nearly 80% of companies lack a cohesive systems infrastructure to track, audit, or manage product compliance. This indicates that companies are not placing the right level of emphasis on compliance when it comes to product innovation and technology.
It is imperative that companies are proactive about this part of the product manufacturing phase. It is great to have an idea, and innovation is leading us towards a better and more connected world, but if regulatory requirements are not included in the early phases of product designs, businesses risk losing copious amounts of money to the hands of re-designing, re-manufacturing, re-distributing, or even legal ramifications. This can be prevented by having compliance review checkpoints at every stage of the product manufacturing process, and by ensuring the product will be eligible for certification on the market right from the get-go.