Red Points looks at era-defining inventions that represent the technological age by working to illustrate the changing demands of customers.
Since sliced bread, and possibly even before, the world has seen an influx of simply ingenious products, designed to make our lives that bit more convenient. With the rise of the internet and a smartphone-addicted global population, what are some inventions that represent the technological age?
1) Wireless Phone Charger
Smartphones accompany us everywhere, and using them continuously throughout the day drains a lot of battery. No longer are we in the Nokia 3310 days, where our phones would last us through the day and half the week - the average person now charges their phone more than once a day, according to a study conducted in 6 major US cities. The study also concluded that 69.5% of people experience anxiety when their phone battery is low.
Thus is the basis for wireless charging, or inductive charging. The technology works by transferring energy over an electromagnetic field, an idea first introduced by Nikolai Tesla (because what didn’t that guy invent?). Most major smartphone manufacturers are now investing in the technology, and if your phone has the technology built-in, you’ll already be able to make use of wireless charging via power spots seen at various public locations and commercial chains. In Starbucks at least, you’ll never need to go without phone charge again.
2) The Smiley Face
Yes, you read that right. The Smiley Face was invented In 1963 by designer Harvey Ball, when he was contracted by an insurance company to design a morale-boosting image for the workplace. What he came up with would become a global iconic symbol across generations, printed on posters, fashion and ecstasy pills. Unfortunately Ball, who ultimately never foresaw his design’s success, didn’t think about registering a copyright and ended up gaining a mere $45 for his iconic design.
Most recently, the smiley face has carved its influence into language through emoticons and emojis, which have become popularized through messaging and social media platforms. Oxford Dictionary even chose its 2015 ‘Word of the Year’ as the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ emoji, using a pictograph for the first time. Emojis are already defining the internet-connected world by offering a shift towards an international language based over universal concepts and emotions.
3) Snapchat spectacles
Since the 1810 invention of the wristwatch, wearable technology has expanded across huge numbers of products, particularly with the evolving industry of the Internet of Things. ‘Smartwatches’ used primarily for fitness and social networking have seen the greatest success, but smart glasses could be set to steal the limelight with the release of Snapchat Spectacles, rivalling Google Glasses and Oculus Rift as the next big thing in smart glasses and head wear.
The Spectacles capture short circular point-of-view videos, which are then wirelessly sent across to your Snapchat app. The Snapchat Spectacles notably did not make their debut at an industry-targeted product launch, instead, they were released through instantaneous viral appeal - in the form of colourful pop-up vending machines across North America. Whilst the specs, like Google Glasses, have generated security fears, it’s undeniable that they open up the smart glasses market and wearable tech to a younger generation,.
Tesla has sent the automotive industry into overdrive with its pioneering technologies in electric power and ‘Tesla Autopilot’ features. With a controversial-but-successful focus on applied user analytics, the company aims to achieve a futuristic full self-driving capability by the end of the year, and is on track to meet that target if CEO Elon Musk has anything to say about it (and he definitely does).
Tesla is not only revolutionary in its technology but also in its sales model. The company sells via the internet only, cutting down on in-store costs and recognising the monopoly that e-commerce is gaining upon. Tesla also has a ‘Pre-Owned’ program, wherein it makes a profitable response to the used car market. However, the company’s decision to release its patent portfolio has arguably been less than strategic, as now Tesla cars are being heavily counterfeited in China, where it has previously struggled to break into the lucrative auto market due to steep prices.
5) Roomba Hoover robot
By signifying the end of weekly vacuuming duties, the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner is readily illustrative of the growing laziness that technology can offer us. The vacuum cleaner can be scheduled and activated remotely through a smartphone app, and delivers real-time cleaning reports. It uses a visualising technology to determine location and avoid obstructions, and is consistently responsive to Amazon’s voice control assistant Alexa, going above and beyond a lazy spouse. All of this technology comes together to revolutionise the way in which we see household chores, and paves the way for long-awaited household robots.
Roomba holds 85% of the North American robot vacuum cleaner industry, and internationally is seeing a rapid growth too. The manufacturing company, iRobot, has gained the upper hand in the industry through a notably strong emphasis on IP preservation. A combination of calculated lawsuits, holdings of certain trade secrets and multiple patents protecting the Roomba’s design are all part of iRobot’s brand protection strategy.
And iRobot’s efforts are evidentially paying off; the brand continues to experience global success and CEO Colin Angle estimated that a competitor would need 5 years and $50 million to develop a product that could really rival the Roomba. With an applied knowledge of the competitive tech market, where outsourced manufacturing and ‘borrowed’ designs are commonplace tactics to drive profit margins, iRobot have demonstrated how a good brand protection strategy really can make a dent in the counterfeit and knock-off markets to protect products and preserve equity.