Faster Product Recalls: How To Reach More Customers

There is nothing more disruptive to a manufacturer than dealing with a quality issue. Production lines come to a screeching halt if the severity of the problem could cause the product to injure a customer. This situation is especially true for products that cause immediate harm such as cars, toys, pharmaceutical products, and especially food/beverage products. In the United States, about 2 million illnesses occur annually caused by contaminated poultry and meat products that reach consumers’ plates, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

For manufacturers, the best case scenario is that the problem is discovered before one product gets sent out. Unfortunately, safety and health issues could take days, weeks, months, and even years before they are discovered.

The complexities of consumer recalls

Once a product problem is discovered, informing the public is a top priority. Yet again, as a manufacturer, you can run into a roadblock. Reaching as many customers as you can has become a daunting task, since sometimes there is no way of knowing how many products have been sold or used. Also, finding a means to contact people about the recall requires a concentrated effort.

Most manufacturers normally post product recalls on the main company website. You may also issue recall information to the media and through print media. Local, state, and federal governments may become involved either through contact from the manufacturer, through other government organizations, or by discovering the product issue during inspections of the manufacturer’s facility. They then will issue a press release, hold a news conference, and post the recall on their website. Yet not all recalls are announced to the general public.

Even if you post the information online and talk about it in the media, there still may be people who miss the recall alert. They may be at work during the hours when the news is on television or at home watching a different channel. They may also have no reason to visit the manufacturer’s website for product updates or visit any online sites where they will learn about the recall.

In these instances, you need a better way of reaching out to customers. A more direct method of communication can lower the risks of people using unsafe products. You can provide information on how a customer should return the product or how to get a refund. Other times, you can provide emergency instructions in case they use a defective product and become injured or eat a food that makes them sick, such as instructing them to go to the emergency room or see their doctor immediately.

Product registration platforms streamline the emergency recall process

What would you say if there was a central platform where you can connect with consumers who have purchased your products? With this central platform, you can immediately send out information about a particular batch of items that have quality issues. This information can go to the person’s email or be sent via SMS to their mobile devices. You could even use push notifications through company mobile apps or through app messaging systems such as WhatsApp.

Through this platform, you could provide all the information that the person needed to deal with the defective product. Your company can tell people how to return products to stores where they were purchased. You can also warn people to check food packages in their refrigerators for batch numbers that would indicate contaminated food.

Such a central platform can do more than what news media sources can: reach people anywhere and at any time. A manufacturer would know who to target with their emergency recall information by allowing customers to register their product through the centralized platform. They could type the serial number into the registration form on the platform or simply scan the product’s barcode using a mobile app on their smartphone.

But what about people who don’t want to share personal information during registration? With the central platform, they could register their purchase anonymously. The platform would record the product’s serial number and the mobile app’s unique identifier. When a recall occurs, the central platform issues the recall alert based on serial number batches and sends out the message through the mobile app.

Reaching more people to increase safety during product recalls

While ensuring that only safe and high-quality products reach consumers is manufacturers’ primary goal, appropriate risk management when issues are discovered needs to also take center stage in a company’s policies and procedures.

Seeking out new technologies that will help alert people about product recalls can be a tremendous benefit. Central platforms, anonymous registrations, and mobile apps can be used by these manufacturers to reach everyone who is affected by the emergency recall. These central platforms can lead to greater alert coverage so people are protected if a quality issue is discovered.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Consumer Industries. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?


Internet of Things – Digitalist Magazine

Seebo wants to make product design easier

Lior and Liran Akavia, Seebo Co-Founders. Image courtesy of Seebo.

Building hardware is hard.

That’s the common refrain parroted after the latest smart gadget failure. And it’s true. Building hardware is hard. and building connected hardware is even tougher. Seebo, a company founded in 2012, wants to help business overcome some of that challenge.

Seebo recently raised an additional $ 8 million as an extension of a Series A round, bringing its total funding to $ 22 million. The company provides IoT simulation software for companies that build connected products. It was founded by two Israeli brothers who learned through their first company building video game hardware that the combination of hardware and software is complex.

The brothers started building a simulation platform that would help engineers see some of those complexities before they started building in the physical world or wrote any code. The result is software that lets a user define what they want to build, from a connected industrial machine to a smart hard hat.

The software enables the engineers to drag and drop different types of radios, sensors and software options into the simulation to see how it performs. Customers can then order electronic parts and see pricing. Seebo’s customers include Ralph Lauren, EvenFlo and Stanley Tools.

Seebo is different from many of the IoT platforms that are already clogging the industrial and enterprise IoT sector. Most of those focus on making connections between different standards and software platforms easier. Some offer machine learning or ways to optimize data.

The company falls in line with some of the modeling efforts out there, with PTC and Autodesk both offering digital twin services that create a digital version of whatever physical machine you are trying to build. The idea is that as you simulate problems on a building’s digital twin, it shows you how that actual building would react in real life.

Seebo has a deal that links its platform to Autodesk’s software so engineers can use Seebo to handle the connectivity aspects of a new product, while Autodesk software handles the rest of the physical design process. Basically, the idea is that its software can make building connected hardware a little less hard.

As time goes on, it’s hard to see this as more than a feature of a larger design software suite, but today with IoT as the new hotness, Seebo is making a go alone.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

Product lifecycle re-imagined with IoT

Product life cycles used to be straightforward—manufacturers designed, built, and serviced. Now, with the IoT and software-enabled devices, the cycles have accelerated and even reversed themselves. The stakes are high, and it can be hard to know where to start. Almost every high-performing piece of equipment—from dishwashers to factory robots—has baked-in intelligence. Sensor-packed devices constantly relaying data are among the billions of things that make up the Internet of Things.

Harnessing these things creates a competitive advantage for companies that can augment them with nascent forms of artificial intelligence. According to Gartner Group, by 2020, nearly all IoT devices will have some element of AI functionality. AI systems tap into sensor data to understand, learn, and derive insights that companies can use to help them improve operations, design new product variations, and even discover new business models.

Through omnipresent IoT connectivity, physical products are no longer seen as hunks of plastic or metal but as dynamic, “always-on” software platforms. Cars can download assisted-driving systems, entertainment options, navigation tools, and even power upgrades. Software can create marquee features every six months, compared with the two-year life cycle of hardware revisions. In this climate, companies with sophisticated IoT platforms can advance ahead three product cycles in the time a traditional hardware vendor builds a single new model.

From reactive to predictive

Take Sears Home Services, for instance, one of the largest field-service networks in the U.S. Every year, its technicians handle 7 million service calls. Those include more than 300,000 trips to homes for unnecessary requests and 600,000 additional trips for which the right part wasn’t in the truck—prompting an equal number of costly return visits. As CTO Mohammed Dastagir knows, that process doesn’t just waste resources, “it hurts our business.”  Small wonder, then, why Sears is turning to IoT technologies to streamline operations. “We’re trying to get ahead of it,” says Dastagir. “If we get this right, we have a chance to create a benchmark standard for the industry. If we get one shot at it, we’re going to take that shot.”

Sears Home Services is changing the customer experience with IoT.

In an industry that hasn’t been disrupted in years, Sears Home Services is creating a new customer experience.

Sears is shifting its service model from not just responding to customer issues but predicting them. A washing machine, for example, will soon warn of a critical failure within three months, using IBM’s Predictive Maintenance suite. To get it right, Sears is feeding a century’s worth of product manuals, service outcomes, and test results into Watson, IBM’s platform for natural language processing and machine learning. Sears provides service to almost all brands, so it is working closely with partners to receive and interpret live IoT data. With its own Kenmore appliances, Sears is also experimenting with acoustic sensors to supplement other data: Customers may no longer need to mimic an ailing appliance over the phone…“It’s making a thunka, thunka sound.”

Here’s the scenario they are working towards: Alerted by the machines themselves, service techs at headquarters will wire a software fix or steer the customer towards the right DIY solution. When a home repair is needed, technicians will arrive with the right information (and parts) to solve the problem. “No longer is it waiting for a guy with a screwdriver and a manual to roll up between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.,” says Dastagir. “The appliance will send a message: ‘Something is failing, come help me.’”

Virtuous cycles of design feedback

The wider vision, of course, is to connect these new capabilities back into design—feeding IoT data into the product design cycle and manufacturing. Products such as IBM IOT Continuous Engineering can then manage the flow of IOT data and Watson’s analytics to mine new insights that keep feeding intelligence back into the system. Designers can create new appliances tailored to real-use cases emerging in the market as they happen. Coders can drop in new features.

Other companies integrate similar IOT feedback into the heart of their manufacturing operations. For instance, Flex (formerly known as Flextronics), which manufactures Fitbits along with tens of thousands of other products for major brands, plays a central role in the design and manufacturing of IoT machines, with the design expertise of 200,000 employees and vast global factory capacity. Using Watson predictive analytics, Flex has lowered the number of flaws on networking gear in one factory by 90 percent. And it is eliminating failures for car transmission parts in another.

Building the right partnerships for IoT innovation

In the IoT era, partnerships also factor significantly into competitive advantages. Bob Wolpert, SVP of quality custom distribution at Golden State Foods, points out that investment in the IOT yields more long-term dividends if it’s seeded with lots of outside relationships. “It’s important to get involved in small pilots now so you know how to play in the game,” says Wolpert. An early partnership with an IoT platform vendor, for instance, will help familiarize it with your business and will provide access to more business intelligence.

The lessons learned from those early partner projects can extend into new markets and business models. For example, Golden State Foods runs a significant trucking business, delivering to more than 125,000 stores and restaurants across the country, including McDonald’s and Starbucks. Within five years, data insights culled from routes and customer deliveries can be transferred to autonomous vehicles. In the meantime, Golden State Foods has introduced a wearable device for drivers to talk to Watson for weather and traffic data. It also plans to create a simple conduit for drivers to solve tough delivery hitches quickly on the road.

While Golden State Foods “stamps” hundreds of thousands of hamburgers per hour for its customers—shaping a lump of beef into the perfect shape for grilling— it also aims to help partner restaurants manage inventory on-site. Wolpert’s team and IBM developed a data dashboard, drawing from 25 sensors in pilot restaurants. As a result, predictive analytics has reduced inventory management duties for on-site staff by automatically prompting for resupply. That allows workers to focus more on customer experience. “It means less time in the back of house, and more time helping customers at the front counter,” says Wolpert. Golden State Foods can also save workers time by using high-speed visual inspection systems. Once such “smart cameras” go through a training period, they can catch defects and imperfections faster and more reliably than humans.

Says Wolpert: “Think really big, but chunk it up to start small and go fast.” He counsels companies to shore up employee skills and education so that they can actively engage with partners. In addition, he suggests forging ties with organizations of global scale so they can keep pace with your growth and new ventures.

Golden State Foods is one of the largest suppliers of produce to the food service and retail industries.

Golden State Foods is one of the largest suppliers of produce to the food service and retail industries.

In adopting the IOT, lean-forward companies also suggest techniques to protect data and enhance its value. Open-source software is often a choice that ensures all partners have access to resources. In terms of security, AI and other emerging technologies “could help address current security concerns around connected ecosystems,” according to a 2017 report by Frost & Sullivan. Security also hinges on the choice of partners; companies should realize that some partners expect to yield additional value from your data. It’s better to pick a technology provider who maintains an explicit policy against data sharing.

Crossing the physical-digital divide

With the IoT and connectivity becoming ever-more ubiquitous across every industry, brands seeking a competitive advantage must embrace this transformation from physical to digital. “Products are shifting from being mechanically driven to software driven,” says Harriet Green, General Manager, Watson Internet of Things. “They offer differentiation and operational savings, redefine a client’s competitive position in the marketplace, attract new partners, and open new sources of revenue.” The IoT is taking products we’re all familiar with and investing them with new intelligence and connectivity, launching creative shifts no one could have foreseen. It certainly makes one look at the humble washing machine … and the hamburger … in a whole new light.

6 product design tips for the IoT era

  •        Use the aftermarket as a trove of great design research.
  •        Use IoT data to inform and iterate next design cycle.
  •        Train staff to understand the challenges and opportunities of the IoT.
  •        Partner early—and often.
  •        Make sure partners have security-minded business models.
  •        Tap into AI capabilities that can enhance security.

Learn more

Industrial Design’s New Challenge: Success Through Connection

Watson IoT 2017 Continuous Engineering Summit

Golden State Foods and IBM Watson IoT set new standards in foodservice industry

Watson IoT

 

The post Product lifecycle re-imagined with IoT appeared first on Internet of Things blog.

Internet of Things blog

IoT product development platform Seebo banks $16.5M Series A

Seebo, a cloud-based IoT product development platform announced today an $ 8M extension of its Series A funding. Returning investors TPY Capital and Viola Ventures led the latest round. Other investors that participated in the investment include Pritzker Group Venture Capital and Japan’s Global IoT Technology Ventures.

The latest round brings Seebo’s Series A funding to $ 16.5M and the total investment to $ 22M since its launch in 2012. The company will use the funding proceeds to bring onboard partners and incorporating new business solutions in its industrial IoT platform.

“We’ve succeeded in driving customer adoption and outstanding product value. Today we see a surge in market demand from industrial companies – from metal mining companies to machinery and industrial lighting manufacturers – in addition to top-notch B2C brand manufacturers that we continue to serve.”Seebo CEO and co-founder Lior Akavia

Participation by the returning investors TPY Capital and Viola Ventures show that Seebo’s investors have confidence in the company’s performance and the growth plan it has laid down. Executives from both the investment firms observed that the company has the ability to reach enterprise and startup customers globally.

Companies looking to add IoT-functionality to their existing products or startups planning to launch new products with embedded-IoT features can utilize Seebo’s IoT development platform.

The platform supports IoT modeling, prototyping and simulation, system launch, and analytics. Other IoT-platform companies such as Carriots (now acquired by Altair) and Prodea (now part of Arrayent) also provide IoT-enablement features for consumer products and enterprise companies. However, Seebo goes an extra mile by providing an ‘idea-to-market’ ecosystem for product/service developers. It provides integrated features to help generate BOM (bill of materials), estimates the cost of the whole solution, drags and drop features/functions, and connectivity to factories and component vendors.

Seebo boasts having customers such as Stanley Black & Decker and Ralph Lauren as well as several upstart consumer brands.


Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things

Smart pregnancy tracker obtains $2.3M in grants for R&D and product development

Bloomlife, a smart wearable for pregnancy tracking has raised $ 2.3M in two grants. The funding proceeds will be used for product development and R&D.

Bloomlife Smart Pregnancy Tracker

The wearable sensor can be used by women in the third trimester of pregnancy to monitor contraction patterns. The sensor-package helps monitor as well as count contractions accurately from home. The sensor also tracks the average frequency and duration and the pattern of contractions.

SML

“These grants allow us to further develop and validate our prenatal wearable platform for labor detection (preterm and term) and remote fetal monitoring, the two areas of greatest concern especially for high-risk moms.”CEO Eric Dy

How does it work?

Pregnant women can place the contraction tracker on their stomach via an adhesive strip. Once attached, the wearable device can be synced to Bloomlife’s mobile app. On activation, the device shows the uterine activity on the mobile app. It can also show ‘contraction patterns’. An ultra-low-power noise circuit tracks the fetal ECG and fetal movement.

The planned research study will take place during the next two years. The research grant was released by the European Commission Horizon 2020 program.


Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things