Recognising the benefits of a software-driven approach
The turning point came when our client informed us they had discovered that the Unique Selling Point would be defined by something other than just those special hardware components. Aha!
Instead, key features were the way the user was to be guided through the workflows, and the general flexibility and controllability of the device. That immediately made us switch our thinking from lab sample to software-driven innovation. We suggested putting the lab sample aside for later and starting with software instead. The software would be connected to a remix of existing products, so all that needed to be done was to connect those products to the software and to provide access in the program to the actors and sensors. Add an automation layer using scripting, status monitoring, domain-specific logging and a control layer, and the customer would be ready to use the setup to experiment with a product that did not (yet) physically exist!
By automating everything with full access to the hardware, enriched by the full flexibility of a scripting environment, the ‘lab software product’ can be used to determine the relative importance of features, and further, what is and what is not important in the realisation of these features.
For example, it was assumed that incorporating accessories would be complex. When looking at this from an information point of view, however, one of the planned accessories – an additional temperature sensor – would become just another data source for the main actor’s control loop. Moreover, the extra data source could now be used, or ignored, depending on the state of the process to be executed. To establish when to use and when to ignore, one can script as many flows as required, analyse the log outputs plus the physical results and adapt parameters accordingly. If that does not do the trick, the log data can be adjusted in accuracy and tagged with timestamps or other meta-information. Load the log data for further data analytics, and you now have the possibility of finding correlations which had not been detected before.