Product Innovation Comes to Life in Chicago

Rat and lab-grown hamburger

Lab-grown hamburger and the social habits of rats. They were both themes at the 2013 Product Innovation Conference held in Chicago, Illinois earlier this month.

This year’s event provided an inside look at what drives the most innovative companies today, and the technology and processes which support that innovation.

Featured companies included new comers like New Harvest—a non-profit research organization working on growing petri-dish meat—as well as established industry giants like Whirlpool and Boeing.

Here are a few highlights from the event:

1. What’s trending in the rat world? Brenna Berman, commissioner and CIO of Chicago’s Department of Technology & Innovation, is working on solving the Windy City’s rat problem.

The City of Chicago is using predictive analytics software that indicates where rats are likely to hang out. Data analysis shows that an area with garbage buildup produces a seven-day window in which rats will congregate. Similarly, a broken water main leads to an increase of rats in that area.

“With prediction, rat-baiting teams can add greater precision to established practices—like knowing how soon to strike after a water main breaks, and with how much force,” Berman said.

2. Beef in a petri dish. Isha Data, director at New Harvest, gave a fascinating presentation on cell cultured beef.

Although she admits that the texture is not quite the same as real meat, the benefits of cultured meat are undeniable: the incidence of foodborne disease is significantly reduced due to the safe, sterile environments in which cultured meat is produced. It requires 99 percent less land, 96 percent less water, emits 96 percent fewer greenhouse gases, and uses 45 percent less energy.

Overall, “cultured meat has the potential to be healthier, safer, less polluting, and more humane than conventional meat,” Data said. Bacon lovers need not worry however, she assures us that the goal here is not to replace real meat, but rather diversify its portfolio of offerings.

3. Engaging, social, and intuitive product development. Deckers Outdoor has a vision for PLM that even non-engineers will find fun.

“We’re not engineers, but we are creative,” says process development manager Pam Buckingham and PLM manager Jamie Tantleff. In the future, they envision a PLM system that’s social, intuitive, and engaging, with vision boards to display ideas and notes.

Like Facebook, there will be no need to go through training or a steep learning curve with the new PLM system. Users will simply be able to log on and start creating.

How is your company applying innovative thought to challenges, processes or new products?

To learn more about how technology enables innovation, read the Accelerating Innovation Series.

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