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Innovation for a Better Life

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Mar 6, 2014 1:56:48 PM

Jack Truong, the CEO of Electrolux, makes an interesting differentiation between creativity and innovation. “Creativity is invention for the sake of discovery, whereas innovation is advancement that adds value,” he told me in a recent interview.

Formerly a Vice President at 3M and Senior Engineer at Polaroid, Truong has focused his career on developing innovative products that add distinctive value and improve consumers’ lives.

Truong affirms that with today’s rapid advancements in technology, our lives are becoming busier and more complex. It’s therefore imperative, he asserts, that product manufacturers such as Electrolux continue to develop products that help us simplify our lives. “Consumers want to enjoy their lives with good food, a healthy home, and quality time with family and friends. It’s important that the products in their home save valuable resources of all kinds—energy, water, and time.”

Innovative companies like Electrolux, Bosch, and Samsung are paving the way towards an intelligent, streamlined future. Their advanced home technology, powered by the Internet of Things, will automate rote functions that are performed manually now, adding value and giving back precious time. For example, upon waking, our homes will automatically turn on the proper level of lighting based on the position and brightness of the sun; activate heating or cooling based on the outside temperature; suggest daily activities, traffic routes, and attire options based on the weather; and recommend breakfast selections that are appropriate for our daily nutritional needs, general health levels, and food inventory.

“With all of this technological development, however, we have to be careful that we’re innovating (adding value), not just creating (adding more features),” says Truong. “This is the difference between art and function.”

When I asked Truong about the future, he said, “I’m simultaneously excited and scared about smart technologies that provide us with access to information at our fingertips any time, any place. With ubiquitous technology, everything can be controlled within 1 inch of our bodies. Wearables like Google glasses and wristbands that can process mountains of information at any given moment will both add to and take away from our lives.”

After pondering Truong’s comments, I can’t help but wonder—at what point does our interaction with advanced technology and access to always-on information affect our basic humanity?

“We have to make technology work for us, not against us,” says Truong. “We have to find ways for technology to make our lives more enjoyable, and in the process more sustainable.”

It seems to me that manufacturers will have an interesting challenge to develop breakthrough innovations that address the unarticulated needs of consumers and add exponential value, rather than simply create incremental features and functionalities.

What key innovations would you like to see from manufacturers? Write to me at sara.gutterman@greenbuildermedia.com or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

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