IHA connected with designer Lou Lenzi, a professor who prepares future managers for the Internet of Things market, to talk about consumer acceptance of smart home products that he will discuss at the at the 2018 International Home + Housewares Show. At the Show, the Innovation Theater will feature 21 presentations over four days. Topics discussed will include smart home, consumer shopping preferences, branding and global market trends.
Lou is a Professor of Practice at Indiana University’s School of Informatics and Computing in the Department of Human-Centered Computing. Located on the Indianapolis campus, his curriculum work is designed to prepare graduate students for leadership opportunities in the IoT space.
Prior to retiring from GE Appliances as design director in 2016, Lou spent his entire 36-year career leading design and innovation initiatives in large corporations, including IBM, RCA and GE. Lou’s award-winning multi-disciplinary design teams have consisted of industrial designers, user experience designers, user interface designers and human factors engineers.
Lou was named a Fellow of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) in 2008. In 2016, he was honored to be named by the IDSA as one of the Top 50 Industrial Designers of the last 50 years.
Lou, what is the most exciting or rewarding part of your work? What fuels your inspiration?
Connecting design to business strategy. Design can be more than a function that’s focused on aesthetics or usability. Our creative problem-solving methods, often termed “human-centered design” or “design thinking” can be applied to addressing larger, strategic business imperatives. Design can influence or direct any number of business growth and innovation strategies, including business model design.
My source of inspiration has always centered on business metrics – can our design efforts increase sales or higher margin realization? Will our work result in employing people across the value chain, from manufacturing to sales in order to support the launch of a new product design? Can we create wealth for the individual shareholder, and people who have invested their finances and trust in our business?
Can you name a pivotal event or project that impacted your career or company?
The design of the electronic program guide (EPG) for the DirecTV satellite video system in 1992 was a watershed event for the design team at Thomson/RCA. We not only created the first navigation system for a digital multi-channel video service, it became the de facto standard for all such systems and is still in use today by DirecTV and its cable and satellite competitors. Not only did the EPG generate on-going recurring licensing revenue for the business, more importantly, it repositioned the business as a software and service provider. This demonstrated the power of design as a strategic business asset.
More recently, as design director at GE Appliances, my team successfully developed the “Slate Gray” finish as an alternative to stainless steel for kitchen major appliances. Launched in 2012, this finish became a $170 million plus business for GE within 18 months of its launch. The launch of Slate created an industry-wide trend toward alternative premium appliance finishes in the consumer mass market, again demonstrating the power of design to drive new business growth.
In the past few years, what has changed most in your business? How has your company met these challenges in the way you do your work?
Low-cost internet connected products will drive a sea change in how we think about consumer products. The term “software as a service” (SaaS) has been used in the business-to-business (B2B) markets for some time now. With the advent of low-cost sensors, ubiquitous connectivity and cloud computing, SaaS concepts will invade the consumer market. We might even see the term “hardware as a service” take hold in the not-too-distant future. For example, at GE Appliances we began exploring how our internet-connected kitchen appliances might enable a healthy diet regime through specific meal delivery services coupled to our products.
As an educator, I’m excited to help develop future design and business leaders in this emerging arena.
Smart Home Mass-Market Adoption: Are We There Yet?
Saturday, March 10 2:30 – 3:20 p.m.
Innovation Theater, Lakeside Center, Room E350
Why did you choose to speak at the International Home + Housewares Show?
There is absolutely no other venue in this industry that engages in a forward-looking conversation with all of the key participants in the home and housewares value chain—manufacturers and suppliers, tastemakers and influencers, and those involved in major purchasing and flooring decisions.
Tell us what you will be speaking about and how and this topic is important for Show audiences.
I plan to address the penetration – or lack of penetration, depending on your point of view – of IoT products and services in the mass market. I plan to offer an assessment of the state of the market today, followed by some specific suggestions to grow this segment of the market, creating value for all of us in the business.
You’ve presented in the Innovation Theater before. What are you looking forward to most from speaking at the Innovation Theater?
I absolutely love the dialog with the Theater participants during and after the talk. There’s no better way to get a sense for the pulse of our industry, fielding questions, concerns, issues, and opinions from my colleagues on the “front lines” of the business.
What do you see as consumers’ biggest concerns regarding housewares products or how to shop for them?
The internet is a wonderful source of information, as well as dis-information! As our products incorporate more technology, there is always a fear that complexity will lead to false understanding of a product and its capabilities. The smart suppliers and vendors will be proactive and embrace design to tame complexity, simplify the end-user experience and drive positive awareness of our product offerings.
What are some of today’s trends or issues that new product development professionals and/or retailers face in the housewares market?
As we enter the age of internet-connected everything, we need to make sure our customers see the benefit of connectivity by providing real, tangible value in the services connectivity offers. We must also continually earn their trust—whether it be by providing security of these devices from hackers and other bad actors, or ensuring that “Big Brother” is not watching every move and gathering information customers do not want to share without their approval.
Thank you, Lou, for giving us some historical perspective and your interpretation of the development of today’s IoT environment. We look forward to your thoughtful analysis on Sunday, March 11 at 11:30 a.m. in the Innovation Theater. To learn more about Indiana University’s School of Informatics and Computing, visit their website or contact Lou Lenzi directly.
Learn from experts about how to invigorate your new products and services by enhancing your innovation efforts. Critical issues such as global design trends, branding, the needs of distinct consumer age and gender groups, and questions about smart/connected devices in our home environments all impact the home goods market. Be sure to attend the free executive-level educational sessions at the Innovation Theater. These programs will give you a fresh perspective as you walk the Show and will inspire, inform and improve your business. All programs will be audio-recorded and will be available at www.housewares.org after the Show.