Blog written by: Kelly Daize
I recently overheard a colleague provide a shorthand description of Area X.O as a “smart mobility R&D facility”. After my immediate reaction (“no… that is only a small part of what we do”) I realized that my biggest beef may be with my concept of the term R&D. When I think of R&D I visualize early research, data collection and ideation. Under this description only a small proportion of our clients are working on R&D. The majority are past that and have working prototypes ready for deployment and validation, on the way to real world deployment.
However, provided you understand a more nuanced description of what R&D means, we can probably qualify as a smart mobility R&D facility.
So, what does the average research and development pipeline look like? And where does Area X.O fit in?
For most large technology companies, there are roughly 11 steps from initial concept to finished product. (Although this paints a general picture, the specifics will naturally vary depending on the company and its approach.)
The Path to Product
The steps of technical product R&D depends on the size of the company.
- Ideation –Finding a gap in the market that can be addressed and conceptualizing what it might look like
- Research – Performing both technical and market research about the product, possible implementations, and the problem it will solve
- Prototyping – building small scale versions of the product to see how well they work in solving the problem and fulfilling the need
- Trials – Executing small proof-of-concept trials to assure that the product will work as expected before heavy-duty work begins
- Requirements – Creating specifications for how the product should behave and perform
- Development – Designing and constructing the software and hardware as well as performing any necessary integration
- Validation – Ensuring that the product being developed meets the requirements
- Field trials – Testing the product in real-life applications or with real-customers but in limited, controlled circumstances
- Productization – Taking information from field trials and course-correcting the product, optimizing, and/or changing features as necessary
- Release – Deploying the product into the public and opening the sales cycle
- Maintenance – Amending features or fixing defects of the product uncovered by widespread customer use. (With non-updatable products, there may be an expected and fixed number of maintenance releases, but now that software is usually modifiable in the field, this stage can often extend indefinitely.)
The number of discrete steps in the R&D process shrinks with the size of the company. That’s due to fewer resources resulting in more blending of job responsibilities, less processes required by a smaller organization, and less formal distinction between stages in the process. For example, the prototyping phase for an SME may or may not include proof-of-concept trials, and the development phase of a startup may or may not involve generating requirements.
So where does Area X.O fit? Really, it’s when companies are working on commercializing their ideas, they have working prototypes and need testing and trials to make the final push to product. This is late-stage R&D, and it’s the bottom third of the diagram – starting somewhere around field trials and moving on through release.
The Path to Product
Area X.O best helps companies who are in the later stages of commercializing their technology.
Some facilities are much more focused on validation, helping companies certify their product and ensure its compliant with existing standards. Others focus on early research, acting as a laboratory for innovation. While we have (and can) meet those needs too, our strengths really lie in hardening products that are in development and bringing those products over the finish line. Our ability to replicate complex use cases in a four-season climate – utilizing our numerous assets and infrastructure – and our connections to several industries and multiple levels of government, allows us to help clients create test pilots that accelerate product development and leverage those experiences into significant real customer traction.
So smart mobility R&D facility? Sure, now I’ll buy that.