Creative Commons (BY NC SA) licence granted by the authors. First published on Feb 28, 2012
Last Modified on Feb 28, 2014. Please keep us updated if you adopt this model and make improvements.
Only SENSORICA logo is copyright. Content on this document is Creative Commons (BY NC SA)
under heavy construction...
This document explains the product design philosophy within SENSORICA,
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Table of contents
How to play the open game... (post by Tibi on Multitude Project blog)
The philosophy behind our products is not only an ethical issue. It is also a very important economical issue. See discussion on Product Licensing.
The SENSORICA value network is committed to the design and deployment of intelligent, open sensors and sensemaking systems, which allow our communities to optimize interactions with our physical environment and realize our full human potential.
NOTE: these characteristics are linked to other OVN processes like manufacturing, marketing, distribution, service, etc.
An economic choice:
Planned obsolescence was implemented because it can be profitable in the current economy. There are other models that coexist with it, for example the PC (personal computer). According to Moore’s law, any configuration of a PC becomes obsolete in only six months. But the modularity of the PC allows the user to update it by replacing internal parts. A PC is something close to what we call a perpetual product. It can evolve continuously and even morph into something else.
One disadvantage of products planned for obsolescence (apart from the fact that they are not sustainable from an environmental perspective) is that every time the consumer needs to replace the product can switch to another brand. Companies that implement this practice need to spend energy to keep their customers, to generate repeated sales. Perpetual products build long-term relationships through service for example.
Every time a product becomes obsolete the user has the opportunity to go with another brand, if he/she is not trapped by network effects. Therefore, one way to secure profits when planned obsolescence is applied is either to have a VERY good brand (the perfect example is Apple), or to have that product embedded within an ecosystem of products to create strong network effects (the best example is Microsoft).
A perpetual product (almost) never becomes obsolete. Only a given configuration can become obsolete because because of technological advancement, which is NOT planned obsolescence, but rather natural obsolescence. In this case, there is no reason to change the product or to change brand. If the product can be easily updated the user will just keep it. This helps the producer to establish a longer-term, more profound relationship with the user.
In software this tendency is very pronounced. For example, Google updates its products on a regular basis without interfering too much with their use by their users. Users get accustomed to a certain environment or interface and tend to stick with it, unless the evolution lags behind other equivalent products available.
Moreover, if this product is open source, it can generate around it an ecosystem of other products, which in turn generates its own network effects. Arduino is a good example of this.
A perpetual product is actually economically viable. Taking into consideration environmental concerns, I would even say that its future is assured, because apart from economical viability it can also be better marketed.
Inherently open products
We are designing products that are inherently open. Open products that are modular can be easily updated, they are NOT programmed for obsolescence or made difficult to modify. This makes them incompatible with closed products (designed with control in mind). In other words, our products cannot be simply copied by classical business organizations, which design on a very different philosophy.
Modularity and interoperability allows the creation of an ecosystem of products. Moreover, the energy to build this ecosystem is drawn through networks affiliation and open source collaboration. The value of each product is reinforced by the others.
See more on How to play the open game... by Tibi.
1. Configuring by customer order, where all of the options are separate products offered for sale, and the configuration is just the selected order items. So for example, in a Mosquito scientific instrument system, you would offer a "base" system containing the common features, and each the variable options (e.g. the transducers) would be listed for sale, and the configuration would be the transducers and other options that were ordered.
Advantages of configuring by customer order:
2. Configurators, configuration models and configurations: for example, the features and options solution I mentioned in a previous message in this thread.
3. Pre-configured product variations: in other words, you offer a set of packages of configured options, or a set of different products for sale that include packages of configured options. You might have encountered these if you bought a car, where (for example) if you want cruise control, you must buy a higher-priced car model which also includes a bunch of other options like electronic locks and windows.
4. Combinations: You could offer options a la carte as well as features with options as well as pre-configured product variations, as in a restaurant menu.
Design products that are easy to share. We’re building products for a sharing economy. What is a product that is easily shareable? What are its main features. What makes a product easily shareable?
In order to create products with certain features requires an established culture within the community of designers. It also requires practice, experience.
See THIS great discussion about warranty. This is our first serious discussion on this topic.
Please curate it here.
The idea to create this document came after a discussion between Tibi and Francois about planned obsolescence and the trend in software of ever beta products.
 Referring to the need to have the same brand because of compatibility issues with other products used by the same user or by other individuals with whom the user interacts very often