Innovation and Disruption

Innovation and Disruption | Dream Kitchen Builders

This article was originally posted in Kitchen & Bath Business.

Technology is changing the way business is done in the kitchen & bath industry. 

Game-changing innovations in technology like mobile computing, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and computer vision are providing new abilities and opportunities in our industry. All segments are deploying innovative technology on job sites and in manufacturing, communications, marketing and design.

Some changes are truly 180 degrees. For example, in some marketing departments the design of TV and print ads is rapidly being replaced with the design of interactive experiences for customers on social media. Home automation systems that are hardwired, expensive and installed by professionals are being replaced with wireless plug-and-play devices that use AI. 

Design software that was once labor intensive is now simpler and has the ability to “see” so we can import real images in the blink of an eye – and they are to scale. That’s disruptive technology.

Unbundling Projects

Kitchen and bath remodeling “all under one contract” is a service dealers sold a lot in the 1990s and 2000s. It was really convenient for customers to have one contract and person in charge of design, materials, labor, etc. It’s still a service homeowners want, but lately some are choosing to unbundle and have multiple contracts and people in charge and to even do some of the heavy lifting themselves. Technology makes it easier to be educated and more confident about taking on projects around the home. That’s what happens with disruptive technology, things get unbundled. 

Designers are unbundling services too and are offering them by the hour instead of requiring that design and materials be bundled together.

“The way we charge our clients and what makes the most balanced and fair monetary exchange between designer and client is an hourly rate,” said interior designer Mary Douglas Drysdale. “In my experience, clients are put on notice that if they can’t make up their minds or request frequent changes, there will be a cost. We have all sought to achieve a higher level of professionalism, so we should avoid conflicts of interest and charge as other professional consultants do.” 

 

Talking about Innovation

“People typically respond to change and technology by asking what is out there and how they can use it,” said Saul Kaplan, author of The Business Model Innovation Factory. “The right response to changing technology is “How do I use these new abilities to do things differently?” 

He says the way to approach innovation is to start with the lens of the customer and then map a customer experience to learn what they want. Next, you learn about the economics for the project. Then, take a blank piece of paper and think of ways to serve your customers that are better, faster and cheaper in every step. 

 

Industry Disruptors  

A disruptive innovator in the kitchen industry is Wood-Mode Fine Customer Cabinetry. The company is working with Virginia Tech on a project called FutureHAUS Dubai. Virginia Tech won first place for the project in The Solar Decathlon competition last November. Universities from around the world competed in this event to show innovative concepts about the future of home design and construction. 

 Jeff Wolfe, marketing director with WoodMode, said his company worked with Virginia Tech to design, build and install cabinetry that’s customized to fit new technology, such as adjustable-height cabinetry. The unitized walls or cartridges of the FutureHAUS smart home are dropped into a new home from above, one wall at a time. The technology is plug and play, and the assembly and construction is less labor intensive. We’ve always built on top of floors, so building things into walls is truly innovative.  

“Wood-Mode is also using disruptive programs by integrating LED lighting into the custom cabinetry design process,” said Wolfe, who explained that the light can be applied to almost any interior and can be operated with a switch, remote control or mobile app.  

The integration of lighting systems into cabinetry in a factory is disrupting the way homes are built. By combining mechanicals and cabinetry, the installation is simple and faster. 

“Kitchen cabinet installations are getting disrupted too,” according to Wolfe. “As the installation continues to see more integration of product and technology, it’s not just carpenters installing a box. Now designers and system technicians are involved in the installation plan, as cabinets become connected to the home’s central technology center.” 

Mobile App Innovation

AR has been around for a while, but it recently got a big boost when Apple launched the mobile AR platform ARKit. Anybody with an Apple mobile device can now experience and design with AR. Kavtek is a Canadian app start up using it to enable home design.

“Marketing and sales are the top reasons realtors use Kavtek,” said Chris Bellissimo, marketing manager with the company. “Realtors, builders and designers can easily design home-staging experiences and get different looks on the spot.” 

But many realtors are struggling to connect with millennials, according to Bellissimo. Some realtors prefer computers over mobile devices for business. They buy media ads to push their content the way they’ve always done it, and they don’t do inbound marketing. But social media and new technologies like AR are exactly what millennials want.

In the 1980s, PCs and CAD design were innovative game-changing tools that gave designers and image-centric business a competitive advantage. Back then, computer input was labor intensive, and the software was expensive. Thirty years later, we have tools like AR and computer vision that are free, easy to use, smarter and better. 

A Superpower For Designers

A superpower for designers  |  Dream Kitchen Builders

Augmented Reality could transform the design/build industry.

If any industry could benefit from technology, it’s construction, but we have never been known to be early adopter or even mainstream users of technology. But the design/build world is ripe for tech innovation; we design and built in front of our buyers, and we work in diverse, mobile and typically scattered teams of professionals. 

We need the technology in our industry to be mobile, image oriented, simple and inexpensive. Designers and builders are now integrating products and technology from all over the world -- since consumers are now shopping in a global marketplace -- and we need the latest and most creative tools to manage this.  

 

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality (AR) is a composite of real-world and virtual data like images and videos and can include perceptual data like audio, measurements, depth perception and geolocation. AR can help designers automate processes and build prototypes easier and faster by using virtual images that are scaled correctly. It can bring teams together in real-time design meetings even though they may each be in remote locations. 

The top AR-use cases for designers and contractors:

  • Shared Experiences by Apple will be available this fall through Apple’s ARKit 2 on Apple devices. Multiple users such as clients, designers, builders and architects will be able to collaborate on the same virtual image superimposed on a real-world image in real time — on different devices.

  • On-site job management and record keeping via mobile apps will speed things up and keep the team on the same page and will also automatically update your records.

  • AR can be used on a jobsite to measure, scale, notate and share via chat.

  • Video conferencing with real + virtual images in the real world (live on everyone’s screen in real time) can be helpful for design meetings, change orders and troubleshooting.


Helpful AR Apps: 

-  Augment. The Augment app allows designers to scan content and import it for AR applications. Let’s say you’re at a plumbing supply house and you find a beautiful but very large chef’s faucet, and you’re not sure if it’ll fit in your client’s design. Using the built-in AR camera, you can shoot the image and then save it. Back at the project, you can upload it into an AR app and superimpose it in the real world to check scale. You can add text and save the composite image to your files, and you can share it in real time with everyone involved in making the decision.

-   Measure. Measure will be released by Apple this fall as part of iOS 12, and it may become the new standard for measuring in the world of design and construction. Apple, with iOS 12 and Measure, has made jobsite measuring so much easier, and at the same time its AR capabilities will be especially useful to designers. Will Measure replace the tape measure and become the standard for measuring in the construction industry? Maybe. Its superpowers are that you will be able to measure almost anything with your iPhone. Point, measure and save real-world, real-time images and related data. It will even measure a person. It’s going to be easy to measure LxWxH  on your iPhone, as it will recognize rectangles automatically and measure all sides of the rectangle at once. One of the biggest assets for designers using this new app will be something that Apple calls “Level.” Designers and builders will be able to keep objects level in any space using this feature from the app.

-   Chalk. With the Chalk App, remote teamwork and collaboration become better and easier. You’ll be able to take a real-world image of an item that has just been installed at your project and superimpose a virtual image on top of it to share with your team – even on numerous different devices. Virtual images, like a manufacturer’s CAD image of a faucet, can be superimposed in the real world to create a composite and perfectly scaled image. The composite image can then be saved and revisited later by the whole team with the virtual elements still in place. This is called “Persistent AR.” The Chalk app is coming out this fall and will be an awesome new tool in a designer’s bag of tricks. It will be helpful in online meetings and for troubleshooting, and it’s an excellent way to collaborate remotely.

AR isn’t new, but the democratization of it is definitely new because Apple just made it mainstream with ARKit and ARKit 2. Design tools that were once too expensive for independent small and medium business to purchase are now free. The power to merge the real world with imagination is a superpower that designers down through the ages would have died for.