Philips digital innovation director Vijay Solanki on the internet of things: Don't connect for the sake of it

Continuing our series of interviews with the judges of this year's Dadi Awards, in association with Synergist, The Drum asks Amsterdam-based Vijay Solanki, a senior director of digital innovation at Philips, for his views on everything from the internet of things to the strength of the UK digital industry.

Vijay Solanki

Which brands are successfully connecting their digital output with their physical stores and products?

Traditional companies like Nike have been developing this space for years. There are also so many digital native companies like Sonos which combine hardware and software to make great a proposition. It also puts a much greater emphasis on the software user experience. You just have to look at the version history of the Sonos app and you’ll see that the app has evolved considerably over the last three years. Digital product development is dynamic and software evolves fast.

There has been so much talk about the 'internet of things'. What does that phrase mean to you, and how big a part does it play in the thinking at Philips?

The challenge is not to connect for the sake of it but to make sure you have a real consumer insight at the heart of your thinking. You need to use the internet of things to solve specific consumer problems and make any new innovation meaningful to the consumer. It needs to matter to them. We have developed several new digital propositions based on the internet of things thinking such as a smart air purifier, and smart coffee machine among others.

Can you share any of the main trends in consumer digital behaviour you’re seeing at Philips?

There are all the usual trends but within digital innovation, we are very interested in consumer expectations from the smartphones and tablets for meaningful service, seamless experience and personalisation. The data shows that real utility is where the growth is right now. Just look at the UK, where energy companies give you home monitoring or banks enable secure and easy mobile banking. Great work from both British Gas and Barclays.

What is your opinion of the UK digital industry?

It's still a cutting-edge hub in Europe and a source of digital creativity. Traditional companies are working hard to digitise at both clients and agency organisations. I think the catalyst is the huge number of start-ups and new breed of digital agency that is helping to speed up the digital evolution. We should be doing more to learn from each other.

As a judge of this year’s Dadi Awards, what are you hoping to see from the entrants?

I hope to see digital innovation that goes beyond digital marketing. I hope to see cutting edge user experience using software based experience design. Anything that makes life better, easier and more intuitive for the consumer. I’m particularly interested in data visualisation. I’d also like to see new business models as many companies move from products to services and from one-off product interactions to recurring engagement with services.

And finally, what is the most exciting thing in digital right now?

We have some pretty cool digital innovations in market and coming to market, including apps to inspire busy cooks who want tasty and healthy food via our Philips Airfryer product. We developed many smart prototypes being developed for launch. On a more general level, the excitement is with digital ecosystems where you build products and services that work seamlessly with others, and also data propositions, where companies use data to make meaningful products and services. Companies like Nest (now acquired by Google) are fantastic at this. Expect to see more in this area in the near future.

The Dadi Awards, in association with Synergist and sponsored by Kingston Smith W1 and Unanimis, is open for entries until 30 May. You can find out more at dadiawards.com.

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