Dyson on Dyson

JAMES DYSON FOUNDER & CHIEF EN­GI­NEER, DYSON

HWM (Singapore) - - Q & A - by Mar­cusWong

Home ap­pli­ances are get­ting smarter and smarter. How is this be­ing re­flected in new prod­ucts Dyson is launch­ing, and what sort of “con­nected home” do you en­vi­sion for the fu­ture?

The dig­i­tal and tan­gi­ble worlds are com­ing closer to­gether. So-called ‘dig­i­tal’ com­pa­nies want a foothold in prod­ucts that you can make and hold – but the hard­ware needs to be suit­ably high-per­form­ing if the ex­pe­ri­ence is to be a good one in the home.

Our lat­est vac­uum, the Dyson 360 Eye robot, is the first au­ton­o­mous Dyson ma­chine. It un­der­stands its en­vi­ron­ment so it knows where it has cleaned, and where it is yet to go. The Dyson dig­i­tal mo­tor en­ables it to per­form vac­u­um­ing while an app helps peo­ple stay on top of their do­mes­tic tasks re­motely. It is cur­rently un­der­go­ing beta testing in Ja­pan but we hope to see it in Sin­ga­pore soon.

How much bet­ter can our home ap­pli­ances be­come? Is it more a case of be­ing more ef­fi­cient at what they do, or adding fur­ther func­tion­al­ity that we haven’t thought about yet?

Noth­ing is clear about the fu­ture – but en­gi­neers will con­tinue to chal­lenge con­ven­tion and im­prove tech­nolo­gies along the way.

Hard­ware is where the real gains are to be made: au­ton­o­mous ma­chines that truly un­der­stand and re­act to their en­vi­ron­ment; bat­ter­ies which last longer; and su­per ma­te­ri­als that can al­low us to cre­ate lighter, stronger, ma­chines. Leaps in th­ese ar­eas will change the way we in­ter­act with our tech­nol­ogy, and the way it in­ter­acts with us.

What are some of the emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy trends you’ve no­ticed that you think are most likely to have the most im­pact?

Each year, my Foun­da­tion runs the James Dyson Award - an in­ter­na­tional de­sign award that is run in 18 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Sin­ga­pore. It is open to de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing stu­dents as well as re­cent grad­u­ates. The brief is sim­ple: de­sign some­thing that solves a prob­lem. One thing that comes through each year is the de­sire of the young en­gi­neers and sci­en­tists to de­velop sus­tain­able tech­nol­ogy – to do more with less.

One win­ner who par­tic­u­larly caught my eye was a young man who was de­vel­op­ing a rev­o­lu­tion­ary wave en­ergy sys­tem. Har­ness­ing the power of the waves on mul­ti­ple axes he has de­vel­oped a way to in­crease en­ergy pro­duc­tion. He won S$60,000 to help com­mer­cial­ize his idea – and I ex­pect he’ll do very well.

Dyson has been a leader in in­no­va­tion, with pro­to­types like the Dyson Halo and the en­gine that fil­ters out en­vi­ron­men­tal tox­ins un­der devel­op­ment, yet nei­ther were ever re­leased. What fac­tors de­cide if a prod­uct is ready for com­mer­cial­iza­tion?

Dyson has over 4,000 patent ap­pli­ca­tions, for more than 500 in­ven­tions. Some ideas make it into pro­duc­tion quickly, while oth­ers take a lit­tle longer, and some­times re-sur­face in a dif­fer­ent guise.

Af­ter three years of re­search and devel­op­ment, the Halo project was put on hold so that Dyson en­gi­neers could fo­cus on ex­pand­ing Dyson tech­nol­ogy into the USA. El­e­ments of the tech­nol­ogy are now be­ing used in fu­ture re­search projects. No ideas are wasted!

The av­er­age con­sumer doesn’t care as much about the tech­nol­ogy be­hind a prod­uct as he does the end re­sult. How do you take tech­no­log­i­cal break­throughs and turn them into user-friendly prod­ucts?

It is no good de­vel­op­ing a ma­chine that just looks nice; if it does not do its job peo­ple quickly lose in­ter­est. There­fore, I think peo­ple do care about the tech­nol­ogy in­side, they just do not al­ways im­me­di­ately re­al­ize it.

Fi­nally, what can we ex­pect to see from Dyson next?

It’s an en­gi­neer’s mind-set to keep solv­ing prob­lems. We have a 25-year time hori­zon on our fu­ture tech­nol­ogy and are work­ing with 30 of the world’s best uni­ver­si­ties to de­velop new tech­nolo­gies which will be at core of it. I can’t tell you any more than that other than to say that the Dyson dig­i­tal mo­tor, which is man­u­fac­tured here in Sin­ga­pore, will be at the heart of it.

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