Dyson on Dyson
JAMES DYSON FOUNDER & CHIEF ENGINEER, DYSON
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.