Smart, connected products herald great opportunities for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that develop finished products ranging from rather simple mechanical products to electronic and mechatronic products/machines. Exploiting these opportunities requires SMEs to go far beyond their business as usual. Products will no longer be “standalone products” but will become complex systems that combine hardware, sensors, data storage, microprocessors, software, and connectivity technologies in a myriad ways. Although SMEs recognize the opportunity, they find it difficult to decide how to start their journey towards smart connected products. Their current development approaches are not well-equipped to support this shift from “product-centric” thinking (i.e. adding functions to a product) to “value-centric” thinking (i.e. getting value out of a product system).

AddSmart is designed to help you discover innovative ways to add functionality to a product and add value to the product. These additional functions can be described by different Use Cases, which are based on the following building blocks.


Value Creation Strategies

The further development of today's products into smart products can be based on various strategic goals.

These value creation strategies can be linked to the characteristics of smart products.

Echterfeld and Gausemeier summarize the different characteristics of the literature into eight main characteristics, which form the value creation strategies for the course of the project. They are described as follows:

  • Adaptivity: The smart product is able to interact with its environment and adapts itself automatically.
  • User-friendliness: Different users’ behaviors could be taken into account by the product and are translated into adapted actions.
  • Robustness: Unexpected situations, which were not considered by the developer, could be managed by the smart product.
  • Foresightedness: An anticipation of the effects of different factors is possible by knowledge gain through experience.
  • Connectivity: The smart products are connected with other products and devices and are able to send and receive information.
  • Autonomy: The product is able to solve complex tasks independently the user.
  • Extensibility: A smart product is extensible along its lifecycle, e.g. by updates.
  • Multifunctionality: By the use of information and communication technology, the products fulfill multiple functions.

The eight value creation strategies represent the purpose of the development of the smart product. They can be pursued individually or in combination. They are assigned to the various use cases. Which strategy should be pursued depends on the initial situation and vision of the company, which are specified with the value proposition canvas and the questionnaire.

Use Case Evaluation

The use cases were classified by analyzing their maturity level concerning smart products. The delta between the current state of the company and the maturity level of the use cases as well as the allocation of addressed challenges form the evaluation criteria.​

Within the scope of the requirements analysis, the object of observation needed to be determined and examined. Therefore, the challenges and visions of the companies have been analyzed. An essential help in this phase was a questionnaire and the method “World Café”. Therefore the questions

  • Which use cases (in approx. 2 years) regarding the focus topic do you see generating new values for you?
  • Who are the target group and stakeholders for these use cases? Are they changing in relation to today?
  • What challenges do you see in the  implementation of these use cases?

were answered in a cooperatively workshop. From the answers, relevant use cases for the different focus topics were derived.

Map of Patterns & Technology Trees

SME-oriented patterns have been explored highlighting different options to realize the use cases for smart, connected products. “Technology-“, “Organization-“ and “Human-Trees” were built to provide an overview on the different solution options for a certain application. For each of the three socio-technical dimensions, categories are formed that reflect the typical characteristics of these from literature. An example of a category in the area of technology is, for example, “data storage” and data handling”; in the area of human the “work station”.

To analyze the influences in detail, the categories of the morphological box were structured and transferred to an influence matrix. With the help of this, the compatibility between the manifestations is evaluated and restrictions were identified. The analysis of these interactions finally leads to minimum requirement questions for the SMEs, which are allocated to the solution patterns.