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Philips shapes intelligent consumer electronics

Posted: 14 Jan 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Wierenga Peter? interview Philips? electronics intelligent consumer?

Wierenga: To achieve our growth ambitions, we need to create new businesses that combine new technologies with new products and business models, opening up new markets.

With the gloomy global economy and cloudy industry forecasts, research is key to survival, as can be seen in the success of Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. Over a hundred years old, Philips is one of the largest electronics companies in the world. Growing from a light bulb factory, the company now has three main businesses: lighting (still), consumer lifestyle and health care. It has pioneered various technologies that have helped shape today's electronics.

Peter Wierenga, CEO of Philips Research, said that with Philips' mission to "improve the quality of people's lives through timely introduction of meaningful innovations," research is very important. He shared the company's research philosophy, and explained that to grow in the highly competitive world of CE, it is important to combine new technologies with new products.

How important is research to Philips' operations?
Innovation is a key factor for business success. At Philips Research, one of the world's major private research organizations, innovation starts with insights into the needs and aspirations of consumers with regard to their health and well-being. To ensure that new technologies are easy to use and meaningful, they need to be tested by consumers themselves in a realistic setting.

In our ExperienceLab, we let people experience a new innovative concept in a very early stage of development. This lab provides the perfect setting for the discovery of the practical, social and psychological implications of differentiating technologies, so we can see quite early if we provide truly meaningful solutions. Balancing societal and technology trends, we are creating longer-term options for growth.

What is Philip's new corporate philosophy of open innovation in research?
For more than half a century, many companies!including Philips!saw innovation as a proprietary, 'closed' activity conducted largely inside their R&D centers in a series of closely managed steps. Industrial research laboratories applied the policy that bringing the best possible people together and stimulating them to generate as much as possible intellectual property (IP) rights would provide the most effective way to technological innovation. However, the knowledge landscape has become too diverse and complex for any one company to monopolize innovative ideas in a given technology area.

Open innovation is a model for doing industrial research that follows the paradigms of the networked knowledge economy. Innovation is becoming a distributed activity. Companies, universities and research institutes are increasingly sharing opportunities and costs by working together and by looking outside their own boundaries for useful technologies. IP rights are ensured through appropriate protection strategies, agreed upon by all stakeholders, thereby creating a trusted environment for innovation.

How do high-tech products bring simplicity to daily lives, as Philips products aim to do?
Products that are simple to use are often based on complex technology. Let me give an example in the area of healthcare. Currently, one of the most effective ways of diagnosing dementia in its earlier stages is by performing a Positron Emission Tomography brain scan with fluorodeoxyglucose tracer. This molecular imaging technique produces a 3D image of functional processes in the body!in this case, the uptake of glucose that fuels brain activity. However, the interpretation of PET brain-scan images requires a great deal of skill. Together with the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, we developed decision support software that assists physicians in analyzing and interpreting results within a few minutes.

Please explain your vision of a world where electronics "merge into environments with ambient intelligence."
Ambient intelligence is about making technology an integral!but invisible!part of our everyday life. It envisions a world where people are living in digital environments in which the electronics are sensitive to their needs, personalized to their requirements, anticipatory of their behavior and responsive to their presence. An ambient intelligence environment will for example be capable of 'reading' our mood when we get home and adjusting our environment to reflect it or soothe it. The ambient intelligence vision was first coined by Philips Research in 1998.

Philips together with Prime Technology Ventures has recently spun-out five technology companies from Philips incubators. Can you tell us more about this?
Growth comes from innovation. This can relate to existing products, but for long-term sustainable, profitable growth, Philips also needs to innovate with new ideas, new business models and new value propositions. To achieve our growth ambitions, we need to create new businesses that combine new technologies with new products and business models, opening up new markets.

Philips' incubator ventures are different from the existing Philips businesses. As embryonic emerging businesses, they have a different way of working, culture and mindset. Moreover, it is an ideal environment for the development of entrepreneurial talent, in which ideas for new ventures and value propositions can be tested and proven. We can push the envelope, take risks and do things we haven't done before. I see incubators as the place to foster organic growth and a way to harvest the creative ideas and energy within Philips.

Can you tell us a bit about your research efforts in Asia?
Philips Research in Asia was established in 2000 in Shanghai serving Philips' rapidly growing business in the East Asia region. Today, with innovation campuses in Shanghai and Bangalore, Philips Research Asia is developing itself into a leading research lab, well suited to address the needs of emerging markets in Asia in the areas of health and well-being. We are focusing on lifestyle, healthcare, and lighting systems and applications, partnering with the academic and R&D community in Asia, and cooperating with local standardization bodies.

In 2007, Philips' Chinese clinical research program was launched with the establishment of the Biomedical Imaging Research Center in Beijing by Philips, Beijing Hospital and Tsing Hua University. And we signed a long-term research partnership agreement with West China Hospital in Chengdu to jointly develop new medical imaging procedures for diagnosis and monitoring of major diseases such as cardiovascular, cancer and mental disease. And we already have research partnerships with universities in China , such as!among others!the University of Tsinghua (Beijing), the Northeastern University (Shenyang), and the University of Zhejiang (Hang Zhou), and in India (Manipal University).

What about your research into sustainability?
Within Philips, sustainability has always been part of our DNA; even our founders saw no difference between business and sustainability. And today, sustainability still is an important innovation and value driver for Philips, opening new growth opportunities: it is an integral part of our strategic thinking and acting.

Of course, lighting technologies are important when talking about sustainability: Lighting accounts for about 19 percent of worldwide electricity consumption, and new innovative lighting solutions could realistically save up to 40 percent energy on all today's installed lighting.

However, there is more to it. Our world is caught in an unsustainable paradigm: Human development is accompanied by increasing unsustainable consumption. In the long run, economic growth without social justice and environmental responsibility is not possible. We need to reduce our ecological footprint, which is a measure of our human demand on the earth's ecosystems, while still increasing our current standards of health and well-being worldwide. This is a great challenge for any innovative company, including Philips.

- EE Times-Asia

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