With the exciting release of iiNet’s latest innovative product, we decided to take some time out to chat with Stephen Harley, our Chief Product Officer and head of iiNet Labs. In this first installment of a two-part interview we discuss the origin and development of our new best friend, Budii TM.
While Budii has only just been released to the public, it’s actually something that iiNet has been working on for some time. So let’s start from the beginning – what was the original thinking behind Budii?
The original concept started nearly two years ago, after going to the market with BoB2 and BoB Lite. We looked for an approach that was in line with: good, better, best. BoB Lite is our entry-level product while BoB2 complements our customers’ desire for content, wireless, VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and broadband connection.
So we started to look forward – to the future of technology in the home. What was the next level? What could that look like? We looked at new opportunities around potential applications and services and what that meant inside the home.
These days domestic technology has a very broad scope. How did you decide which areas were important?
Each year, we attend a lot of trade and innovation shows, both local and international. From attending these and speaking with international telecommunications companies and service providers we identified several key emerging trends. These were in the areas of home automation, home monitoring and energy management, affected by the rising costs of utilities.
It raised a lot of questions that we were keen to explore. How could we assist our customers in these areas? Specifically, how could we help collect, interpret and use that information to save our customers money? We then took the perspective of exploring the type of hardware that would be required to meet this need.
We knew that in order to do this, we had to step up our hardware. Early on, we considered creating a BoB3 but it soon became clear that we were moving towards something radically different. So we decided to move away from the BoB naming convention. We had to start with a blank canvas.
Going from a blank canvas to the end product must have been quite a process. Visually, Budii is certainly very sleek and modern. Could you talk us through the hardware design process and how that distinctive look came about?
Given that we had always envisioned a very central role for Budii within the home, we knew it was going to be on prominent display. Whether it was going to sit on your kitchen work top or lounge room coffee table, it was critical that the design of Budii was aesthetically appealing.
We initially approached four Australian innovation design groups to tender for the hardware design. But critically and very deliberately, we didn’t tell them what Budii was actually going to do. We didn’t want to bias their thinking that it had to look a certain way. We wanted to take technology out of the conversation.
We wanted the designers to take inspiration from wherever they saw examples of exceptional design – whether it was from industries as variable as automobiles, white goods, or home entertainment.
We performed focus group testing and narrowed it down to four designs, which were then reviewed internally. Once the final design was selected, we took the design team through the technology specifications and began the process of marrying design with function and capability.
Did you receive any surprising early stage feedback during the design process?
Our focus group testing was completely anonymous. The groups didn’t know that the product [Budii] was for a telecommunications company let alone iiNet. In fact, when they were asked who they thought would be manufacturing the product – they were guessing brands like Apple, Sony, and Bang & Olufsen. That’s when we knew we’d hit the right chord from a design perspective.
Budii has been described as a “centralised communication device for the home”. In today’s digital era, we have access to various communication channels including phone calls, text, email, chat and social networking. How does the inclusion of a tablet as well as a home smartphone help us to connect to those we care about?
The tablet came about when considering potential home automation management. We wanted the interface to be customer friendly: simple and easy to use for every member of the family.
It was also important for that information to be accessible even if someone didn’t own a tablet or didn’t want to be tied down to a desktop computer. When you add other features like social networking, accessing contact details and even just making and receiving phone calls – it made sense to use a tablet.
For more information on Budii please visit the links below.