BA 850
Sustainability Driven Innovation

Product Performance Innovation


Product Performance Innovation


Product Performance innovation is another classic (and rather broad) form of innovation, as it covers those innovations that allow you to outperform competitors on the attribute or benefit level. As the authors briefly allude to, attributes in and of themselves are difficult to defend. As we have seen in our work with means end chains, strategy comes from chains of meaning and are therefore highly defensible. When unidimensional, "one-trick pony" brands are surpassed by competitors on that "one trick," it can be extremely hard to recover. In fact, it could be argued that a competitor can simply leverage all of your past marketing to slingshot past you on that attribute. Product performance is certainly a core type of innovation, but one which must be used judiciously.

From The Ten Types of Innovation:

Product Performance innovations address the value, features, and quality of a company's offering. This type of innovation involves both entirely new products as well as updates and line extensions that add substantial value. Too often, people mistake Product Performance for the sum of innovation. It's certainly important, but it's always worth remembering that it is only one of the Ten Types of Innovation, and it's often the easiest for competitors to copy. Think about any product or feature war you've witnessed–whether torque and toughness in trucks, toothbrushes that are easier to hold and use, even with baby strollers. Too quickly, it all devolves into an expensive mad dash to parity. Product Performance innovations that deliver long-term competitive advantage are the exception rather than the rule.

Still, Product Performance innovations can delight customers and drive growth. Common examples of this type of innovation include: simplification to make it easy to use an offering; sustainability to provide offerings that do no harm to the environment; or customization to tailor a product to an individual's specifications.

As evidenced throughout this Lesson, we might tend to disagree with Keeley and the other authors who take a narrow view of sustainability and represent it as only a part of product performance. Sustainability can infuse strategy everywhere, open entirely new opportunities, and represent new spaces for innovation in many cases.

Product Performance Innovation in the Sustainability Space

Toyota Prius

It may seem like almost a lifetime ago, but there was a time when hybrid drive technology, first commercialized by the Toyota Prius, was downright revolutionary. Toyota had enough of a product performance advantage, and perhaps more importantly, committed to the Prius' success, that the Prius model continues to account for about half of all hybrids sold in the US, with Toyota owning nearly 64% of the US hybrid market.

Please watch the following :50 Prius commercial.

Video: Toyota Prius - Commercial (:50)

Credit: amarad. "Toyota Prius - Commercial." YouTube. July 3, 2006.
Click here for a transcript of the Toyota Prius - Commercial video.

They thought it impossible for the world to be round.

They laughed when somebody dreamed that man could fly.

They said that no one would make a car with an electrical motor while there was still a drop of oil on this planet.

Or that someone in a wheelchair could never cross a city.

Or that a car can't be made that produces water instead of smog.

So we say thank you, because when something is impossible, we make it reality.



FLIR has dominated the worldwide thermal imaging market for decades, typically selling highly specialized imaging solutions for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars each. FLIR describes their approach to core markets as such:

Pioneers in thermal imaging, we were founded in 1978, originally providing infrared imaging systems that were installed on vehicles for use in conducting energy audits. Today our advanced systems and components are used for a wide variety of thermal imaging, situational awareness, and security applications, including airborne and ground-based surveillance, condition monitoring, navigation, recreation, research and development, manufacturing process control, search and rescue, drug interdiction, transportation safety and efficiency, border and maritime patrol, environmental monitoring, and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives threat detection.

What FLIR accomplished with the FLIR One was taking technology that was overwhelmingly inaccessible to the average consumer and making it available (first) as an add-on hardware component for the iPhone for around $200. While there was an initial early adopter "gadget geek" audience that knew FLIR, it eventually began to gain traction as a wider audience that recognized that the FLIR One could have far greater and more practical applications.

One of those applications is the ability to bring thermal imaging's application in energy auditing to the forefront. While professional energy audits might rely on thermal images of the interior and exterior of the home generated from one of FLIR's $10,000 units, more DIY-inclined homeowners began to realize that they could do ongoing energy audits using the FLIR One as they build, retrofit, or remodel their homes.

Please watch the following 9:51 video. Energy use application begins at 5:24 in the video.

Video: FLIR ONE Thermal Camera Unboxing and First Images (9:51)

Credit: BenjaminNelson. "FLIR ONE Thermal Camera Unboxing and First Images." YouTube. January 8, 2015.
Click here for a transcript of the FLIR ONE Thermal Camera Unboxing and First Images video.

Hi, everybody. I just got this FLIR ONE thermal camera. This is pretty cool. I'm very excited about this. What it is is it's a thermal camera accessory for iPhone 5 and 5S. I already happen to have that type of a phone.

I spent $250 for this. It's kind of neat. What it does is it comes with sort of a slimline case, so you put your phone in there. And then it has a hole on the back that lines up with this part right here. And then on the bottom, this really acts kind of like a dock. It really has a thunderbolt connection at the bottom, just like the cord for your iPhone 5 has on it. It's the same type of connection. And then you slide the phone right down into there, and it just clicks together.

Now, with the FLIR ONE thermal camera, it does have its own battery, and it does charge up separately. It comes with a mini-USB cable. Funny, though, it doesn't come with a little wall power adapter, but if you already have an iPhone, you probably already have one of these. So this is what I used. I just plugged it into this to charge it up. The other thing is that the FLIR ONE accessory itself makes the foam a little thicker and also just a little bit longer. The goofy thing is if you want to plug your headphones in while the camera's installed, they actually give you a little adapter. It's just a extension for the headphones, so that it literally just goes right through there so your headphone plug can reach if you want to listen to music while you're doing thermal photos, I suppose.

Basically, on the back, there's two cameras. One's the thermal, and one's visible light, and then the device puts the two together. Basically, the visible camera gives you the edges of the image. And the thermal camera isn't very high-resolution, but by putting together the thermal image and the visible spectrum image, you can tell what you're looking at.

Right here, this is the power switch. So right now it's off. And if I flip it to on, it also-- integrated right in here is sort of a little mini lens cover. So basically, turn the phone on, punch in your secret password if you have one, and then go to the FLIR app. This is a free app. You just download it off the App Store.

There's also a couple of other apps available for the FLIR camera, as well including a panorama and some other things. But we just go to the app. And what it's going to tell you is, make sure it's on, and then pull this down to calibrate it. Give it a second, then let go.

And now you've got your thermal camera. For example, I've got a coffee cup full of hot water here, and if I take a look at that through the thermal camera, it's pretty cool. Right away you can see that heat difference. It's also got little crosshairs in the middle listing temperature. It's in Fahrenheit. I could kick it over to centigrade if I wanted. Then on the settings for this, there are different color scales. So right now I'm looking at the iron, which is the default color scale, but we can flip through to different ones-- black and white, rainbow. And what they do is they kind of show the heat in different ways. You might be looking at the coldest part of the image, the hottest part of an image. There are different ways you might want to look at it. So it's nice that it has that available in there.

The other thing that's kind of neat is when you take an image here, it's going to save a photo. You can also set this up so that it saves it into your camera roll as well, which I thought was a neat feature. Now, it's not real high-res. It's only 640 by 480, so it's not super-megapixel here. Relatively low-res, but it gives you lots of information. Here's something kind of cool. I had the coffee cup sitting there for, I don't know, 30 seconds. Let's move the coffee cup. You can still see where I set the coffee cup on the table, and if I put my hand right there, I can feel that. I can feel the table's a little bit warmer. Pretty neat.

There are some other fun settings in here. That spot meter can be turned on and off. If you're in the dark, you can turn the light on the iPhone on. Settings-- let's change a few things, go from Fahrenheit to centigrade, some things like that.

Now, you can also shoot video with the FLIR ONE. All you have to do here is press this little button. It kicks it over to the video mode. It's just like taking video with your iPhone normally. The difference is it's only 640 by 480 video. It does shoot each 264, but it's a low frame rate. It's, like, six or seven frames per second, so it's going to be pretty jerky. It's not smooth video at all.

OK, we're now in my living room. You're looking at an outside wall. It's January. It's a couple degrees below zero Fahrenheit right now. We have a wood stove in my living room. This is the chimney pipe for my wood stove, but let's take a look at the wall through the FLIR ONE thermal camera.

And right away you can see some vertical lines and a horizontal line. Those are the studs in my wall. That's the actual house framing. Where the studs are it's a little colder, because that's solid wood instead of fiberglass insulation. So if I look around, I can actually use this as a stud finder, which is pretty amazing all by itself.

The dark spot there on the left-- that's my back door. It's a big glass door. Glass is not a very good insulator. And one thing I am glad to see is that the stove pipe here hardly shows up any different from anything else. That stovepipe isn't cold. That's good. It means it's not letting heat out of my house.

But up at the very top here-- that's the connection where the stove pipe leaves the house-- and if I look at that, that's that dark spot. That part's really cold. So that might be a good candidate to see if maybe I could insulate that. But just being able to take a look at framing in a building is pretty neat. You can see where there is and isn't insulation. Here's another neat thing if I look to the right a little bit. There's a window. The window is dark because it's cold. But the camera only has a certain thermal range. So just like an auto iris, if you put something really cold and something really hot next to each other, those colors are going to change. Like if I frame out the cold window, we go from the oranges back over to the purples. So a good way to use this device, actually, is kind of move it around a little bit. You get a much better sense of the differences between hot and cold by moving it around like that.

Here's something else that's fun to look at. In the upper left here, there's a bright spot and a dark spot. The dark spot is actually a heating vent, because my furnace is off right now and it's made out of metal, so it's cold. And that bright spot is a light, and it's a can light, and if you see it's a little darker on the left. That can light is basically up in the attic, and it looks like there's less insulation on the left side of it than on the right side of it.

So overall, the FLIR ONE camera is pretty easy to use. It adds a little bit of heft to the phone. It makes it a little bit larger. It fits in the hand pretty nice, but it's not the sort of thing that I would walk around with this on my iPhone all the time. It's a little bit of a pain that it uses the slimline case on the phone to line it all up. I'd liked the case that I had on my phone. And you would think it's a little bit of a pain to switch back and forth between the two cases, but typically, I think most people are going to use these a whole bunch but at a crack. You might swap the case and then use this all day, looking at where you do and don't have insulation in your house, for example. It does charge separately from the phone. In the latest firmware, it is set up now that when you plug in the mini-USB cable that comes with it, once the FLIR ONE is charged, it will then continue to charge the iPhone. That's an update they did recently, which looks like that's kind of a cool thing.

And still, here's that coffee cup with hot water in it-- pretty neat. This is great for looking at electronics, looking at heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. It was pretty interesting looking at my furnace and my water heater. I haven't done any external views of my house yet, but I have already found a spot in my attic where there's a strange circle of cold, and I think that may have been where there was a leak, for example.

But check out the FLIR ONE. It's pretty neat. And please head on over to to see my full blog review of this cool little thermal camera.