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Meet the team at Cambridge Design Partnership – a brief profile of the experts, engineers and interesting people that work here. This month we’re talking to Tom Lawrie-Fussey, who is our technology business development lead.  Tom joined us in September last year, and is helping our clients to maximize their investment in connected devices.

What background do you come from and how do apply this knowledge to your current role?

After gaining an Engineering degree at Cambridge, I went on to become a consultant in the automotive industry with Bentley Motors. Some 10 years later I made a move from the automotive industry to Cambridge working in engineering consultancy. Although I’m a Mechanical Engineer, I also have strong experience and interest in electronic/controls, even at university I was adamant my calling was as an all-round engineer. Over the years my expertise has gradually morphed from simulation, to connected-devices specialist.  I’ve developed a number of smart-connected devices, and I enjoy the mix of real-world design constraints.
In my current role, I really enjoy helping our clients to develop ground-breaking new products.  Key to this is our approach, where we help them to really focus on the key unmet need that their idea will solve.  All too often with complex connected products, we find that it’s easy to get somewhat lost in the technology, but in reality the end-user doesn’t care about the How, they just want the Wow!

What do you see as the hot trends in product design at the moment and what is coming up in the future?

The connectivity solutions now built into most modern smartphones have really helped to shake up product development scope, particularly in the consumer electronics and healthcare sectors.  Connected devices can now be at much lower price-points with connection to the local phone ‘hubs’ meaning previous constraints on performance/range can be sidestepped. 

Sensors are also becoming better and cheaper with every next iteration of smartphone, which opens up huge opportunities for other devices.  We’re on the cusp of many devices, from diabetic injection pens through to shampoo bottles, becoming smart-enabled to enhance our user experience.  
And it doesn’t stop there.  Having some sensing and communications capability in so many of the things around us is only the start.  Soon there’ll not only be able to inform us (and others) of usage, conditions etc., but they’ll also be able to take suitable action.

I appreciate that IoT hasn’t yet convinced the masses, but the time and convenience gains it brings will win us over - provided the user interaction is clearly enhanced and stakeholder needs are met or exceeded. Connectivity is often the enabler to these gains, but it needs to be developed into the product and service with great care and skill.  

What product do you wish you’d designed?

It has to be the humble LEGO brick.  It’s such a simple invention, and yet the impact it’s had on creative play globally has been huge.  I was an early adopter of all things LEGO Technic in my youth, and would always insist on the latest big model for my Christmas present each year.  The way in which the company has turned itself around over the past 15 years is testament to truly understanding play.  The sense of achievement of completing a lengthy and complex build, and then having the fun of playing with it, and then rebuilding it time and time again is something they’ve really captured.  And it’s remarkably applicable to all ages.  It certainly cemented my love of all things engineering, and I confess to still having a few models on display at home... 

I’m also a huge fan of the Dyson vacuum products.  The design language still looks modern, and stands out from the crowd even the colour scheme will always be associated with the brand.  The visible engineering is also inspired.  The fact that the performance is so clearly better than the old bag versions seals it for me.  Rarely do we see such a shake-up of an industry where a new player has managed to create a product that provides a step-change in so many measurable criteria.  The competition is still playing catch-up! It is a lesson for us all in the product development sector.

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