Design for Upgradability and Customization

If components are designed to be easily re­placed, they will be more easily upgraded as well. You’ll find this fact to be especially true for components that wear, as opposed to those that are outdated due to technology. Upgrad­ability also enables customization and personal­ization to be more effective, and these are two attributes that also contribute to overall prod­uct life. If we can configure solutions to better meet our needs, then we’re much less likely to simply drop them for something that isn’t as

personalized. Plus, the personalization process can increase the usefulness of many products, not just the desirability factor alone.

Upgrades aren’t easy with lots of technologi­cal products, even though they’re even more appropriate since the evolution of technologi­cal change is so rapid. While larger, personal computers (such as “towers”) and servers are almost always designed for interchangeable parts and upgradability of major components, smaller computers (like laptops) are often engineered to such tolerances that compo­nent upgrade is sometimes at odds with other requirements. These products are so tightly en­gineered that changing a processor, for exam­ple, might not have much effect without also changing the motherboard, other processors, and other components in the system. What might sound like an easy and obvious upgrade (“just switch the processor for a faster one”) often isn’t easy at all when the whole system is considered. Still there are opportunities to increase the upgradability of laptops, iPods, and mobile phones. Most, in fact, already al­low users to exchange SIM cards, batteries, memory, and other components. But designers and engineers need to prioritize the most criti­cal needs of users and find ways of increasing reliability and longevity of devices around these needs.

I have yet to see the results of user or design research that includes profiles of undesirable users or scenarios of misuse—or those where users require help.

In some cases, a new business model might lead to longer-lived products. For example, a rental or leasing system for products might maintain them better regularly, leading to lon­ger life. Services centers could be stocked bet­ter to service community or regional products where individuals might not be able to afford the tools or parts on their own. The better products are maintained, and the more that this happens locally, the larger the sustainability reward (and lower the environmental impact).

Project Better Place: Making Electric Cars Practical

Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Project Better Place,2 fs building a solution for Israel (and now Denmark) to completely change over to electric cars by 2020. This is an extraordinary goal, even though these are both small countries. Part of the strategy to make electric cars more effective for people is to give them the option of either recharging the batteries or replacing them at a service station within five minutes. To make this possible, customers will buy the car, but lease the batteries. In essence, the lease gives customers the right to have a fully-charged battery in their car at all times. For those driving long distances, this makes electrical cars practical. Of course, it also requires an extensive network of service stations able to swap the battery, which is a lot easier in smaller countries like Israel and Denmark but still practical for even larger countries, like the

www. projectbetterplace. com

Project Better Place: Making Electric Cars Practical (continued)

U. S. (see Figure 10.2). In this case, the model of leasing a component allows the electric car to compete against gasoline cars favorably. Otherwise, they are at a disadvantage.


figure 10.2. /Я http://www. flickr. com/photos/rosenfeldmedia/3265588062 The Better Place Rouge, a car produced by Nissan, should come soon to Israel, Denmark, Hawaii, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Value of Redundant Components

Some products and services are more durable if they include redundant components. Re­dundancy is especially important for critical systems. Often, these solutions can’t simply be taken “offline” or turned off. Failed compo­nents may need to be changed while the solu­tion is active. Designing for this kind of dura­bility can also make it easier to upgrade critical systems while they’re active as well. It may also help them to be more flexible in terms of use and in responding to technological change.