EDF has just launched EDF Pulse & You, a digital laboratory for co-innovation between the company, start-ups and customers on projects focusing on energy and well-being in the home. Interview with Gaël Le Boulch, project manager in EDF’s Residential Customers Marketing Division.
What is EDF Pulse & You?
Gaël le Boulch: This platform allows anyone to drive innovation with the EDF teams. Anyone can have ideas to improve their daily lives, project developers and start-ups alike create everyday new practices to improve the wellness of the greatest number of people, especially regarding the home space : well, EDF Pulse & You is THE community that tests, develops and accelerates these great ideas. Whether you are a user or a start-up creator, you just need to register on EDF Pulse & You website in order to co-innovate.
How will this platform be used to stimulate innovation?
EDF has always taken its customers’ opinions into account, but most often after products and services have been developed and tested internally. We now want to go further by asking all internet users, customers and non-customers alike, to tell us upstream how they would like to work with EDF and on what subjects. We would like them to tell us how EDF can meet their everyday needs, not just those related to energy, but on a broader level those related to their well-being in the home. Therefore, EDF Pulse & You provides everyone with an innovative means of talking to EDF about ideas from the most motivated customers, products from the most innovative start-ups or the EDF projects with the most impact on the daily lives of the French. We feel that this is a way of going beyond conventional quantitative and qualitative studies, in order to co-build the customer relationship of the future and meet the changing needs of the energy market.
What interest do start-ups have in taking part?
The comments and ideas submitted by users on start-up projects are very valuable to these companies, both in improving their products and developing their technologies, and also in creating services they may not have thought of. Start-ups can thus carry out an experimentation or "proof of concept" (POC) phase. For example, this is the case for "Hector", the second POC presented on the EDF Pulse & You website. Hector is a small, stylish, handheld cube. Fitted with sensors and connected to a smartphone or a tablet, it acts like a weather station and smart thermometer, providing information on the temperature and humidity inside the home. At the outset, its designers planned only to propose it to businesses. At EDF, we suggested that they submit their innovation to users, in order to assess its usefulness for individuals and better understand the new services they could provide. Launched in mid-April, this project has already received over 800 comments!
Discussion seems to be at the heart of the approach...
Since its creation, EDF has brought together the many, varied skills that constitute its key strength: engineers, researchers, sales representatives, technicians, etc. However, today we want to go further, because users "empowered" by digital technologies now have skills too. Start-ups, students, older people, and the list goes on. All Internet users have the means of giving their opinion. With EDFPulse & You, EDF is open to all new ideas, wherever they come from. This is why the site is open and accessible to all: everyone must be able to contribute. Discussion is the key to developing projects and inventing the future. Today, individuals are offered the possibility of connecting everything in their homes, from heating systems to shutters and coffee machines. However, they often rightly ask themselves what purpose this serves. Therefore, the first project presented on the site consists of asking them which connected object they feel would be the most useful in their home , and for what use. With more than 460 comments registered, this POC is a real success. It may be extended to projects concerning answers already proposed, such as water-saving devices or connected refrigerators.
In concrete terms, how are users’ ideas taken into account?
The sheer volume of ideas and comments means they first have to be screened by big data tools, which identify recurring themes, keywords, and so on. The marketing teams, R&D Division and Business Divisions concerned will then analyse the results more closely. EDF Pulse & You promises transparency with respect to the future of projects: we will get back to contributors after completion of the POC. A summary of contributions will be made public on the website. On this basis, an action plan will be established to plan the organisation of a new POC on the subject in question, or the development of new EDF products or services to meet the needs expressed.