App My Ride

Published May-02-11

Car giant tunes into open innovation to help it design the future of in-car entertainment systems.

Volkswagen, Germany

The Story:

App My Ride Open innovation and in particular open innovation contests are becoming more mainstream as companies large and small look for new ways to innovate, solve problems and steal a march on their competitors.

Volkswagen’s ‘App My Ride” competition called on the public, designers, programmers and developers to help it design a future in-car entertainment system. An innovation community was created that submitted apps for a prototype infotainment system that Volkswagen is developing.

Harnessing Consumer Power

The car manufacturer had come to realise just how powerful the creative power of consumers can be and seized on the opportunities provided by open innovation. It recognized that the best brains for the job may be outside the company and that those brains may have ideas that company executives and employees had never even thought about.

"A quiet revolution is taking place right now," explained Dr Johann Füller, CEO of the innovation agency partner to Volkswagen through the "App My Ride" competition, Hyve AG. "The customer-orientated culture of the internet places an enormous power in the hands of the users. Leading organisations are starting to harness this power to develop better solutions and increase their competitiveness.”

Winning Design

The winning app was called DUDE, an in-car butler that measures fuel consumption, vehicle speed and location to provide information on how to improve driving skills. It does so in a playful way that does not distract drivers from concentrating on what they are doing. Volkswagen has not revealed who designed and developed DUDE, but he or she walked away with a 3,000 euro prize (approx USD $4300) and a VIP trip to an exclusive car presentation. The runner up was an app called RE-ACTION, a reflex game along the lines of the game “Senso” or “Simon Says” that makes the time spent in traffic jams and by traffic lights pass more quickly. The winners were selected by the community at large and a handful of Volkswagen executives.

Hosting an Open Innovation Contest

To reap the benefits of open innovation contests companies have to address a number of issues:

Set goals – clearly define parameters of what you want so that participants know what is expected of them and those who manage the contest are better equipped to sort through the ideas and evaluate them. In the “App My Ride” contest Volkswagen created several categories - eco-mobility, games and fun, communication and family and more – to serve as inspiration and to guide thinking.

Invite everyone to join – you never know where the next brilliant idea will come from; it could come from someone already in your industry or as is often the case from someone who works in a completely unrelated industry. App my Ride was open to all.

Provide support – make it easy for users to contribute to your contest and offer them back up and assistance which should be available at all times.

Encourage communication – set up systems that foster open communications; open innovation is nothing without dialogue between interested parties. As Volkswagen said on its contest website, "A flourishing community will encourage your own ideas and enhance your thoughts!

Define the prize – Some contests attract high calibre participants because of the big money prizes on offer; others attract brilliant brains because of the intellectual thrill of the challenge and the recognition for the winner. Ensure that your prize is clearly communicated so that participants know what is at stake. Volkswagen offered a host of monetary and non-monetary prizes.

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