SmartProducts develops the scientific and technological basis for building "smart products" with embedded “proactive knowledge”. Smart products help customers, designers and workers to deal with the ever increasing complexity and variety of modern products. Smart products leverage “proactive knowledge” to communicate and co-operate with humans, other products and the environment. Proactive knowledge encompasses knowledge about the product itself (features, functions, dependencies, usage, etc.), its environment (physical context, other smart products) and its users (preferences, abilities, intentions, etc.). In addition, proactive knowledge comprises executable workflows and knowledge about interaction, enabling the smart product to proactively engage in multimodal dialogues with the user. Thereby, smart products “talk”, “guide”, and “assist” designers, workers and consumers dealing with them. Some proactive knowledge will be co-constructed with the product, while other parts are gathered during the product lifecycle using embedded sensing and communication capabilities. The outcome of SmartProducts will impact the manufacturing and consumer domain, primarily targeting consumer goods, automotive and aerospace industries, spanning both product innovation (for consumer goods and automotive) and process innovations (for automotive and aerospace).



If we take a close look at today’s technical products, starting from small consumer goods such as cell phones all the way up to cars and airplanes, it is possible to clearly identify certain trends:

  • Increased complexity of technical products
  • Emerging diversity within product lines
  • Selling of complete service solutions instead of physical goods
  • Need for interoperability in open environments
  • Growing amount and diversity of product-related data, information and content

Smart products are envisioned to be the next generation of products addressing these trends. Smart products collect and use proactive knowledge to engage in complex interactions with other products, their environment and their users, thus improving the performance of product-lines and enhancing the end user experience. A schematic view of a smart product is depicted in Figure 1. For example, as shown in the small picture in the green field on the right, the smart car is proactively guiding the human user in a task by giving help on how to install a particular new air conditioning unit that was ordered by the customer. The air conditioning unit is also a smart product that will interact with the car in order to offer its functionality through the car’s common integrated driver interface. The proactive knowledge embedded in the car is updated with information about the processes how to produce as well as to use the product; and also about the environment, the users and work steps performed – through sensors and other interaction mechanisms.

In this example the smart products improved the product manufacturing process. However, smart products also improve the consumer’s user experience. For example, a smart cooking-book or cooking guide instructs a user in the kitchen on the ingredients, utensils and appliances he will need to prepare a dish. It then guides him on each step of the recipe, showing him what to do with supporting audio and video clips. It is also able to “light up” the equipment to use (e.g. the blender, pot, pan, etc.) exactly when it is needed in the recipe, since the cooking guide is able to track the user’s progress. It communicates with other smart products in the kitchen, e.g. a “smart” cooking spoon. The spoon is able to detect the temperature and pH of the food it is immersed in and feeds this back to the cooking guide: “Be careful not to overheat it... it might burn and stick to the bottom! It might be useful to add a splash of water since that will help lubricate the bottom ... and a dash of cream to take the sharpness off the tomato flavours!”


Figure 1

Contact Persons

Scientific Advisor

Doctoral Researchers

  • Melanie Hartmann
  • Daniel Schreiber
  • Marcus Ständer
  • Syed Zahid Ali
  • Matthias Beckerle


SmartProducts is founded by the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme conducted by ten partners from industry and academia. The project will last three years and it started in February 2009.




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