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Environmental Scanning | Innovation OS

How to Identify Weak Signals in Real-Time (to Not Miss Opportunities)

Innovation teams face the challenge of constantly tracking and monitoring emerging trends and technologies, and other early signals relevant to their business. In the following, you'll learn some essential steps to help your team identify innovation opportunities and risks faster to stay ahead of the curve.

Reacting to recent and rapid changes alone is not enough for a business to stay competitive. Companies must take a proactive approach to remain relevant in the long term. Being proactive means learning to spot weak signals, respond to them, and make necessary strategic corrections as soon as possible. Businesses need to monitor these weak signals and their evolution and understand the connections and broader shifts they represent. But, identifying weak signals can get tedious if you need to manually sift through countless news articles, academic journals, or patent data. To swiftly identify these weak signals, innovation teams can utilize AI-driven software to scout, scan, monitor, and streamline the process.

In this blog, we discuss how you can identify weak signals in real-time to scale your innovation opportunities with the features in the  ITONICS Innovation OS.

What are weak signals?

Weak signals are fragments of information that suggest potential shifts in the foreseeable future. They represent emerging scenarios that can affect your company's operations, business strategy, or competitive landscape. Companies that can quickly identify these weak environmental signals and react to them before the competition gain a decisive competitive edge. However, innovation teams can miss opportunities when they do not have a systematic approach to identifying these signals and integrating their findings.

3 steps to kickstart weak signal detection with ITONICS

The ITONICS Innovation OS delivers up-to-date data from RSS feeds, news articles, patents, and scientific publications. Our AI-powered tools reduce the human effort to help you identify weak signals in real-time. Here’s how: 

1. Assisting you in pinpointing what to track

Before you can identify weak signals, you need to know what you are tracking. There are generally two ways to go about this.

Start with an area of interest

If your organization has a broad area of interest that could hold potential value, initiating a signals feed focused on specific topics is a proactive approach. Begin by defining your topic of interest in the 'What do you want to look into' search bar.

For instance, if you're operating in the automotive industry and exploring the area of Autonomous Mobility, utilizing an Innovation OS offers a more refined search capability compared to traditional search engines. ITONICS Insights, for instance, provides two levels of search functionalities.

For a quick exploration, a casual search suffices. This involves entering simple search terms to uncover the latest and most pertinent articles. For instance, you might input "autonomous" and "mobility" to delve deeper into recent developments.

However, when precision is paramount and you need to specify keywords or exclude certain terms, the power search feature becomes indispensable. This advanced tool enables complex searches using boolean operators like AND, OR, and NOT. For instance, to target articles about autonomous mobility practices specifically in the US, you might employ a query like this: ((* CONTAINS "autonomous*" OR * CONTAINS "mobility*") AND * ~ "vehicles*" AND country = "US").


Use ChatGPT 🤖 to do the work of creating a power search for you, or use our downloadable cheatsheet!

By entering this into ChatGPT, we easily received a prompt that we could enter into the Insights search bar.

Provide some keywords for the field of autonomous mobility.
This search query in brackets needs to be updated:

Replace the X values in this query with the keywords mentioned above. Once you have iterated through the query and all X values are taken, append the query in the following format indicated by the brackets:

To further narrow down your results and generate the most relevant weak signals, you can use the filtering options available in ITONICS Insights, including countries, tags, sources, signals, etc. Once you see something interesting for your organization, you can now save it in the ITONICS system to monitor its further development. 

Start with a particular driver of change

In this scenario, you may have a specific focus in mind that you wish to monitor, such as Distributed Ledger Technology. By inputting the trend, technology, startup, or opportunity into the system, you can leverage ITONICS' automated monitoring capabilities to detect weak signals in real time.

For the targeted technology of Distributed Ledger Technology, the system offers the ability to track any abrupt increases or decreases in interest across patent filings, scientific publications, or news sources. When a significant event is detected in news sources, the system presents aggregated data clusters, enabling a swift understanding of the reasons behind the sudden or sustained surge in interest regarding your topic. Delving deeper into these data clusters allows for the identification of specific weak signals, which can then be saved within the system for further monitoring and analysis.

2. Continuously monitor weak signals in real time

Once you've stored the weak signals you wish to monitor in the ITONICS system, utilize this centralized repository to access a wealth of data housed within the Innovation OS, eliminating the need to navigate through disparate sources.

By choosing to "Watch" a specific weak signal or Inspiration within the ITONICS system, you'll activate email alerts, ensuring you receive real-time updates on significant spikes or declines in interest surrounding the Inspiration.

Inspiration in ITONICS

The system diligently monitors signals pertaining to your chosen signal, promptly alerting you to notable increases or decreases in information over specified timeframes. For example, it can flag a significant surge in consumer interest in a particular topic during a specific period.

Automated signal monitoring in ITONICS

Harnessing the power of Automated Monitoring empowers you to stay abreast of the latest technological advancements, trends, regulatory changes, and activities of startups or competitors.

When observing these Key Events on a timeline, teams gain rapid insight into developments and their evolution over time. This visual representation enables teams to grasp the nuances of weak signal evolution and its broader ecosystem, facilitating well-informed decision-making.

3. Ensuring you don't overlook opportunities

By utilizing the Innovation OS to pinpoint weak signals in real-time and maintaining continuous monitoring through email alerts, you can effectively uncover the potential opportunities these signals hold for your organization.

Email notification to update on signals for "Distributed Ledger Technology"

Consider the example we've explored earlier of analyzing weak signals within the area of Autonomous Mobility. By logging these weak signals as Inspirations in the system, you can link specific signals to each other, gradually forming clusters of information that may hint at emerging trends.


Employ ITONICS' AI-powered Smart actions to swiftly generate descriptions for your Inspirations. Let the ITONICS system recommend connections, enabling you to quickly grasp the interrelationships among various weak signals and other drivers of change you may already be tracking.

Inspiration in ITONICS

Autofill description for an inspiration in ITONICS

Furthermore, leverage the ITONICS network graph to visually depict relationships between weak signals and other information in your system. Understanding the relationships demonstrates how different factors interact and influence one another, either amplifying or dampening each other's effects. Analyzing interactions aids in connecting the dots to devise strategies to address innovation challenges.

Relations between weak signals in the ITONICS Network Graph

Once you've pinpointed potential drivers of change from your weak signals, save them in your system under categories like trends, technology, or opportunity space. Engage internal or external experts to asses these to determine what holds the most significance for your organization. Visualize the outcomes on a Radar and easily customize the view to present the information necessary for understanding which opportunities and risks warrant your attention.

Next step: create your workspace

To further streamline your process of weak signal detection and monitoring their evolution, the ITONICS software suite enables you to create different workspaces for different projects and groups of your company.

The workspace is like your personal playground where you can explore your topics of interest more effectively. Also, since you can create numerous workspaces, you can monitor more than one trend, technology, startup, and more simultaneously. To make it even more convenient, the software allows you to import information from another workspace to your workspace and even add comments for other team members to see, which fosters a collaborative effort in scouting and identifying weak signals.

Scale your scouting activities with ITONICS

The ITONICS Innovation OS enables you to process significant and large amounts of data points with minimum human effort. You gain instant access to thousands of verified sources by using the tools available in the software. You can efficiently monitor, identify and evaluate the shifts in the area of your interest.

If you want to learn more about the features and functionalities of ITONICS to scale your innovation activities, book a free demo today.



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