Sunday, April 06, 2014

The TV as we know it has changed in my house



Last year we upgraded our old tube TV to a Sony Smart LED TV. My idea of going for a smart TV was to watch a lot of videos on demand. The TV had a stripped down YouTube app but was a PIA to use it with the TV remote. Later I had to dump the smartness of my TV and instead used it as a display for my laptop connected with a HDMI cable. That's when my wife discovered the Project - Free TV site and started watching all her favorite TV series online but plugged into the tv. It was almost perfect. No getting back home on time, no re runs and no missed shows. Just go online, select the show and episode and watch whenever we have time. Hooking up the laptop on to the TV had its own quirks though. The laptop went out of power as we were watching and then had to connect the charger to make the whole setup a wired mess.

Enter Chromecast, the wonder device from Google. Chromecast converted any regular TV with a HDMI port into a Smart TV. Chromecast enabled us to keep the laptop docked to the charger on the study table somewhere inside but cast the Chrome browser tab on to the TV, thus making us watch the shows without the wired mess. Also allowed us to cast Youtube and Google Play movies from our Android devices on to the TV anytime. Our TV has more or less become like radio now. We watch the TV channels if we don't have anything specific in mind, all other times we search on the internet and chromecast it on TV to watch. We also came across this site viooz where all the latest English movies can be streamed free of cost. It also has some good Indian movie collections.

Should TV channels be worried? I don't think so. Instead they should embrace this phenomenon. It's an opportunity for them to make more money. I really wanted to watch the 24 hindi series last year, but couldn't as I kept on missing the show times and also coz of my December vacation. When I got back, I searched all over the internet for the episodes and couldn't find them anywhere. What if Colors made all the 24 episodes available on Youtube along with advertisements? That would have made some additional revenue for them and also made people like me happy. TV channels in India should open up their content more on YouTube, Google Movies and iTunes. Also make their mobile apps Chromecast friendly. Its also the most effective way to fight piracy.

TV has changed in my house and its going to change in every house, quite soon. TV channels and content creators, are you ready for the new TV revolution?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

5 things Credit Card companies can do for better user engagement


1. Home Page as a Pinboard of great things money can buy

Instead of a banner busy christmas tree home page which is absolutely useless, it can be a constantly updated curation of great things to do using my credit card. Eg, A map showing the stores having sale, happening bars, restaurants, events based on the time of the day.... Hard to resist items that can be bought on the web, eg on Flipkart or Myntra. Great getaway ideas based on upcoming long weekends.

Basically the home page can be a great discovery service for things you can buy and get discounts or earn points using the credit card. Potential customers will find this as a sure shot reason to jump to the next tab to look at the different credit cards and apply. Existing customers will visit the site to discover interesting stuff and not only once in a month to look at their statement.

2. Social

The same curation service they can extend on social networks like Pinterest, G+ and Facebook. On Instagram they can do roundups of the different events and also showcase products. Allow customers to post tweets like "I lost my card. Please block" or "I'm going abroad and will be using the card. Please don't block." from authorized handles. Authorize FB to show friends who have shown interest in curated products on the home page.

3. Quick loyalty points redemption

Dont hide the loyalty points inside some statement. Show it as clear scannable number in the header, along with the credit balance. Show me the numbers changing based on my activities on the site, like Cleartrip's split view price counter that changes based on my selection. Show me a catalog of products I can redeem my points on by just one click. If I'm falling short on loyalty, allow me to pay the rest using my card balance.

4. Better Statement & Payment

Make the statement super scannable. Bring up the most important numbers and make the details go into the background. Like Cleartrip's Air ticket design. I like ICICI Credit Card's statement, its very scannable. In both billed and unbilled statements, allow me to modify the expense description to something I would remember. There were many times I wondered what the hell I did with my credit card at Yum Brands. And above all a dead simple way to pay the credit card bill.... think Cleartrip Expressway.

5. Better on the go

Most of the time when I'm at a store, I'm not looking at paying my credit card bills. But I'm thinking credit balance. Show me this information upto date damn quick; without making me login all the time. Simple way??? Get onto iPhone passbook.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Can Samsung's success be attributed to Android's popularity?


Like every other Android fan I have also been in iPhone vs Android fights where I have gotten into heated arguments about the advantages of Android's open and cloud friendly architecture. But then I quickly understood that the advantages which I thought were great didn't even make sense for an average iPhone user. Eg How I could set Chrome browser as my default browser on Android and how on iPhone it cant be done. At that point the iPhone user asked me why would he use Chrome browser as he was happy with Safari. There has also been an instance when an iPhone power user in US told me that a research says Android users have low IQ. This made me think.

For normal computer users an Operating System is how they experience it. User Experience basically. In that case I think pure Android can only be experienced on a Nexus Device or any device with the Stock UI. Android on every other phone has the OEM's take on the user experience. Eg Samsung's Touch Wiz UI mimicks the iOS UI but lacks the simplicity of iOS or pure Android. It has more features, crapware, Samsung's own app store and major flaws in hardware design too. Similar issues with other OEMs.

People who are hardcore Android fans always try to get Nexus devices or the more adventurous ones go for some good phone locally available and manually install an experience (ROM) that's close to stock.

Who are real Android fans?

Real Android fans are actually geeks who are Google fans and power users of Google products. Their life runs on Google products, sync files and information on google cloud, use Chrome, develop on Google App Engine, active on Google+, follow and get super excited by Google I/O conference, appreciate and use Google Now. They follow tech blogs, read about new apps and try it out immediately. If its not yet available on Google Play, they side load it and use. As power users of Google products Android is the right choice for them to safely expect seamless usage and also support the above said use cases. As Nexus phones are designed by Google for pure Android experience, Nexus becomes the obvious choice for a real Android fan boy.

Who buy Samsung (or other) Android phones?

Mostly people who really don't know much about Android. They just need a fancy phone with better features (apps) than their old Nokia phone. They see a Samsung Android phone as poor man's iPhone. Most of them don't even have a Gmail id. They don't know Google Play exists. They haven't installed/updated an app in months. They are not online all the time and also switch off GPS to save battery. They use it predominantly to talk, SMS, Facebook, chat on WhatsApp, take 13 mp pictures and transfer it to their computer using blue tooth. I'm not kidding. For these users the next phone could be a Nokia Lumia. Of course there are exceptions in this group, but more about them later.

Why do Samsung phones sell like hot cakes?

The good thing about Samsung phones are they are not late to market. When they launch their flagship phone, viz S4, in US by the next month its available in countries like India. Also they have a phone with all kinds of hardware combinations at every price point which makes it easy for people to get access to smartphones. Whereas Google is not very gung ho about bringing Nexus devices to emerging markets like India. Its pretty funny coz Android sees a lot of adoption in India and other Asian countries than US, which is predominantly an iOS market. HTC One is apparently a great phone but its no where in sight in this part of the world. Its because of this reason Android fans who run out of patience by waiting for Nexus phones to come to their countries, go for Samsung/Other Android phones. The recent announcement of Samsung Galaxy S4 with stock Android will be a huge relief for Android fans who struggle to get their hands on pure Android.

Samsung allows everyone to own a cheaper iPhone. And that's why they are successful. Its not the love towards Android nor is it because of their eye tracking feature. That's why they think they can continue this success with their own OS also. If Apple comes out with a cheaper iPhone for the emerging markets, Samsung will definitely be in trouble.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Piracy has to be curbed by easier access to content! And not policing.


The story goes that Steve Jobs wanted CD drive slots on iMacs instead of the tacky trays. But soon Apple was forced to add tray drives as CD writers were not available in slots. An unhappy Steve Jobs wanted to know why a CD writer was so important for iMac, a consumer device. He got to know people were ripping Music album CDs to distribute/share/own select individual songs. This also lead to mass piracy in the Music industry and they were bleeding. Jobs then went on to convince the industry big wigs that customers should have the ability to own individual tracks and not always albums. He also provided a platform called iTunes Store where the labels could officially sell individual audio tracks for economical rates for the users. Customers would browse or search through a huge archive of good quality MP3 songs on iTunes store, buy and manage their playlist and sync to their iPods. This experience was obviously way better than the effort anyone went through to find people who bought the CDs, ripped and shared on the internet, with the right quality and also without the risk of getting virus. People didn't mind paying for this great experience. This also lead to similar services in the US which revived the music and movie industry.

Indian film industry is going through the same problem right now. Technology advancement, broadband and mobile penetration have made piracy flourish. And whats the industry doing about it other than crying and being offensive? Have they really thought about the crux of the problem? Are people really happy about buying bad quality pirated DVDs or downloading movies on Torrent? But what alternative do they have? Coming to cinema halls? Do they really think its practical and economical for everyone to watch all movies in cinemas?

OK I cant talk for everyone but I'll talk about what I think here. I really dont like encouraging piracy but I also dont want to go to cinema halls every week. That means I'll be really choosy about the movies I watch in cinemas and would mostly opt for a big happy movie with super stars etc running that weekend. I really wanted to watch movies like Jolly LLB and Da Thadiya but I missed them as I didnt want to go through the effort of going to the cinema, finding some company and spending big money. Also Malayalam movies are shown on unholy show hours and they disappear after the first week in cities outside Kerala. I really wanted to encourage these movie makers but I dint have an option. Yes I can wait for months till the DVD comes out but by then the fizz is gone and I can rather wait for it to come on TV. Also I dont want to buy DVDs and then figure out storage space for them. I'm not saying Cinema halls are unnecessary. There is indeed a need for them as the main outdoor entertainment medium other than malls in India. But there has to be parallel medium in Home entertainment. These movies should come out on DVDs and Internet as early as possible which will help customer get access to the movies easier and they will definitely wont mind paying little more than the amount they pay for bad quality pirated DVDs. This will definitely curb piracy.

I'm surprised that the Indian movie industry has still not woken up to this fact. They rather do policing and we all know what policing can actually help achieve. One regular answer I get from everyone is its not easy. Well nothing is easy in life. Even for Steve Jobs it was not easy. He had to go from label to label to talk to the executives and convince them to do it. Someone has to take a step towards it. The new generation movie makers should do something about it if they want to sustain. I know Apple and Google have started their movie stores in India but looks like they are not serious about it. Ek Tha Tiger and English Vinglish are the latest movies available out there.

My friend Sreejith Nair has taken a bold step towards this by starting up CinemaTalkies.com, a Hulu like on demand online streaming service for Malayalam movies. However the movies there work only outside India and it doesn't have the hot from the oven new movies. I talked to Sreejith about this and he said his vision is to have simultaneous releases and make them available even in India but he had to make a start somewhere. Offering good quality streaming service for NRIs itself was a great achievement. I really hope the producers realize the potential and satisfy movie fans like me who live outside Kerala. And if this works out, I'm sure movie producers all over India will take notice. Its hight time now.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

3 things that will improve Indian Railway user experience on the move


I know there are various value added high tech services offered by Railways and 3rd party services targeted towards transparency of information but I havent found them handy when I'm badly in need of them on the move. Btw I havent done many rail trips in a long time but whatever little I have done and whatever I have experienced when I go to see off / receive people from stations, I thought of these 3 medium tech solutions that will ease out some regular user pain points on the move.

1. Countdown Timer

Most of the time I dont know how much time I have to board the train which leads to a mad rush at the door step. Also as a passenger I'm not comfortable getting down from the train to get something from the shops at the platform as the good old mobile vendors who used to get food near the coach windows have disappeared.

Count down timer LCD displays on the platform showing how much time I have before the train leaves will help me in this situation. These counters should be prominently displayed on the platform along with the displays that show coach numbers and platform number. If the train doesn't leave on time the counter should go into negative which makes it clear that the train is delayed. This needs to be there on all stations, no matter big or small.

2. Current ETA at a station

Current ETA (not scheduled) of a train at a station is mostly displayed at the entrance of railway stations but not when you go on to the platform. I have seen some main stations showing information on the platforms like the ones you see in airports but not all stations do this. There are these small stations where long distance trains do a quick stop but the officials there are perpetually clueless about the train running status. Also as a passenger its important for me to know the time my train would reach the destination station. It particularly gets difficult during late nights.

There are several SMS based queries offered which is too difficult to figure out on the move. I dont know if this is already there but I just want a simple service where I can send an SMS with My Train Number and My Station Code (not bloody std code) and I get a reply saying where the train is right now and as per the current running schedule what time it will reach my station.

This service should be prominently advertised on all ticket print outs, coaches and on platforms.

3. Coach Position

Finding my Coach Position at a station is another painful activity when you are rushing to catch your train. Also at the insignificant stations, the officials have no clue about the coach positions of long distance trains.

Again in the above SMS service I should be able to add My Coach Number and the reply should give the platform and coach position along with the ETA.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Skeuomorphism vs. Pure Digital

I would like to call the opposite of Skeuomorphism as "Pure Digital" and not "Flat Design", atleast till we get the right word for it. Even in real world there are things that are flat.

Skeuomorphism is also a style of designing digital interfaces but using real world visual metaphors. Eg make a digital button look like a real world button or make a digital clock look like a real world clock. I’m not a hater of Skeuomorphism but that style restricts interaction and visual designers in making full use of the digital world where there are no real world rules.

Eg by basing your design on the interaction and visual elements of a real world analog clock, you are not allowing yourself to think how you can show the time (I didnt say clock. Clock is real world) in a fresh new more intuitive and fun way without losing the goodness of what a real world clock conveys. If you think ‘pure digital’ then you may be able to come with a completely new take at it. Digital is new and we just realized that there is more potential. Like how we started web design using print principles but then now realized it wont scale for all digital devices. There is no concept of scaling in print.

Rus Yusupov, the creative director of the Vine video sharing app, said.
Old things are beautiful, but new things should look, well… new. That’s why Vine doesn’t have a play button. It also doesn’t have a pause button, a timeline scrubber, a blinking red light, or dials and a brushed-metal finish to give you the impression that you’re using a dusty video camera.

Android Designer Roman Nurik did a “fun exercise” to see how skeuomorphism stacks up to some of Dieter Rams’ ten principles. Its Interesting.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

10 Products where Creativity pushed Technology

The other day at work, I was asked to come up with a compact list of things that can be put under the title "Creativity pushed Technology". Now it was creativity and not design. As creativity is a word thats used in a bigger context than design, i wanted to know what exactly it meant. The wikipedia definition of creativity is
Creativity is the impetus behind any given act of creation
which i thought can be loosely translated as
an idea or an intent to create something that will solve a problem or re-imagine an existing solution.
And this is what I came up with.

iMac


Chic & Not Geek; All in one consumer device.

Translucent Tear Drop & Not a Beige Slab – The cost of the case was three time more than a regular computer case. The different colors also made mass production tough. Engineers came up with 38 reasons why they cant build it.

In 1998 it had 233MHz G3 processor, 512MB L2 cache, 32MB RAM, ATI Rage IIc graphics, 4GB hard drive, tray-loading CD-ROM drive, 2 USB ports, stereo speakers, a funky mouse, garish keyboard and, of course, a 15-inch CRT display all built around a semi-translucent blue shell. Consumers immediately responded by ditching the boring, beige alternative, and soon iMacs were brightening desktops everywhere.

No Floppy Drive. Instead had USB and DVD Slot drive

Determined to let users "express themselves in a new way," the iMac picked up five fruit-inspired colors (Strawberry, Blueberry, Lime, Grape and Tangerine ) for its first major revision.


Gmail

The email service that revolutionized not just email but web applications as a whole in the coming years to come. It was a internet service with a lot of firsts, in both technical and design.

With an initial storage capacity offer of 1 GB per user, Gmail significantly increased the webmail standard for free storage from the 2 to 4 MB its competitors such as Hotmail offered at that time.

Individual Gmail messages, including attachments, may be up to 25 MB, which is larger than many other mail services support.

A search-oriented interface with labeling/tagging and not folders to organise. Mails had "conversation view".

Gmail pioneered the use of Ajax. First time we saw web pages not refreshing after every click.

The Gmail Labs feature, allows users to test new or experimental features of Gmail. Users can enable or disable Labs features selectively. The architecture of the UI is so fluid to accomodate the Lab features.

Gmail's spam filtering features a community-driven system: when any user marks an email as spam, this provides information to help the system identify similar future messages for all Gmail users.

During the early months of the initial beta phase, Gmail's well-publicized feature set and the exclusive nature of the accounts caused the aftermarket price of Gmail invitations to skyrocket. According to PC World magazine, Gmail invitations were selling on eBay for as much as US$150, with some specific accounts being sold for several thousand dollars.

As of June 2012, it is the most widely used web-based email provider with over 425 million active users worldwide.


iPhone

An iPod, a phone, an internet mobile communicator in one.

Completely did away with a tactile keyboard like the smartphones at that time. Instead, the hallmark feature of the iPhone was its 3.5 inch multi-touch screen that worked well on finger touch. It completely took out the need for a stylus from a touch screen device. Hell it didn't work with a stylus.

Beautiful piece of art. Even though it came out with way lesser features than a Nokia phone at that time, people jumped on to buy it. Soon became a style statement.

Tap, Swipe, Pinch, Shake, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass, Pull to Refresh, Proximity sensor, Viewport, Webkit, Rounded corners - We learnt a new language.

Apps and App store. The app ecosystem became the benchmark for every other operating system out there. Not only mobile.

At a time when most smartphone browsers provided users with a dumbed down browsing experience, iPhone enabled users to access the entire Internet as it was meant to be viewed.

iphone also gave us Android and we saw Nokia and Blackberry vanishing from the landscape. iPhone was without a doubt one of the most disruptive and influential products to ever hit the tech market.


iRobot Roomba

Cleans floors, so that you don’t have to. Re-imagined vacuum cleaners.

The first robot people actually needed.

Design and robotic technology put to use to the everyday chores of sweeping, vacuuming and washing floors with the touch of a button.

They have sensors that allow it to prevent itself from falling down stairs, change its direction when it bumps into an obstacle, and detect exceptionally dirty spots on the floor.

In 1997, using their understanding of cleaning and low-cost manufacturing, 2 engineers who had the idea of affordable cleaning robots for home use, built a proof-of-concept robot to prove that this was a fruitful line of research. A team was assembled to develop the world's first affordable home floor cleaning robot. Over the five years from prototype to product, the robot that became iRobot Roomba changed considerably. After many long nights and a lot of hard work, iRobot Roomba, the world's first affordable home vacuum cleaning robot, was introduced on September 22, 2002 to widespread public acclaim.


Kinect
Turned the human body into a game controller.

Changed the way how we play video games.

It enables users to control and interact with the Xbox 360 without the need to touch a game controller, through a natural user interface using gestures and spoken commands.

Kinect is also used in other solutions where natural human interactions have to be captured.

Kinect holds the Guinness World Record of being the "fastest selling consumer electronics device“


Tata Nano

The cheapest car in the world that doesn't look flimsy or inexpensive.

Ratan Tata, who had the idea of building a car costing one lakh rupees, gave an engineering team three requirements for the new vehicle: It should be low-cost, adhere to regulatory requirements, and achieve performance targets such as fuel efficiency and acceleration capacity.

GKN Driveline India made the driveshaft -- the component that transfers power from the engine to the wheel. The team spent a year developing 32 experimental variants to create the perfect driveshaft for the Nano.

The engine was designed three times.

The body had to be changed because Ratan Tata, over six feet tall himself, wanted it to be easy for tall people to get in and out of the car. The body design went through hundreds of iterations, then at the last minute the car length was increased by 100 millimeters!

The purchase price of this no frills auto was brought down by Frugal Engineering.

Announced as the least expensive production car in the world, Tata aimed for a price of one lakh rupees which was approximately $2,000. Only the very first customers were able to purchase the car at that price. As of 2012, the price for the basic Nano was around Rs 150,000.


Square

Enabled food trucks, cab drivers, farmer’s market vendors to accept credit card payments

The card reader is a plastic device which plugs into the audio jack of an iPhone, iPad or Android mobile phone.

The original inspiration for Square occurred to Jack Dorsey in 2009 when James McKelvey (a friend of Dorsey at the time) was unable to complete a $2,000 sale of his glass faucets and fittings because he could not accept credit cards.

Perfect marriage of an idea to solve a real problem, design, technology, creativity, mobile, social and web

Square literally disrupted the Point of Sale system market in the US.


Nest

Made temperature control easy, efficient and beautiful!

Thermostat that learns and automatically adjusts based on time, location, presence of people.

All the user has to do is turn up and down a few times.

Beautiful so that you can show it off at home

Energy Saver

Connected to Wifi, you can control the Nest from web and mobile app. Does Self Updates.

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Yeah they are just 8. I'm still searching for the next 2. Suggestions?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Predictions for 2013

Looking back at what I predicted for 2012, I'm happy that most of them except mobile payments were bang on. This year I think it will be the year of marriage of physical and digital world and so my predictions are going to be in that space. I may also repeat a lot of things I talked about in 2012 but with a slight twist.

Alternative to Traditional Banking

I said Mobile Payments will pick up in 2012. Well there was a lot of activity in this area last year but I think it will take some more time for this to become mainstream. 2017 if I go by the Forrester report. I don't think carrying a wallet is a big problem but I really don't mind transacting in the stores using my phone as it may make one thing lesser for me to carry and secure. I would like to manage my credit card payments on the cloud, preferably Google, and use it anywhere (online or offline) and have a better experience at that than the ones SBI, ICICI and Amex gives. There are other advantages also by doing this.

Get ready to leave your bank.I think the most important step towards this would be to prepare the user to a whole new way of managing money on a non banker's cloud and other technologies like NFC without changing much. Google has realised that and thats why they are going to come with the Google Wallet Card. Square and Paypal has people doing this already. Apple's Passbook is also first trying to introduce the idea of having passes / cards digitally. I think the most ambitious and promising in terms of end to end experience in this space is Simple.

The Age of Context aka Serendipity

As predicted Google made a mark with Google Now in 2012. Google Now is actually a context aware search engine that searches through public and personal data like Gmail and gives answers, reminders, instructions and recommendations most of the time without asking. As predicted Google also made a mark on their voice capability on Jelly Bean and Google Now. But instead of being a talking personal assistant, voice was just a part of the entire serendipitous experience of Google Now. This is indeed going to improve in 2013 especially when Key Lime Pie comes out in May.

A better life with every search.Facebook is next in the line provided their Graph Search works as promised and also my friends and I enter enough information in the form of 'Likes'; 'Checkins', 'Life Events' and other Profile Information. Google is better positioned here as it can understand my favorite brands by just looking at my google search history and also my purchase invoices on Gmail. It also knows my location if I use Android along with many other things. I dont have to explicitly tell Google about it. However Google doesn't really have a lot of information about my friends. Thats where the disconnect is.

Is there a company that can bridge this gap and be a winner in this space? There is one company and thats CloudMagic. CloudMagic will come with a substantial announcement on this by 2013 end.

Internet of everyday things

In 2013 we will see more and more everyday things around us re imagined powered by internet without having to add another screen and crappy embedded interfaces but managed by our existing devices with ever evolving web interfaces. Nest the thermostat that learns is a start.

Nexus Q will make a come back towards the end of 2013 but only after Google Play Music Store gets enough music and users around the world. Its a good example of how my home music system can connect to the internet to access my playlist I otherwise use on other devices. My iPod dock right now is device dependent. Also management of the playlist while the iPod is docked is a pain. Have you tried searching on iPod Classic? But then how will Nexus Q know whose playlist should it play? Thats when NFC comes into the picture. When I touch my Nexus phone on Nexus Q it actually authenticates my credentials for Q to connect to the net and get my playlist. This will also make my phone and Q pair and make the phone a remote control for Q over the air. This can also be combined with Google TV box. But we have to wait and watch if two Turkeys will make an Eagle.

Listen to your world, talk to the Internet.What I'm more excited about is things like Twine. This Kickstarter project is a small square box with Wi-Fi and a whole array of expandable sensors that emails, tweets or texts when a event is triggered. This can be programmed using a web interface on any device that can connect to internet. Eg It can be put in your washing machine drum and program to send you an email/text when the drum stops. It can be attached to your door to let you know when the door is opened.

Then there is SmartThings that makes it easy to connect the things in your physical world to the Internet. You can monitor, control, automate, and have fun with them from anywhere - at home, office, or on the go. It's also a platform so that independent developers can make physical things connect to the SmartThings Hub and interact with other Smart end-devices controlled by a smart app on your phone. Eg If i have a smart switch thats connected to my Geyser in the bathroom and a pressure sensor on my bed, both connected to the SmartThings Hub, I can create a rule saying "When the Bed Switch senses a movement and the weight decreases" (I woke up) at around "5 AM Weekdays" "Switch On the Geyser Switch. Or I can program a more simpler "Open Lock" when authenticated by my Phone physically (using NFC). More and more developers are now enabled to develop these Smart End-devices and Apps and submit to the SmartThings marketplace. And the possibilities are endless. I had talked about this in 2009 about a door that can tweet.

Interestingly Android@Home was Google's platform to make everyday things connected but it disappeared without trace. But I think Google is going to put all its energy behind +Project Glass this year.

2013 will hear more products that marry physical and digital.

Year of Re-Imagining!

Everyone's Private Driver.More than technology innovations, there will be real world innovations using technology; and thats what I meant by Re-Imagining. Like how Uber and Ola Cabs re imagined Cab services. How SilverCar re-imagined car rental. There is more scope. May be re imagine Restaurants? Shopping? Travel?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Eric Schmidt’s Commerce Fantasy is not far away

After I wrote my last post about Google's vision, I remembered Eric Schmidt's commerce fantasy which goes like this...

You’re driving down the street, and somehow your phone knows you need new pants. Roll with me here … The phone somehow realizes there’s a pants store on the left and a pants store on the right and knows that through Google Offers the store on the right has the cheapest pants deal. Your GPS says, “Turn right for your pants.” When you walk in the store, its system understands it’s you and that you need new pants and so the salesperson comes out with your pants, of course. You tap your phone to pay, and boom, pants.

Is this really possible? I think it is and parts of it is really happening now.

  • My Phone knows what time of the year it is and what’s the weather like. Later based on this it can figure out what I should wear.
  • It knows where all I go, the kind of shops and restaurants I visit and brands I like (Checkins, search, my exact location mapped to a Place, my posts on Google+)
  • It knows when I buy something online as it can sniff my confirmation emails. And definitely when I use Google wallet online.
  • Google doesn't know when I buy things in the offline world as of now. However as the world starts using Google wallet mobile payments this problem will get solved.If this happens it will know when I bought the jeans last and can recommend me to buy one after 6 months based on an offer it has on Google Offers.

    Google may be preparing to offer plastic Google Wallet cards as well, which will work with its existing online and mobile payment tool.
  • My phone can say “Turn right" (Turn by turn navigation) "for your pants.” (Google Now in the future)
  • The shop keeper would know I'm nearby if Google wallet has a POS companion app (like Square Register) and allows Google Wallet app on my phone to open a tab when I reach the store (like Square Wallet).

    There was a news that Latitude will soon be integrated with Google+. Probably a brand page owner will be able to see followers when they are nearby.
  • Inside the store the phone can tell me where the jeans is kept. (Google Maps has indoor maps and Street view like Business photos)
  • You tap the phone to pay using Google wallet or probably do an hands free auto pay (Future. Like Square Wallet does today. It’s almost definite that Square will be picked by Apple and Google will have to give an answer.)
  • And all this even without my phone but using Glasses in the later future.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

How to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful?

The new company I work for has a week long induction program. It was some time well spent by the company to make the new employees understand the company well and overall make us comfortable. During the period we also got to meet some interesting people who came to talk to us about different things. One of the talks was about the company's vision and it's strategy to stick to the vision.

Also discussed was how important was for the vision to be inside-out so that it never goes irrelevant. Some examples were shared like how Xerox's outside-in vision was to be "The Document Company" and how "Documents" became irrelevant. Also how Apple's inside-out vision "Challenge the Status Quo" has always stayed relevant and made them successful. As a fan of all things Google, I was thinking about Google's vision and how whatever they do becomes a part of a bigger picture they are painting.

A mission statement focuses on a company’s present state while a Vision statement focuses on a company’s future. I'm guessing Google's vision for all obvious reasons is to be the "Biggest Internet company". Google's mission statement is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful". In simple terms I think the mission is the way to reach the vision. As part of the mission, here are the things they did year on year to become the biggest internet company. Its not a secret but I'm just trying to put the puzzle together.

Search and you will find

Perhaps the internet wouldn't have been organized ever if Google Search Engine didn't happen. I remember the time when the entire web world worked towards making their sites search engine friendly, by creating semantic content to be meaningful when read by a robot. This lead to innovations in the markup language (xhtml) which would help web authors create meaningful content. This movement also led to the improvements in the internet technology, HTML5 as we know it today.

Recognize Faces

If text can be organized, can pictures be left out? Semantic web pages enabled Google to associate information to the images in the web. I remember Google Images had a small game then which me and my friend enter keywords against an image shown to us. If both of us entered the same word which described an image it would give us points. I would say that was one of the earliest Gamification strategies employed which made users do some work for google. Once Google grew confident of the image content, they would have created a program to learn the association and then auto recognize images. A better version of this is what we are using today to tag people on Google+ pictures which has made Google recognize people's faces.

Make Money

The next thing they did was to lay the foundation to their monetization policy. Google makes money out of advertising and they made an ad engine. Ad Words allows advertisers to create and publish advertisement to the inventory and Ad Sense allows content publishers to place ads on their pages. As the information became more and more organized, the relevance of the ads on the pages improved. This made people see/click on those ads and in return made Google and its publishing partners make money. This encouraged regular people to create content on web.

Create Content

More content means more information that can be made use of. Google gave us Blogger and Drive to create, store and publish more content. More content means more people getting onto internet for information. More usage means more content.

They made Gmail with unlimited space so that people create more content and also use more of internet. Google started showing ads based on the content in the email which meant they knew how to make sense of my email and also make it useful. Google Search can now give me search results and alerts based on the emails I receive on Gmail.

Where are you is a thing of the past

World’s information is incomplete without the real world things. Google Maps organized the real world’s data by geo tagging them and made it useful for us. So useful that it gave us the amazing Street view and Turn by Turn navigation. It makes you so aware of the place you are in and you intend to go. Google maps is also getting building/store interiors mapped and photographed.

As usual Google also gave us the Map Maker for us to contribute geo tagged locations to enhance the amazing experience.

More than Broadcast Yourself

I'm sure YouTube is far more than just a user generated video sharing service. Its definitely the place where Google learns the "happenings" in the videos. Also a great place to develop speech recognition and organize spoken content. Speech recognition has now gone "useful" in Google Now and I think the lessons Google learnt from going through all those videos will come alive in Project Glass. Most probably its an integral part of the Google Car.

Chrome

If Google is set to own the internet how can they let users be restricted by browsers. Chrome upped the ante in the browser game with amazing speed, safety, multi device sync, extensions and cloud print. Chrome has become the only program I use to do things on my home computer now which is precisely the premise of Chrome OS.

Mobile - More context to the content.

If Google expects crowd sourcing of all the data for them to organize and made useful to the mankind, would they leave the crowd to rely on a desktop computer to make that happen? Whats with all that data and usage when they are away from the desktop?

By making me own Android devices, Google would

  • Locate me and everything I do on the devices. Google now knows a lot about me right from at what time i get up to the time i go to work and come back, where all i go, my frequent places, the kind of shops and restaurants i visit, what flights i take and when. It also know who and where my friends are.
  • It crowd sources Real time Traffic Information
  • It can now crowd source Street View using the Photo Sphere feature in Android in countries like India where the Google street vehicles are not allowed to ply on the roads.
  • be my voice communicator and source some amazing voice data
  • and Of course increase internet usage

The Car

It was easy for me to understand why Google made a self driving car. People don't use internet when driving. So why not make a self driving car so that they can use internet? Google has enough data sourced and organized for this to work.

The vision is coming true!

So what if there is a time when people actually don't use a desktop, tablet or phone to use internet? Project Glass will take care of those moments. Project Glass would be the culmination of all things said above. Its exactly the Vision (pun intended) coming true.