Month: May 2014

AROS – Like “Nest” but for Air Conditioning

Smart Objects are taking over.  And why not?  They represent what data is supposed to do, make us more aware of our actions leading to better performance.  Traditionally its just been in the B2B space, but we are seeing more in the B2C space.

Looks like the internet of things has finally caught on and started to be more then just a buzzword.

AROS represents a partnership between GE & Quirky ( crowdsource design innovation agency ) to create a smart AC unit.  As a bonus, if you are in NYC, Uber will deliver it to you.

Other Smart Appliances to check out:





Making your Points of Differentiation Actually Stand Out

There is a point where many technology features start to look the same – a buzzword is not something that stands out.  Everyone is innovative, scalable, customizable, and on the latest build.  Sometimes you need to use story or design to stand out.  If you can move a consumer into the emotional state of mind ( inspiration, humor, etc. ) for just a second, you have a chance to move them down the funnel and truly discover how great your product actually is.  What makes you stand out. If you don’t, make it happen through one way or another. People no longer want to settle for just good. They want to be part of something bigger.

All it takes is 30 seconds:

How Amy Adams and Kevin Costner persuaded me to buy a Smart TV

Samsung’s new HD Curved TV ad is a huge success. I am curious on how they will translate this campaign to digital marketing as well.

Using snippets from movies and TV is an old trick, but it goes over very well when done right – which it is here.   The key learnings for how to do this take into account infotainment and Brand transference.   

Infotainment is rather simple, it’s when we are both educated and entertained with a message.  By using entertainment clips for a new product, this is done by default.

Two, brand transference employs that by seeing Amy Adams or scenes from Jurassic park, the emotional feelings from that movie are carried over to this new product launch for Samsung.  A consumer gets to transfer feelings from one experience to a new product, rather then having to start from scratch.

Using these two methods, they have crafted an effective and beautiful ad.  Im sure they had to pay a lot of licensing fees, but I assume they will have plenty of awareness for their product.  We will have to see if consumers flock to retail establishments to consider it for purchase.  The TV market in general has been undergoing fragmentation between which next smart features are needed for 2015 and beyond.   The curved form factor of the TV also may be problematic for families who wan  multiple best points of viewership.

ps. As an aside, I find it fascinating that TVs have gone from convex to flat to concave in the course of 10 years.  



Cars as a platform for technology

Phones got a lot smarter in the last 10 years – now its time for cars.  Dumb Feature Cars, will become smartcars in the next 2 years.   I say Cars will become a Platform for Technology, because there are so many options.  From self driving, to touch wheels, to sensors that have yet to become developed.

mini cooper UI display


Lets consider cars the most beautiful and fast computer that happen to sit in – what would you want it to do.  Let’s go beyond satellite radio and an iphone dock.   Mini is making some great strides, apple too with CarPlay, and lets not forget Tesla who has the largest display of any manufacturer and their system is a full operating system, not just an entertainment kiosk.

The larger trend here is that the internet of things will continue to innovate on top of analog machines, and technology ecosystems will continue to overlap – leading to some exciting user experiences and great uses of contextual data. 

The Collective Intelligence of Waze

How can groups use collective intelligence to allow for individuals to make better decisions?

I’ve been using Waze for a few weeks now.  I have been using it ( to my own fault ) to try and figure out a better way out of San Francisco during a Giants game. Spoiler Alert – there is no fast route. However, in theory I wonder why more apps are not allowing us to make better decisions?

Rating sites like Yelp or even the way we view trending content online are one thing, but real time data being solved by multiple people passively is quite amazing – and another animal all together.

waze, distributed intelligence


Waze is amazing because the network of users only exists to save everyone time and make their lives better.  Many sharing services ( look up Sharing Economy ) are meant to redistribute assets or unwanted goods – not time or ideas.  Crowdsourcing of labor is a great new frontier.

Two other projects also come to mind – not new, but worth discussing.

1. BOINC – using distributed grids for computing – Think SETI@home but bigger.

2. Tomnod –  Using distributed volunteers for mapping


So the one outstanding question remains – Is collective intelligence accurate?  If the data set is biased and/or wrong, knowledge based on bad data is not really helpful.

There is an obvious benefit from utilizing natural experiments to improve the human condition. Any app that helps me spend less time on the car and more time with my family is a winner.  I am pondering how crowds can band together to solve other issues and help each other in this manner with minor effort.  In the age of social networks, we have the largest networked grid of intelligence and assets – what do we want to do with them and who gives guidance / moderation to these networks to prevent them from being a mob?




Landfill Harmonic – Be Inspired by this Orchestra made from Recycled Items

This town in Paraguay has built an entire orchestra out of trash & recycled items ( upcycling ).  The program has helped keep kids out of alcohol and drugs, but also has taught the community about citizenship, community, and arts education.

It’s inspiring to see art flourish from those that have nothing.  Passion and Resourcefulness in a connected age can connect the story of one to many.


Why Retail is using data the wrong way – ensuring the best customer experience for omni retail

mattress selection and computers

Today a sales associate tried to help sell my mother on a mattress through their special diagnostic tool.  They said that it compiles thousands of data points from sleep scientists, and uses thousands of sensors to guarantee the perfect fit.  This pitch is nothing new.  This approached is used in dating, shoe selection, and multiple verticals for the consumer space.  However their are several major issues:

1.  It assumes everyone is the same.  Statistically, a computer can compile that most people will like the same thing, but we all have personal preferences as well.   The take away should be that many people feel this way as a guide, rather then that this is the “right” fit for you.

2. Salespeople still have to treat people like people, not equations.  If the sales associate would have talked to my mother before throwing her in a machine, we would have been more likely to buy a bed.  Data is no substitution for customer service.

3. In Certain Data sets, Data only gets you so far. In many situations, tests can get you part of the way there, but after filtering out some basic traits, the rest has to be decided in person.  For example, an online search can tell me which cars might be a good fit for me based on price and preferences, but I still want to test drive them to see how they feel.   The issue is that retail associates mistake tests for absolute answers, rather then tools to help move someone down a funnel.

4. The Bell Curve is an outdated model in many verticals.  In our culture of abundance, we often look to machines and software to tell us the most efficient answer.  For verticals that are based on taste, the bell curve model is dead.  Content consumption ( videos, music, etc. ) is a great example where people can find the exact fit for them, rather then looking for the most popular item.  Digital goods is the easiest argument for this last fit. However, other physical goods cater to clusters of people or outliers in the equation – take Etsy for example.  It caters to the long tail of economics, finding custom goods for custom buyers.    Now for commodity good like a bed, the bell curve still may be a good fit.  This may speak to the cost and scale of production, but I imagine that the availability of options in the mattress industry is changing consumer expectations as well.


In any instance, as retail has the ability to be more digital, it’s important to maintain some elements of care and humanity. Tools can mutually help people be more efficient with sales and customer satisfaction, but its important that tools are used the right way to help out both parties, with a grain of salt for personal preferences and individuality.

As an overall generalization for omni channel experiences,  data and software is great for helping people work through areas of the upper funnel for customers, but often the later parts of retail need a high touch experience to fully ensure customer product fit and maximum satisfaction.  Both digital and analog need each other for certain verticals to be truly successful.


Stainless Steel and the Visa Black Card

payments black card value


The New Visa Black card is made of Stainless Steel. I am not here to speak to the services that the card represents, but more of the perceived benefits of the material itself.  Why Steel ?  Why not titanium, or aluminum – really any metal would have done right?   The goal ( my guess ) is that the material selection is about weight, and thus serves as a point of differentiation against other disposable cards that you get in the mail.     And there are other cards made of metal too.

What I find interesting is that the material itself talks about the metal from a mere cleanliness standpoint as opposed to strength.  Its “stainless” steel – which is really about longevity, not power or value. One can argue that the innate ability to prevent oxidation in the long run promises strength, but you get my point.  Its an odd trait for a high end valued card.  After all, I have stainless steel pots.  And, for something that stays in your pocket, the material doesn’t really fit since it doesn’t fight the elements, or take on significant ware & tear.  I looked up the history just for kicks.

By itself – neither of these parts work at their maximum.  A metal card is a mere dollar – which is not a lot compared to what card companies probably make off a typical high end customer.  A black card made of plastic is filmy.  But together they seem to work.  Branding at its best.

This is a lesson about how new luxury goods require a certain care in selection of materials but also the right marketing messages to speak about why they are coveted. Things are not rare unless people know they are scarce.  Perception is everything.  Everything from your UI elements, to the words used in your call to action matter – especially to your customers.


How Red Dwarf Stars made me reconsider life on earth

On the plane today I got to watch in my airplane headset a video about SETI and the probability of life outside of our solar system. Much of this was predictively impressive and reinforced the things I would have guessed about statistics of alien life and astronomy ( which I dont know a lot, but I have always been hopeful).

Here is what I found really cool.  I have been taught since age 2 that planets spin, and certain conditions have to be met to sustain life in a solar system.  However, it turns out that their are several degrees of this criteria.  For Red Dwarf stars ( the smallest ones ), small planets nearby them do not rotate, leaving one side really hot, and one side really cold.  This means that there would be in theory a ring of life around the planet, with no days and nights.  With sides of uninhabitable space on either side.  One continuous strip where life like forms could evolve.

I imagine somewhere on the other side of the galaxy there is a culture living like this, thinking how odd it is to them that our planet spins and has seasons and nights.

Everything we are taught has outliers and exceptions. The next time you have a problem in front of you, examine if the fundamental rules are true, can be bent, or can be redrawn – in our universe or another.


3D Printing Needs to Specialize in Verticals to Thrive

The promise of additive (3d) printing has been very hyped up for a while because it has been in the prototyping stages.  Its hard to really see the value of products that we traditionally take for granted with economies of scale.  However, 3d printing was designed for efficiency and personalization.  This first ( most recent ) video made me think about how the technology is less important, then the process and substrate involved.  The technology in general is just an idea, but applied to a vertical, it becomes a contextual solution with real value.  Context is everything.

Houses / Construction: 

Makeup /  Fashion